Reflection of Transcendence -時を超えて- 4/16/2022

Performance, Research Project

I have been searching for who I am as an artist. And getting into the beginning stage of my thesis, I pondered the experience of being a Japanese female contemporary artist in the United States. I have my own unique experience of how did I arrive at this point in my life. However, I was curious to hear the story of precedents.

Over this spring semester, I have researched one Japanese female contemporary artist, Saeko Ichinohe. Saeko Ichinohe came to the U.S. in 1968 and since then she performed/choreographed/taught dance as a cultural exchange experience. She was inspired by Japanese culture, philosophy, poems, and literature. She was well-known for bridging Western concert dance and Nihon Buyoh (Japanese traditional dance). She passed away in 2021 though I was fortunate to access her choreography through Labanotation. I chose “Chidori” because she notated the choreography by herself in 1972. I wanted to know her movement pattern through how she notates.

I asked for help with reading scores from Dr. Williams and my cohort, Forrest Hershey. We met two times a week to read and move our bodies to connect with Ms.Ichinohe kinesthetically. She emphasized the location and direction of the weight. Weight drives the movement the most and clearly draws the space between two dancers. “Chidori” is a love story between a fisherman and a bird, so I imagined that she has a specific instruction to deliver this story.

I wanted to know more about her artistic journey outside of notation score. I have researched her online yet there were only a few materials available. Then I found out that there are a couple of her personal archives are stored at New York Public Library. So, I decided to go to New York City in March to trace her footsteps. At the library, I watched many video recordings and read her artistic statements, CV, company record, and choreography notes. All the materials help me to understand her deeper than it used to be. Also, I visited all the locations she filed as her company locations and performance venues. Even though our paths did not cross, through her archives I could know her and her passion deeply. Sharing the same space where she practiced, performed, and choreographed was meaningful to me. I summarize my research journey on Saeko Ichinohe in a short documentary film.

Tracing her footsteps made me think about how I want to proceed with my career as a contemporary performing artist. Ms.Ichinohe made the most of her Japanese upbringing and integrated it with her primary dance training; ballet, and modern dance. I have a similar background in former movement practice as her. Although, I have a huge resistance to being perceived to be unique because of my cultural heritage. I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan where I can encounter many people visit from around the world. And since I came to the United States in 2016, I have absorbed multiple cultures into my body. However, I cannot get rid of the labels such as “female”, “East Asian,” and “Japanese” from my body. When I stand on the stage my body speaks out louder than who I am. Therefore, dancing serves me how to free myself from the labels. How I can challenge my audience to see my authenticity that is coded in the movements that I create. This question was the start of my solo practice.

The research journey concluded on 4/16 performance “Transcendence -時を超えて-” with amazing collaborators, Columbus Koto Ensemble/ Forrest Hershey/ Yujie Chen. I also have huge thanks to Dr. Williams, the Institute of Japanese Studies, and the Center for Ethnic Studies to make this performance happen.

What’s next?

Performance reflection 3/20


I had the privilege to be part of the thesis project with Laura Neese (3rd year MFA at OSU dance). I have been working with her since last fall, and this performance is an extension of her research.

The performers were Laura Neese, Teddi Vargas (Senior at OSU dance), Michaela Neild (2nd year MFA at OSU dance), and myself. This time, Cellist, Sara Troeller, and make-up artist, Parisa Ahmadi also joined the team to elaborate the performance. We performed at the middle yard at the Hopkins Hall.

Photographed by Abby Koskinas

I joined them at the beginning of February when Columbus was covered with white snow. I remember the first time Laura, Teddy, and I went out to the site. The trace of the footsteps, trees standing strong and lonely, the warmth of the body under the coldness. After the exploration at the site, we created the phrase by using all the elements we witness. It was a reminder of the beautiful findings in nature even though after the snow melts.

We performed the basic phrase every time we hear the theme played by Sara. I really cherish the feeling and memory every time I dance this basic phrase. Sara’s music was adding another layer of inspiration and I loved how it weaved between 4 moving bodies and space.

All-white costumes stood out and emphasized the contrast from the architecture surrounding us. We also had bright-colored eye make-up which made me think about the joy or celebration of the arrival of spring. 

