Over the quarantine, I have started teaching Japanese online. And it was so interesting that while I am teaching the language, I relearned how to speak my mother tongue and realized the significance of the language. This experience inspired me to corporate my mother tongue and dance.
So I have a concept in my mind that “what if the dancers heard their own story in a foreign language, what movement comes out?.” It was on Friday, after the Choreography Workshop, walking the aisle with John Cartwright, Ishmael Konney, and Quianna Simpson. I asked them if they were interested in working with my concept. Fortunately, they said YES! So we started meeting on Thursday afternoon to rehearse.
At first, I asked all of them to write a paragraph of their self-introduction. I translated the texts into Japanese and recorded them. Dancers danced with their own biography, which they could guess what I was talking about, yet it was hard for them to fully understand. Quianna shared that she recognized some words such as”African dance” but she was influenced mostly by the rhythm of speaking. Also, John mentioned that it was dancing in between familiar from and unfamiliar. Next step, I asked them to dance with other’s bio which they have no clue what I was talking about. Ishmael shared that he was inspired by the speed of my speaking and almost echoing with his body. Dancers were definitely hard to react to speaking voice with unknown topics since no connection nor inspiration to their movement. What they react was the sound, rhythm, tone, speed I made. It was a great discovery to me since I was seeking an authentic reaction from dancers to the foreign language.
So we ended up using their biography with my speaking to generate the basic phrase. In the first version of this project, I was a narrator and started speaking Quianna’s story, then John’s and Ishmael’s at the end. The person who was spoken one’s bio leads the movement and others echoing. It was a clear structure of displaying how dancers embody the sound of Japanese.
Although, we received feedback about I and dancers’ relationship as well as an objective of this project. We discussed one more time to clarified the intention of this project and landed on offering a foreign experience to the audience but also showing the visceral level of communication. Also, we decided to not separating me from their narrative. I added on my story to move together as well as bringing back idea, authentic reaction; dancers react to what I spoke without knowing the content. We revised the movements, and space usage as well.
Over this process, we re-defined the fundamental of communication by using verbal and non-verbal tools able to understand, interact, respond to each other. Once Quianna shared that we seemed like creating harmony by bodies, which was a beautiful way to describe our creative journey and indeed it was a deep and interesting process. I would like to continue experimenting to combine my mother tongue in my work.