The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Saburo Teshigawara
Photo: Bengt Wanselius
Saburo Teshigawara
Saburo Teshigawara began his creative career in 1981 in his native Tokyo after studying plastic arts and classic ballet. In 1985, he formed KARAS with Kei Miyata and started group choreography along with their own activities. Since then, he and KARAS have been invited to perform every year in major cities around the world.

In addition to solo performances and his work with KARAS, Teshigawara has received international attention as a choreographer/director. In 1994/95 he choreographed for the Ballet Frankfurt at the invitation of William Forsythe, Le Sacre du Printemps for the Bayern National Ballet in 1999 and Netherland Dance Theater I in 2000. In February 2003, he was invited to choreograph a new piece AIR for the Paris Opera. Also, for the Ballet du Grand, Théâtre de Genève, he choreographed Para-Dice in 2002, and recently VACANT in May 2006.

He has keenly honed sculptural sensibilities and powerful sense of composition and command of space, as well as his decisive dance movements, all fuse to create a unique world that is his alone. Keen interests in music and space have led him to create site-specific works, and collaborations with various types of musicians.

Teshigawara has likewise received increasing international attention in the visual arts field, with art exhibitions, films/videos, as well as designing the sets, lighting and costumes for all his performances.

Besides the ongoing workshops at the KARAS studio in Tokyo, he has been involved in many educational projects. S.T.E.P. (Saburo Teshigawara Education Project) has continued since 1995 with the partners in the UK, in a program that creates performances as the culmination of year-long projects. In 2004, he was selected as a mentor of dance for The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, to work for one year with a chosen protégé ( In 2006, he has begun teaching as a special instructor in the Department of Expression Studies, the College of Contemporary Psychology, St. Paul’s (Rikkyo) University in Japan, where he teaches movement theory and conducts workshops. Through these various projects, he continues to encourage and inspire young dancers, together with his creative work.


The interviewer Maimi Sato is a dance and performing arts producer. Served as the Contemporary Arts Series Producer of the Kanagawa Arts and Culture Foundation from 1993 to 2005. From April 2005, Sato serves as the Dance Department Producer of the Saitama Arts Foundation.
Dance of Air
Photo: Takashi Shikama / New National Theatre, Tokyo, 2008
Dance of Air
Dance of Air
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
The continuing expansion of the world of Saburo Teshigawara, an artist who has already left a big footprint in contemporary dance  
Saburo Teshigawara made a stunning international debut at the 1986 Bagnolet International Choreography Competition with the work titled Kaze no sentan (La Pointe du vent) based on a motif of collapsing and rising again that won him recognition in the contemporary dance world for his innovative forms of physical expression that don’t rely on conventional stylistic technique. In Japan, his style of dance based on dialogue with one’s own body has become a major movement in contemporary dance. In addition to choreography, he plans the music, lighting and stage art for his productions and succeeds in creating worlds of the five senses that win applause from audiences around the world. As leader of the dance group KARAS, Teshigawara has performed at major festivals around the world and toured widely. In recent years his workshops with young blind people have led to performances titled Luminous, and his workshops with middle school and high school students in Japan have led to the Dance of Air performance series, and he has also presented video installation works. In all of these artistic activities there is an underlying freedom to his creativity that never fails to impress the viewer. In this interview with an artist who has said, “Art must never be inhibited by conservatism,” we ask Teshigawara about the path he has come and his present endeavors.
(Interviewer: Maimi Sato)

In recent years your areas of activity have expanded, with video works and teaching at the university level. Could we begin by asking you to tell us about your current projects?
    I have just returned from Sydney, Australia, where I was shooting a 3D video work to be presented at the Shanghai eArts Festival. I will set up screens in a hexagonal form and show 3D videos taken from six directions. Ordinarily, as dancers we perform facing the audience, but with this installation the audience can walk the full 360 degrees around the dancers as they watch the performance. What’s more, it’s 3D, and that lets them experience a world with a different type of reality. We will also be participating in the Yokohama Triennale with a different installation.
    Of course I am also doing our KARAS performances. At the Montpellier festival in June we performed our work Miroku, which we are now touring the world with. Just after that we flew to Sweden to shoot another video work. The photographer Bengt Wanselius invited me to visit a small island where the movie director Ingmar Bergman had lived before he passed away in 2007. He said that Bergman had loved the beautiful light of the island. The light was indeed beautiful, so I used it as the site to film Rieko Saito dancing. This was a self-financed production with Wanselius in charge of photography and me directing.
    As for festivals, I participated again this year in La Milanesiana festival that is held over the course of a month using several theaters around the city of Milan. This is a festival that brings together literature, video and music in various forms of collaboration, such as authors reading their works with musical accompaniment or video and music collaborations. This festival has brought together a high varied group of artists including Phillip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Umberto Eco and Lou Reed. Last year I did a performance of Black Water at La Scala Theatre. It was a collaboration with the Irish writer Colm Toibin, who has a work titled The Blackwater Lightship. He did a reading of his work before my performance.

On August 9 and 10, 2008, you had your first performances ever at the hall in the Kameido district of Tokyo where your studio is located. The work was titled 36 dance books – Proper Posture.
    I always wanted to perform once in our local community, and I danced in this one myself along with the boys and girls who performed in our Dance of Air performance. In terms of positioning as a project, it was something close to a study session. Next I would like to do something closer to a “studio performance” program as well. I want to do experimental works, and this is a starting point in that direction.

Now you are teaching at Rikkyo University. What type of courses are you teaching?
    At the university I am a special instructor teach a course in a department called Film and Physical [expression] Studies in the Department of Contemporary Psychology. I talk about theoretical aspects based on my experiences and we do workshops. We have both students who are primarily interested in film and students who are interested primarily in theater and dance, and of the two there certainly more interested in film.
    For example, in our History of Physical Expression course I try to get the students thinking about the body; what their body is and what their bodies are feeling. Thinking and living with, dealing with our bodies are both life-long occupations. In other words, we study the body as a prerequisite to expression. I get them to think thoroughly about how to approach their bodies, and the act of “breathing” that I am always talking about. I have them think about looking at film from the viewpoint of the body, or nurturing one’s sensitivities and perceptions of visuals from the viewpoint of the body. The methods of expression they will eventually use are a matter of specific techniques and it takes time to acquire technique, so I tell the young students not to rush things and spend their time initially in refining and polishing their perceptions and sensitivities and to find viewpoint that are meaningful and relevant to them. I tell them that at least they should have the ability to express their opinions clearly in their own words at any time. So, I often have them write reports.

You definitely seem to be a total creator with regard to your works, without distinguishing between choreography and stage design as separate arts.
    I believe it is eventually a matter of my individuality. From my experience, the methods you use to arrive at a form of expression, the way you find a methodology to lead you toward the objectives and subjects you were originally interested in, or gaining the perspective or viewpoint you need, is not a matter of simply proceeding in one direction. I believe that it is all right to use a number of different approaches.
    Speaking about my case, it was while applying myself seriously to ballet that I was able to realize what kind of visual expression I was inherently most interested in. And it wasn’t until later that I realized it was because I had the will to pursue some kind of sensibility or perception that lay on the other side of “visual desires,” the will to pursue something rooted more deeply in the human experience. Whether it is a work using the body or a work using video, I experience the greatest joy when a work achieves a strong and clear sense of that pursuit of connections that lie deeper in the human soul.
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |