The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
Installations of the body and light  The art of Hiroaki Umeda
Installations of the body and light  The art of Hiroaki Umeda
1. centrifugal
Premiere: 2009
Choreographer : Hiroaki Umeda
Dancer: Satu Rekola, Milla Koistinen, Natsuko Kuroda
1. centrifugal
Photo: Shin Yamagata
About group works

The work 1. Centrifugal that premiered in Finland recently is the first group work you have choreographed, which was for two Finnish and one Japanese dancer.
The Yokohama Municipal Arts Foundation and the Finnish Dance Information Center planned a 3-year choreographer exchange program and I was chosen as the choreographer for the second year of that program. Our work was supposed to end with the performance in Finland, but Yokohama said they wanted to do a production of it here, too. So we had performances in March of this year at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse.

Was it you that chose the three dancers?
I asked for young female ballet dancers who could do physically demanding movement and I let the people in Finland choose them. Other than that, everything was left up to me as an opportunity for cross-cultural experience. For someone like me who has no experience in choreographing for others, it was a very good program, I believe.

It seems to me that choreographing for others is a job on a completely different dimension from doing your own solo dance. How was it?
What I decided to focus on was not choreographing a piece that was just a transcription of what I normally do myself but to think up a system that would naturally bring out the same kind of reactions involved in my dance. I wanted to create a methodology that would transplant my physical [movement] assets into those two women so that we could share in the same type of movement.

What did you actually do in specific terms?
First of all, I started from the stance and walk that are the fundamentals of my movement. I gave them demonstrations and also verbal instruction, but it proved to be virtually impossible for people who are doing ballet. I believe that is because my movement is something that has been rationalized via my own body and, as a result, I guess it is movement that originates in the Asian body.
 What it involved was giving them specific directions such as “find your center of gravity on the heels” and “keep your knees bent,” but they weren’t able to use the body in that way. For ballet people, the center of gravity is taken with the hips in an “en dehors” position and the weight laced on the outside of the heels, which is the opposite of what I do. I move the hips back a bit and put the weight on the insides of the heels and set the hips over that base. When you take that position the chest is thrust outward slightly.

That description of the position of the hips and the center of gravity is similar to the posture used in Noh dance, isn’t it?
Perhaps it is, yes. As key words, the center of gravity is determined not just by the hips but by the chest as well. When the three points of the heels, the center of gravity of the hips and the chest are lined up properly, you can stand easily without tension. It is very easy to relax in that stance and your movements from that position can be come very fast. I call it the neutral position and it is the position that I arrived at experientially as a result of thinking about the problem of how to avoid getting off balance.

What did you do after trying to teach them your “neutral position?” They didn’t just do improvisational dance after that, did they?
In our practice sessions I did have them do a considerable amount of improvisational movement. I didn’t use any choreographic designations but rather gave them systems and theory to work from to develop movement that I then chose from to compose the piece. When working with a group, the direction I want is to have everyone working from a shared base but also bringing out their own individuality, I watched to see what kinds of elements they would bring to the work and held off on making my decisions about the final composition until quite late in the creative process.

In terms of your solo dance, choreographing for other dancers and your own physical [movement] development, what kinds of things are you thinking about for the future?
In my solo work, I believe I will continue to do experimental work using sound and video. Thanks to my years of soccer training, I still have the toughness to continue the kind of anaerobic dance style I have used until now, but I think I can only continue to do so for maybe another five years. So, I am going to be thinking about what I want to do in terms of artistic expression after that. With regard to choreography, I want to take about ten years to really do it seriously. That ten-year period is the same time period as I have come thus far after starting dance. I believe it is going to take that long to do what I want to achieve artistically in that area. By the way, my next choreographed piece is being done with a French hip-hop dancer. The concept for my recent work 1. Centrifugal was centrifugal force and I am thinking of making “response” the concept for my next work. For example, when you take a step, there is some degree of return action, isn’t there? This return action or response is something that I use in my dance a lot, so I am thinking o making this the theme of my next choreographed work.
 Also, after another five years I want to try a dance work without dance. Talking about this now would start to sound like sophism, so I am going to wait before talking about it in more detail (laughs). It doesn’t mean a dance work that is not danced by dancers but a dance work created with lighting and sound but no bodies on the stage. I want to do that and call it a dance work (laughs).
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