F Artist Interview: Ikuyo Kuroda (BATIK) | Performing Arts Network Japan
The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Ikuyo Kuroda
After joining the famous Tani Momoko Ballet Company at the age of six, Ikuyo Kuroda continued to study classical ballet all through her school and college years. It was a term of study in London at the Laban Centre during college that sparked her interest in contemporary dance and eventually led her into this genre. In 2000 she became a dancer with the contemporary dance company “Kim Itoh + the Glorious Future (Kagayaku Mirai)” and performed in many productions in Japan and abroad. In 2002 she made her debut as a choreographer with the work SIDE-B that subsequently won the National Committee Award of the Yokohama Platform of Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis (successor to the present “Bagnolet” International Choreography Award. In April of the same year she started the all female dance company BATIK. In 2003 she won the Excellence Prize at the SPAC Dance Festival 2003 organized by the Shizuoka Performing Arts Center the grand prize at the Toyota Choreography Award 2003, namely “the New Generation Choreographer Award.” In 2004 she won the 4th Asahi Performing Arts Award and the Kirin Dance Support Award for directing, choreographing and performing in her works Hana wa Nagarete, Toki wa Katamaru and SHOKU. In this way she established herself as a choreographer of renown within a very short time from her debut. Her other choreographed works include AURA and Last Pie.
Photo by Shinji Suzuki
2005 BATIK European tour

1 - 2 Oct. 20:00
Performance at Mousonturm Frankfurt, Frankfurt

6 ,7, 8 Oct. 20:30
Performance at Maison de la cultura du Japon, Paris

12 - 13 Oct. 19:00
Performance at Sigyn Hall at Turku Conservatory, Turku
14. Oct. p.m.
Workshop at Sigyn Hall, Turku
an overview
Artist Interview Artist Interview
Questioning the Body at its Limits What is this world of Ikuyo Kuroda?  
After her stunning debut as a choreographer with the work SIDE-B in 2002, Ikuyo Kuroda has collected a series of the most prestigious awards in Japan’s dance world, making her a fast-rising new star. Building movement based in classical ballet and pushing the limits of the dancer’s body brutally, she gives vivid expression to the visions that held in the very depth of our collective bodies. Before departing for a tour of Germany, France and Finland late this month with a production of her representative work SHOKU, we asked Ikuyo Kuroda about the intense course she has come over the past three years since founding her company and about her future.
(Interviewer: Tatsuro Ishii)

In Japanese society it is not unusual for a young girl to be given piano or ballet lessons, but very few continue until they reach the age of 20 or so.
Yes. I really liked ballet, so I continued it until just before I left for Britain to study at the Laban Centre during my third year of college. I guess I just didn’t know anything else (laughs).

After studying only ballet for so long and then going to the Laban Centre where everyone is in training wear and moving freely, didn’t you feel an aversion to it at first?
If I had started contemporary dance in Japan I might have, but when I went to London, suddenly the whole environment was different. Everything was new and the dance was just one more new thing, so it felt natural. And it wasn’t only dance I was doing. I was going on my own to see contemporary art and listen to music and see plays. It was all one big culture shock and completely fascinating to me. The Laban Centre was just more part of the culture shock. I also went to small theaters like The Place Theatre. In Japan I had only gone to the large theaters where ballet was performed. London really changed everything for me (laughs).

What kinds of lessons did you take at the Laban Centre?
I did the Release technique, Graham technique, Horton and Jose Limon technique. There were also seminars by choreographers active in London at the time, and I took part in workshops by people like Matthew Bourne.

After returning to Japan, how was it that you became a member of the Kim Itoh + the Glorious Future (Kagayaku Mirai) company?
When I came back to Japan in the summer of my fourth year of college, I knew that I wanted to do something other than ballet, but I had to work hard on my graduation project. After that was finished and I had some free time I started thinking about what to do next and began looking around. I was going to workshops by people like Kuniko Kisanuki, Kazuyuki Futami and Kota Yamazaki and taking lessons from foreign dancers being given at the studios like The Session House. It was at that time that I went to see the Japan-Korea dance collaboration and there happened to be leaflets there for a Kim Itoh’s workshop. I had never seen one of Kim’s performances, but I decided to go to the workshop.

Kim Itoh comes from a Butoh background. Did you know anything about Butoh at the time?
No, I didn’t. In a course at Tamagawa University I had learned that people like Kazuo Ono or Sankaijuku existed, but I thought they were part of the traditional dance genre (laughs). So when I went to Kim’s workshop, I asked myself, “Is this dance?” But I am the kind who has to do it all once I get started. And I think of myself as one who is pretty well coordinated and can do most of what I set out to do. So I was able to do most of the workshop menu. But, there was this “dolphin jump” movement where you lie on your stomach and make your body lift off the floor by creating a wave motion through the whole body. But I just couldn’t do it, and it really got to me! So, I was determined to take the next workshop and go to the showings. The first time I actually danced in one of Kim’s productions was in 1999, in on the map. It was early 2000 that I became a full-fledged member of the company.

So, at the time you were dancing with the Tani Momoko ballet company and Kim’s productions at the same time. It seems that these two are completely different. How were you able to balance these two within yourself?
It was really fun dancing in Kim’s productions, and that was an important experience for me, but at the same time I felt intuitively that this alone was not enough.
Having the ballet lessons in the morning to humble me and then having Kim’s dances to undo my body … going back and forth between these two was just right for me. Giving up ballet would have been easy. But throwing out what this body had become accustomed to through ballet and limiting myself just to this new [Kim’s] dance didn’t seem honest to me.
Also, although there are more differences than similarities between ballet and what I have been doing with Kim or BATIK in terms of the way the body is used and the way of thinking, I think there is one aspect that they have in common. I like corps de ballet more than charactere, and when we are going through like the third act of Swan Lake I get so worked up and excited even doing the corps that I can’t stay in line. In fact, there is not really any place for that kind of personal emotion in corps de ballet. Ms. Tani would probably get mad if she heard me saying this, though (laughs). But that emotion is not necessary. In other words, it is a denial of the self that is demanded. In my works, also, I push the dancers’ bodies to the point of fatigue where they can no longer say, “I am such-and-such kind of person.” You must transcend the self. This is the aspect that ballet and my other dance have in common.

How did SIDE-B come to be choreographed just for women?
I created this piece in 2001, about two years after coming back from the Laban Centre, when I was 22 or 23.
Kim was overseas, so there was free time at the company. It was when I had this free time that suddenly the idea for SIDE-B came to me. It just came pouring out of me, and it happened to involve only women. There I was lining up manicure bottles as dancers, and I could virtually see the lines of movement. It came to me so clearly and simply poured out. The image was of girls in black skirts with their hair covering their faces.
When the idea for the piece suddenly came pouring out like that, I felt that I had to give form to it right away. So I did some drawings and also decided on all the music. Then I started calling dancer friends to tell them that I had just worked out this piece and ask them to help me stage it. I took along my drawings and asked them if they would just help out until we could make a video tape of it. I promised them that we could get it together in just 10 rehearsals, and they agreed to help. So, that time we had six dancers and we made the video, but I never did anything with it until the first performance in Yokohama in February of 2002.

At the time of the original taping you had no plan to present a production of the piece?
Not at all. I just wanted very much to give form to that idea, and once it was on video I went back to being a dancer. When we finally entered the piece in the 2002 Yokohama Platform and I won the National Committee Prize, I was so surprised and thrilled that my knees went weak and I could barely stand.
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