Japanese dancer Hiroaki Umeda doesn’t speak English well. That’s why he asked City Paper to send questions via e-mail.
That’s the burden of being an international artist like Umeda. You do the best you can, you blend in the best you can. You improvise the rest, and the rest turns into something new.
Blending is exactly what Umeda excels at. He combines classical European dance with American hip-hop and ancient Eastern movement to create something wholly new.
Then he adds a few environmental components like strobe lights and ambient sounds to fashion a world of his own making.
There’s also an element of mind-melding going on here. As you’ll see, Umeda doesn’t think his way through his choreography as much as he uses his “impulse” to carry him though time and space and movement.
Confused? So are we. But read on, friend, read on.
City Paper: You use ballet, hip-hop, and butoh (a kind of movement exercise originating from Japan). Do you combine them to create a mixture of styles? Or is your goal to find something new? Why?
Hiroaki Umeda: Actually, I didn’t study butoh at all. I tasted it. I tried to taste many kinds of dance when I started first dance. Since then, I realized that I was not interested in any kind of “style” of dance. I borrowed techniques from multiple dance styles in order to figure out the principles of my own body movement. And I have noticed that my impulse unites all these styles. Without my impulse, it wouldn’t be possible to unite them.
CP: Light and sound are important to your choreography. What is the larger idea behind this integration? What purpose does it serve?
HU: Everything is equal value on stage. According to the impulse from my body, I make pieces so that the audience can experience the space I’m in.
CP: Where did the inspiration come from to combine international styles of dance? Have there been objections from purists? Why?
HU: When I started dance, I didn’t know so much about dance. So I took lessons. Finally, I just found that I was finding a dance style I liked, but I was looking for movements suitable for expression. So I stopped taking lessons and started training by myself a year after I started dancing. So I am not interested in dance styles. But I have been looking for movements coming from my body. Until now, I have not heard any objection from purists.
CP: Is dance an intellectual pursuit for you or an emotional pursuit? Is there a difference?
HU: I would say that dance is from the body and then from the intellect. Our intellect should come from body first, because it a part of our nature. To my way of thinking, the mind is based on, and comes out of, the body and then outwards from there.
CP: What are some of the dances you are planning for Spoleto? What can we expect from your performances?
HU: I will present two pieces: While Going to a Condition and Haptic. Both pieces were created from my impulse, and they are the pieces in which the audience can experience the space around me and around them rather than just “seeing” the dance. They will really experience the space.
CP: Are you trying to create an entire world on stage for the audience? Is the goal to break through the artifice of theater?
HU: As I mentioned above, my interest is that audience can experience a space. I am trying to create a space with elements in theater, such as sound, light, projectors, and so on. My goal is to show a space so that audience can experience with their bodies.