From Julie Alexander & Kayvon Pourazar: Rehearsing Tyler Tyler in Japan

Posted in Uncategorized | February 5, 2010 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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From Kayvon Pourazar: This was such a short trip, but I don’t know if it could be possible to be immersed into such a deep aspect of Japanese culture as a visitor in such a short amount of time any more than we did. I never imagined that the work that I do as a dancer could bring about the opportunity for such vast doors to be opened. It is a huge privilege to have experienced this trip to Japan.

From Julie Alexander: Studying with Masumi Sensei was incredible. The Nezu school where we trained the first day is so quiet, clean and beautiful and there is such a tone of reverence in that space that Masumi Sensei governs with quiet authority. We gave her our gifts. We were so careful to enter the room on our knees, respectfully, and to offer our gifts to her. She seemed very excited to have us there. The training was intense. We each worked with her one on one while the other watched. She was so conscious of our bodies, being sure we were okay sitting on our knees the whole time. She was so detailed when she was training us, but quite different than our experience with Kayo Sensei in Florida. With Kayo Sensei, we focused on the form and technique and we were able to communicate the visual information through our bodies. Masumi Sensei also focused on form, of course, but we definitely relied on Yasuko to translate for us as well, because Masumi Sensei really wanted us to understand the stories, history and tradition in these dances. During rehearsal, she brought out traditional incense smelling set so we could see the objects and the tradition that are referenced in one of the dances that Kayvon does. She took such care in wrapping and unwrapping the objects and explaining exactly how they are used – not just functionally, but there is an art and a physical form involved in the delicate act.

This attention to detail that we’ve been honing in on in studying this traditional Japanese dance form is so much a part of Japanese culture from what I experienced first-hand in Tokyo – from the architecture and the food to the paper-wrapped chopsticks and the efficient subway chart (which I was particularly impressed by).

Through the studio showings, we learned that it is customary in Japan for audience or friends to bring food for the performers. We were showered with food… pastries and rice crackers and lotus root and this delicious potato with a wonderful texture. And we learned the usefulness of the phrase- “otsukaresama.” It’s hard to translate in English. But from what I understand, means something like “good job” or “you must be tired” or any time there is some sort of effort involved or even answering the telephone.

the latest from yasuko

Posted in Uncategorized | July 8, 2009 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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We had a rehearsal with costumes last month since Kimono is an integral part of the classical dance.  Usually, classical Japanese dance performers hire a professional costume fitter. This project can not afford such a service, so Kuniya had to learn how to tie Obi for Kayo Sensei’s kimono.  Masumi Sensei taught Kuniya how to do it and he learned it in one day.  Wearing Obi is one of the hardest parts of wearing Kimono properly.

A piece in pieces

Posted in Uncategorized | June 29, 2009 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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Tyler Tyler performers watching their American counterparts

Tyler Tyler is being built in pieces. For the first couple of months Yasuko worked on traditional repertory in Tokyo at the school of Masumi Seyama with Naoki Asaji, Kuniya Sawamura and Kayo Seyama– the three Japanese performers who will be part of the work.  Then for six months, she worked with dancers Kayvon Pourazar and Julie Alexander here in New York, teaching them traditional repertory and developing contemporary structures and choreography as well.  Now that she has amassed over an hour of material and several ideas about the way that the piece may grow and change next, Yasuko returned to Tokyo to continue to rehearse the Japanese cast under Masumi Seyama’s tutelage.

The negotiation between the two cultures and the two modes of creating and rehearsing is a delicate one, made more complex by the fact that the piece is largely being built separately– at the moment, Yasuko is the only person who holds both parts in her mind and body as she travels back and forth. At a recent rehearsal, Yasuko showed video of the American dancers to the Japanese cast for the first time.  Seeing their counterparts redoubled the commitment of the Kabuki-style performers to the project and spawned the planning of a joint residency at MANCC to bring the two casts together for the first time.

But, putting all the parts together in the same space isn’t going to make the process any less complex: the MANCC residency will be fascinating, challenging and valuable for its effect on the form of the work and also its process. What happens when you juxtapose postmodern choreography and traditional Kabuki Su-odori dance? What happens when the working styles of two cultures are asked to co-exist in one studio?  As Yasuko has said “what of culture is transferable?”