Issue #11: The Japan Issue

February 2020

This Japan focused Diary Issue opens up multiple invitations: to perceive time beyond the linearity that makes the Western world spin, to conceive tradition as a continuum of contemporaneity, to understand specific dance forms and lineages as trans-national and trans-historial. But more than this, it is an invitation for us to pay attention to what lies in the interstitial, the liminal, the in-betweenness.


My Issue with Japan

Although I love visiting Japan, it is no easy matter writing about Japanese culture. How can I put this? I write from the outside looking in. Like Commodore Perry, I enter the waters of Japan from far away. Although my intentions are not imperialistic as such, my understanding, perception and movement is informed by everyday norms which hail from somewhere else. These taken for granted habits of thought underlie the manner in which I encounter that which is different. They filter its perception, the perception of the subject presumed to know. And yet, the encounter is an event, the relational means whereby new modes of thought come about. We are no longer the same. Read more...

Japanese Contemporary Dance, from Past to Present

At a time when Melbourne is inundated with Asian productions as part of its Asian Arts Triennale ASIATOPA, we can ask ourselves, where is Japanese contemporary dance now? In this article, I will focus in particular on the relatively unknown aspects of Japanese contemporary dance. I’ll start by taking us through its historical context, then examine its particularities, before considering its future. Read more...

In the pursuit of ma

Time flows differently in all things Japanese. In January/February 2019, I was the lucky recipient of a Saison Foundation Fellowship for Arts Managers. This is one of the very few artist-modelled residence opportunities offered to us, arts worker, non-artists. The Saison Foundation founder, Seiji Tsutsumi, owner of the Saison Group, established the foundation with his own funds in 1987. Behind the extraordinary philanthropist was a writer and poet known under the pen name Takashi Tsujii. The vision of the foundation was to reinvigorate the creative soil of Japan by opening it up to international cultural exchange in order to regain international perspective. Soft diplomacy before it became hype. True philanthropists before they became commodified. Read more...

On Centers and Peripheries

I want to begin this short contribution to the Dancehouse Diary by discussing centers and peripheries in the unceded land we call Naarm whose custodians are the Bunnwurung and Wurundjeri people. As a migrant child, the turn to South Asian arts in a white Australia was my haven from racism in everyday spaces where I was often told, as an Asian, to go back to where I came from. I began practicing dance, already politicised from a very young age, questioning who or what belonged at the center and who was in the periphery here in Naarm. As I grew older, I began understanding that Asians were not recent entrants to Australia. As my friend and collaborator First Nations Yolgnu artist Sylvia Nulpintidj recently reminded me, her people and my people have been in conversation for over 4000 years but I do not forget that we, along with everyone else, are guests on this land and therefore peripheral to the centers that First Nations people have imagined for this space for over 80,000 years. Read more...

Butoh as De-Self-Isation

What matters the most? There are lots of ugly problems, very painful issues in society. I wonder how we can become less selfish, a sort of de-self-isation. There’s a lot of pressure for every individual to be “me” and to claim whatever one is entitled to. But if we can be one with the universe, I know it sounds cliché but it’s like not really go to the front but recede and go to the back. Go from your back to the wall behind. Go up to the ceiling and come back here to the opposite wall and circulate. It is a very concrete dance awareness too, the space awareness. Rather than you become the center of the space and dominating it, but let this whole thing balance and be rich in. Read more...

Tea Politics

Coming to Australia, I found people very free with improvisation, which was very liberating. I met a few people who did open performance not according to a defined style of dance. So, I was very intrigued by that. And comedy, a strong sense of comedy. People say Melbourne is the capital of comedy in Australia. I was really excited to see a sort of essence of humour. Read more...

Sensing the World

Born in Tokyo in 1977, Hiroaki Umeda is a choreographer and a multidisciplinary artist recognised as one of the leading figures of the Japanese avant-garde art scene. Since the launch of his company S20, his subtle yet violent dance pieces have toured around the world to audience and critical acclaim. His work is acknowledged for the highly holistic artistic methodology with strong digital background, which considers not only physical elements as dance, but also optical, sensorial and, above all, spatiotemporal components as part of the choreography. Read more...

The Aging Body in Dance

The idea of choreography can be “flexible”, although people tend to think it is fixed. This means that even if the body gets stiffer, older, the choreography can be embodied fully by those dancing bodies. In traditional Japanese dance, the idea of choreography is more flexible, and it is adjusted to the age of the body. Read more...

About Issue #11 – The Japan Issue



Yurika Kuremiya, Priya Srinivasan, Takao Kawaguchi, Hiroak Umeda, Yumi Umiumare, Nanako Nakajima, Angela Conquet, Philipa Rothfield.


Angela Conquet and Philipa Rothfield.


This issue would have not been possible without the precious support of THE SAISON FOUNDATION (Japan). The editors would like to thank in particular Mrs. Atusko Hisano and Mr. Taro Inamura (The Saison Foundation), Mr Shinji Ono (Yokohama Red Brickhouse), Mrs Ritsuko Mizuno ( JCDN), Akira Kasai, Takao Kawaguchi and Yurika Kuremiya.

Warm thanks to Alice Heyward and Caitlin Dear.

Main Image: Akira Kasai, Pollen Revolution – photo by Daido Hiroyasu


This issue exists in print version. To receive a free copy, write to the editors .



Dancehouse Diary is a published by Dancehouse, Melbourne.

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