• Dialogue between Fumiyo Ikeda and Toshiki Okada

    • 2013/10/07 (Based on an interview conducted by Skype)
    • Kyoko Iwaki (Translated by James Koetting)

    Kyoko Iwaki
    Firstly, I would like to explain to readers with not much background knowledge the reason why you two are here together for a dialogue. Previously, you two held a dialogue for the book conception (published by Tennen Bunko). Were you two interested in each other as artists even before that? How did you become acquainted?

    Toshiki Okada
    I first met and talked with Ikeda-san when she came to our performance of Five Days in March (staged at the KUNSTENFESTIVALDESARTS 2007) in Brussels.

    Fumiyo Ikeda
    Until then, I had virtually never seen a performance of contemporary Japanese theatre, so chelfitsch was about the first. Since then, I have seen three or four of Okada-san's works in Brussels, but not once have I seen one in Japan. I therefore have no idea of how his pieces are received there.

    Okada
    I have seen several performances of Rosas, and for a while, my creative method was heavily influenced by how Ikeda-san danced on their stage. To be more specific, as a director, there is a certain methodology I want to impart to the actors. For a time, I became interested in the balance between faithful compliance with this methodology by the actors and their betrayal of or opposition to it. I felt there was something lacking if the actors merely followed my methodology; I wanted them to betray it and kick at it, and figured that only with the inclusion of such resistance would something like "my methodology" come into being. When I began to think along these lines, the most specific model was provided by Ikeda-san in Rosas. The dancing in Rosas is very distinctive stylistically, and the dancers generally appear to share that style uniformly. But it sometimes looks to me that Ikeda-san is battling with the rest of the troupe instead of conforming with them. In my production for the last three or four years, I have been wondering how to instill this sensibility of hers in my actors.

    Iwaki
    Ikeda-san, when dancing with Rosas, do you have this sort of conscious opposition to the choreography which Okada-san just mentioned?

    Ikeda
    Well, on that subject, I can say that I began to slightly modify the way I construct my dances in my head around 2000. Say, for example, that I am given two poses, A and B, by the choreographer. The question of how to link these two poses may be up to me. Even if the two poses are as simple as "standing" and "sitting," it would be dull to link them by the shortest distance and directly. Naturally, a straight-line connection may produce a dance movement with the most brevity, but lately I've been trying to see how unsteady, round-about, distorted, or vague I can make it. In other words, to what extent I can warp the time.

    Iwaki
    Ikeda-san, I understand that you and Yamada-san exchanged about 480 words or phrases for the production of amness (choreography, direction, and performance by Fumiyo Ikeda and Un Yamada), which was first staged on October 10 at the steirischer herbst 2013 festival in Graz. These words were strung together in long sequences - "question," "between the lines," "sutra," "breather," "butterfly," "what I can't do," "maybe," "coffee," "waist," "motion," for instance. To tie this to what you just mentioned, would you say that these words and phrases are the equivalent of poses at points A and B?

    Ikeda
    That might be the case sometimes, but if anything, what is born between points A and B is more important than the words and phrases themselves. For example, once "desk" came up on the side opposite to "briefcase." The important thing is not the meaning of the words but why and through what idea they were connected. If you write "papa," the word "mama" may come back as a straightforward association, but the reaction may also be "loafer." It might even be "coffee," just because you feel like having a cup at the time. A really immensive imagination spreads outward from the words, and our emphasis in this production lies on trying to keep holding the space it opens up with our bodies as well. To put it another way, in this work, we are not setting out to relate any kind of conclusive narrative, I mean "this is what we want to say" - that sort of thing. Far from it - that is exactly what we want most to avoid.

    Iwaki
    I'm sure you would agree that there is a certain narrative in chelfitsch's Ground and Floor. But when you come right down to it, there is no straight-line connection between the speech and the body movements. To venture an interpretation using Ikeda-san's language, I would say that a space of broadening imagination is maintained by overlapping speech with movement not directly linked to it.

    Okada
    To my mind, narrative is a critical element in Ground and Floor. This is a big point of difference from Ikeda-san's amness. As you say, however, I did not intend to have the bodies follow the narrative. And yet…while I cannot explain anything very logically if I go any further, I did this because I thought the narrative would, on the contrary, reach the audience more directly that way. In this piece, for example, the performers are moving not to the words I wrote but to the music of Sangatsu instead. I think this approach throws the narrative into sharper relief for the audience.