Photographed by Abby Koskinas

As for the score, we had 5 minutes of stillness and 10 minutes of improvisation, a total of 15 minutes session 4 times. (I wrote down a clear explanation below. )

We separated the site into 4, Ramp, open space (looks like a theater), bicycle stand, grabble with chairs. And we spread out to each site for the first 15 minutes. The first solo was fully engaged with the environment. The sense of visual, touch, hearing drove my movement. The second and third were partnering. I had duets with Teddi and Michaela. Both duet sessions were always found surprise, excitement, and creativity. It also could be described as active listening, call, and response, or conversation. The last part is a finale. We all gathered at the ramp. I really enjoyed all of us get to connect and sense each other. Someone initiates and someone responds. We never knew what will happen, but our connections were strong enough to adapt, adjust, and create together. I felt the sense of community.

This process was never be forced to recreate. Laura allows us to jump into more possibility within the movement score and simply having fun move together.

<Score of the performance>

Four 15 minute cycles: 5 mins stillness/silence10 minutes movement and all begin with basic phrase. 

Following with improvisation solo, interaction with environment, and interaction with each other, evolving over time

cycle 1:(theme plays) stillness

(theme plays) all start with phrase at individual sites, then explore individual impetus and interaction with site

cycle 2: (theme plays) stillness in between your sites I and II
(theme plays) start with phrase -> partnerships at the sites, explore site with each other in mind

cycle 3: (theme plays) stillness between sites II and III
(theme plays) start with phrase, evolve from there in new duets at your site III

cycle 4: (theme plays) stillness between sites III and the ramp
(theme plays) start with phrase, explore ramp, interacting with site and groups

(theme plays) complete phrase again in unison

Reflection of the performance -adjacent, possible-


Last weekend, I was fortunate to be part of the performance, Tethering Iteration 1. Laura Neese, 3rd year MFA student was showcasing her thesis process and I was one of her performers. From my understanding of her research is an investigation of durational change in movements, human relationships, and the environment with an anatomical perspective.

My process with her started back in early September. I met the other dancers, Tori, Teddy, and Madison through zoom for the first time. In the first session, she told her process and introduced breathing exercise, which I really loved. The exercise was to open the space in the lung to release muscle tension. It helped to breathe deeply by focusing on lobes (There are 5 lobes, 3 on the right side and 2 on the left side). We put the hand on the closest place of the lobe to feel expanding and shrinking. And just breathe a couple of minutes. Breathing is an essential part of human being, but we tend to forget how important is. Her process was, at least for me, centering my mind to the body and having a conversation with. Because I realized how much I overuse my body to live in this high-technology society.

we wrote down 5 things what we learned over the practices and kept as a reminder

After the first session, we met two days a week in person. Fridays at the studio and Sundays at the Chadwick Arboretum North. On Friday mornings, we started with solo improvisation to listen to the body. Then, she introduced couple of exercises, corporate nerve system and the body movements, the washing (improvisation game; one person keep walking as a washer and others can stop, dance, or walk with washer with their own choice.), non-associated words game, mirroring, walk or pause. All exercises were connected to research on how we move as individual but also as collectives. We improvised most of the time. In the end, we did free writing 2, 3 minutes to pin down our running thoughts and we shared. This morning ritual every Friday helped me to cope with the exhaustion of the week and translated into refreshing dance investigation. On Sundays, we started walking around the lake to ”notice” what you notice. It was a brief 15 minutes walk, but it was enough to sharpen and tune my senses to my surroundings. Every walk I encountered, saw, and heard different things such as color-changing on the leaves, people who came to fish at the lake, or the sound of cars running by the park. We created the base phrase out of our walks as collective and we used and manipulate it in the environment. Laura chose a space where on the right side of the Encore house with many trees. I have never done site-specific practice so these Sunday practices were interesting to me. Because our improvisations were never the same, it kept growing and changing. Even though we were familiar with the phrases, exercises, or the surroundings, we made choices and moved differently. What most strikes me over the practices was Laura allowed us to change, influence, and be affected instead of clinging to recreate the beauty of making.

While we practicing, we as 4 dancers were paying attention to our distance due to the COVID-19. So the question was “how can we dance together or connect each other while we distanced?” This question is common among dance artists under this pandemic. However, Laura Neese solved it beautifully. As I danced more with dancers, we built trust and recognize each others’ character deeply. Gradually we understand our own movement patterns and inspiration source built the network to communicate without contacting physically. One time Laura told us that “we are building an invisible chain connection to communicate like a root of the tree or human DNA.” We all were already open-minded and ready to dive into her process, although how we built an invisible bond over the time of practicing improvisations together were stronger and more intimate than we started.

After the show on 11/1

It was satisfying but also very sad to admit that the journey with Laura and 3 dancers was concluded, though what I experienced through the process was a gift to me. I appreciated being able to participate in her process as well as the performance opportunity.

If anybody would like to know more about Laura’s research project, please click the button below.

Laura Neese

Dance Artist & Educator