The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
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Artist Interview
The new realm of contemporary dance pioneered by Yukio Suzuki, an inheritor of the compelling body movement of butoh
I was watching all the ST Spot performances around that time and I felt that what you were doing was neither butoh or modern dance, but perhaps something closer to the early post-modern dance that was being done in America in the early 1960s, or perhaps something you could call a rather “cool” form of movement. Even though you had been doing butoh, was there something that caused you to reach a point where you would not be satisfied with that anymore?
The first person to start what we call butoh was Hijikata, but in fact he already had a body that had been trained in modern dance and his butoh was built on top of that. In my case, however, I realized that I had been trying to do butoh with no prior training or ability to dance, and I began to wonder if that was really acceptable. So, I decided that I should begin again by studying dance for a while, and for about a year and a half I studied a variety of different genre, everything from the basics of ballet to hip hop to Tai chi. At first I entered a ballet class that turned out to be one for fairly advanced dancers and the teacher realized immediately that I was a complete beginner and said, “What is he doing here?” (Laughs)

That is certainly an episode that shows how ambitious and serious you were (laughs).
I realized my mistake and got out of there fast (laughs). Ballet is absolutely something I am not capable of, and for that reason it was the most interesting of all. It gave me the opportunity to focus on every part of the body [and their movement].

Although your involvement in dance began from butoh, today you are thought of more as a contemporary dance artist. What was it that led you to begin creating pieces that were closer to contemporary dance?
It was when I entered the ST Spot “Lab” program with a solo work. This is a program ST Spot holds every year with a different curator each year as director. I entered in 2002 with a solo piece when the curator was Kota Yamazaki and with a group work in 2003 when Zan Yamashita was curator. That work won the Lab Award and gave me the opportunity to participate in showcases, where my works could be seen by a different audience.
 That was a time when I had a feeling somewhere inside me that I wanted to get rid of everything butoh-like in me and, instead, try things like using the body [movements/presence] of amateurs. At that time I also changed our group name to Kingyo (goldfish). The reason for that name was simple: I wanted to keep goldfish (laughs). Goldfish have a cute image, but in fact the more expensive types that are called beautiful actually have a rather grotesque appearance. So the name bears the nuance that values vary with the eyes of the beholders.

It was also around that time when you met Ko Murobushi, wasn’t it?
I had seen the performances of Ko Murobushi several times, but I had never actually met and spoke with him. The first time I spoke to him was at a performance in Mexico in September of 2003 when he approached me as a dancer. From a point where I was trying to separate myself from butoh, this encounter made me think about giving it one more go from a new standpoint. Meeting and speaking to Murobushi there in Mexico let to creating a new piece, which we did in ten days. After returning to Tokyo it was developed into the Ko & Edge Co. work titled Bibou no Aozora (Handsome Blue Sky).
 Murobushi taught me about the possibilities of butoh and about how to use the body and he made me want to make another go with the task of doing the kind of dance that shows the body. I had grown to dislike very much my body that had come to know butoh, but this encounter with Murobushi made me think again and come to believe once again that there were things I could do with it that an amateur’s body couldn’t.

The work Yaguka-yaguka ah… that you submitted to the 2005 Toyota Choreography Awards and won the audience-balloted “Audience Award” with seemed to be one that, for better or worse, had almost no remnants of the butoh you had done up until then. I took that as a positive trend because it seemed to show your point of departure with group works, without relation to either butoh or contemporary dance. It would seem that doing group dance works would be very difficult for someone like yourself who had done primarily solo pieces in small performance spaces until then. How did you create that work?
It may still be the same now, but I believe it is a work that shows clearly my intention to create a state of chaos. It may not be what you call a happening, but it is a work with a lot of people coming and going onto the stage. It was an attempt to explore the interesting possibilities of staging (directing) rather than the strengths of the dancers’ bodies per se. Like the work I won the Lab Award with, I used interesting people I knew around me, like a person who was doing performance, a comedian and a chiropractor who also did karate. I wanted to show the interest of having people with a variety of different kinds bodies performing. However, because these were not people who are doing dance regularly, it is a style that is hard to continue.

At that time, did you begin to find an interest in being involved on the directing side rather than always dancing yourself?
Also, with that line-up of performers, there were times when I tended to stand out from the rest [as the only real dancer]. Considering that fact, it was a time when I was thinking that it would be better for me to concentrate only on directing.
 
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