    Ikeda
    I couldn't agree with you more. In this work, there is no need to express a narrative, and the methodology therefore differs a bit, but in the case of Nine Finger, which was based on a war novel written by a Nigerian-American, there was a narrative we had to relate. To do so, it would have made no sense to incorporate movements linked closely with the speech. It would not make any sense to have the dancer make a stabbing motion at the word "kill," for example. A totally unrelated movement might even be better.

    Iwaki
    Lastly, I would like to ask you about the music. Ground and Floor and amness were created through a similar musical process. The open rehearsal for Ground and Floor was staged with live performances by Sangatsu, and recorded music was played for the premiere in Brussels. In Graz, the performance of amness was accompanied live by saxophonists right on the stage. In Yokohama, a digital recording is going to be used. How do you think the quality of the performance changes, or changed, with the switch from live to recorded music?

    Ikeda
    We listened to CDs while practicing in rehearsals. We couldn't afford to have musicians beside us right from the start. Now, five days before the opening, the musicians came to the theatre for the first time and we began rehearsing with live music. We have reworked just about everything. There was no need to redo the details of the dance vocabulary, of course, but the composition has completely changed. We shifted the points where toccata and adagio should be inserted. This was quite a chore, as we had to unravel what the two of us had woven and reweave it with them as the third party. I'd love to perform the piece in Japan, too, with live musical accompaniment.

    Okada
    In our case, we knew right from the start that we had no choice but to have recorded music for the actual performances. Nevertheless, Atsuhiro Koizumi, who is a member of Sangatsu and composed the music for the work, kept coolly saying that recorded music was the way to go for this piece and, moreover, that if we performed the music live, it might rouse the audience in the theatre and make the play look good even if in actual fact it wasn't (laughter). I believed in what he said and never had second thoughts about my decision. But after hearing what Ikeda-san had to say, I begin to think that I may like to try staging it with live music. In our case, we would not have to change the whole composition, but I have an inkling – however, this does not go beyond the scope of speculation - that this would bring a pronounced change regarding the impression made by the melody of the music. I believe the melodic part of the music would have a stronger significance and come more to the fore.

    Iwaki
    In the public performances of Ground and Floor in Brussels, would it be correct to say that the music was the "ground" and the bodies of the actors were "figure?" Or was this reversed in some scenes?

    Okada
    If the music had been played live, I think you could say that "ground" and "figure" would have constantly alternated with each other on the stage. When using recorded material, however, it would be hard to say so unequivocally. In short, music is bound to end up as "ground" no matter what you do. You can continue to fight this situation, but instead of trying to fight it in earnest, I decided to accept the fixed relationship between "ground" and "figure" in that work and think more about where to go from there.

    Ikeda
    The physical presence of musicians on stage could simply change the balance of the piece. In light of this fact, recorded music certainly has its benefits. If the musicians are on stage, merely turning a page of the score or tuning up their instruments, for example, will draw the attention of the audience. It is extremely difficult to accept such realities and maintain the tension of the piece in spite of them. Moreover, in our case, the saxophonists had very big builds; we felt like dwarves next to them (laughter). But at the end of the day, only with live music can you fill the space with vibrations that seem as if they will wind up wafting you into the air and give you goose bumps. Although I have not yet thought about what we are going to do when we stage the piece in Japan with recorded music, I am pretty sure we will unravel all of it again and then redo it. The piece could become almost completely different.

    Fumiyo Ikeda

    In 1979 Fumiyo Ikeda entered the Mudra School founded by Maurice Bejart. There she met Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and joined her in forming Rosas in 1983. In recent years she has begun creating works based on her own ideas. With the cooperation of Alain Platel she presented the work Nine Finger (2007) and then presented her solo work in pieces (2009) created in collaboration with British choreographer Tim Etchells. She worked with the Nature Theater of Oklahoma to present the work Life & Times Episode 2(2010). In 2013, she collaborated with Japanese dancer and choreographer Un Yamada and presented amness.
    → amness website

    Kyoko Iwaki

    Kyoko Iwaki is a theatre journalist and researcher based in Tokyo and London. For over a decade, she has constantly contributed to major newspapers and journals. In 2011, her bilingual book Tokyo Theatre Today: Conversations with Eight Emerging Theatre Artists (Hublet Publishing, London / Tokyo) was published. In 2013, a biography Ushio Amagatsu:Des rivages d’enfance au bûto de Sankai juku was issued in France (Actes Sud, Paris). She currently works also as a freelance artistic advisor with organization such as Festival/Tokyo.

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