Currently, Noism has an established audience of about 1,500 in Niigata. We have many repeaters and people see us as their own company. On our side, we are taking measures like lowering the cost of tickets in order to make it easier for them to come to performance. In the future, I want to see people who saw Noism performances as a child grow up and become parents who will say to their own children, “Let’s go see [Noism’s]
like I did when I was in elementary school.”
That connects to the “Theater Culture 100-year Vision” that you often talk about.
Yes. It is a vision of creating theater culture from a 100-year perspective, which means basically a “three generation culture vision.” As an artist, I can only be fully active for about 30 years, and if I can’t pass on the results of my efforts to the next generation of artists within that time, I don’t think it can really be called culture. If Niigata is truly aiming to produce world-class performing arts culture programs, it will have to create a performing arts school that attracts dance artists from around the world to study here. Then the people who have studied here will go out into the world and be successful, while here at home we have a securely established dance company environment that can produce high-quality work and retired dancers can then become local instructors. This is the kind of lifetime image of a dance artist that people have to be able to visualize in order to pursue that life as an artist. I want to work now to lay down the rails that people will be able to ride on as a lifetime artist.
The tasks of the next ten years aimed at establishing theater culture
We hear that you are also planning a festival in Niigata.
The choreographers of my generation that I met when I was working in Europe are now active on the cutting edge of dance, and if I could invite them here to Niigata we could have a festival that is different from the established festivals with programs full of the big figures of the 20th century. And that is a challenge I would like to undertake. I am now on the committee of the BeSeTo festival and I hope that my presence there will open up more possibilities in dance and productive new relationships and connections will be born for us.
This may sound a bit negative to bring up here, but I would like to ask your opinion about the recent trend in Europe that is making it difficult to maintain a [dance] company. Even artists whose work is recognized internationally are being driven out and creation is shifting from companies to small and middle-sized productions that are able to bring together popular individual artists. In light of this trend, what are your thoughts about the significance of a company like Noism?
I believe that for this very reason it is a good time to look to Asia. Europe and other areas like it are indeed in the state you describe and the performing arts are drifting toward a consumer market state. Japan has a long history of following and trying to catch up with Europe, but before catching up, Europe has begun to change. But, that doesn’t mean we should abandon what we have done until now, rather, I feel this a chance to look on them at masked teachers now and begin to create things that are unique to Japan and to Asia. In terms of theater facilities, Japan now has many wonderful facilities that even Europe rarely has, so the problem now is what we present in them and how we use them. Japan has been building an infrastructure that even Europe will be jealous of.
You have long years of experience overseas, so you know both the good and bad sides of Europe.
Yes. In Sweden for example, you only have to be active for three years before you can get a lifetime employment contract. After you get that contract you can take four months of vacation each year, and even if you don’t do much work, you can’t be fired. That kind of full social insurance can function adversely to turn artists lazy. There are a number of problems like this. Even for an artist like Forsythe, I feel that it must not be very interesting for him to choreograph for today’s dance artists. In the past, he had his dancers attempt movement that was at the very edge of human capability and experimental in nature, and people thought it was fascinating. But now, everyone is used to his style and they can dance his works easily, so there is none of the edgy excitement it once had. If that was the case it turned out to be better to not have the dancers doing anything choreographed, so the works went in the direction of not choreographing and dancers not moving. I believe that as an artist you cannot continue on like that. This is not only true of Forsythe but of Europe as a whole.
The other day I spoke with Philippe Decoufle and he said that he had restaged a work from 30 years ago with revised choreography but, even though the dancers had the skills, it was no longer interesting as dance and difficult for him to stage.
I know what he means. And that is the reason I feel that by maintaining a strong [physical and technical] base with our Noism company, we can reclaim some of the core essence that is being lost in European performing arts. And, it is interesting that when we do this, it brings us to questions of what is Japan, and what is Asia. That is then reflected in our works and we hear comments like, “That has a Butoh orientation,” or, “That is very Asian,” but it is actually something much bigger than that. When we speak of Asia, it was originally everything that was east of Mesopotamia in what is today eastern Iraq. It is important to go back several thousand years and think about what the Asian body [physicality] was then. If there is something that is inherently Japanese, it is not an adornment that you put on but something that wells up naturally from within you.
Going forward, you may have the opportunity to work as an artistic director or festival director in other Asian countries, I would imagine.
And the reverse may also be true. In short, while Japanese directors are just watching the scene, capable Asian artists may exert a big influence on Japanese theaters and get them to create the next resident company like Noism (laughs). In the past ten years I have learned that if you don’t speak out with conviction nothing will change, and I believe that if the artists themselves make the effort to understand arts and culture policy-making and then participate and speak out, things will change. The next ten years will surely be the time when this challenge will be played out. I will continue on with this challenge with my sights on theater culture 100 years from now.
SHIKAKU , black ice
no-mad-ic project - 7fragments in memory (ver.Noism05) , Triple Bill , NINA - materialize sacrifice
sense-datum , TRIPLE VISION
PLAY 2 PLAY - interfering dimension , W-view
Nameless Hands - A Doll’s House , NINA - Materialize Sacrifice (ver.black)
Noism 2 was established. ZONE - shimmer / thunder / moon on the water , Nameless Poison - The Black Monk
“Theatrical dance” production Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Noism1 & Noism2)
OTHERLAND , Miraculous Mandarin , Bluebeard's Castle
solo for 2 , Nameless Voice - Garden of Water, House of sand
“Theatrical dance” production Carmen (Noism1 ＆ Noism2)
“theatrical dance” production
Photo: Kishin Shinoyama
Show-Tent Series 1st production
Namaless Hands - A Doll’s House
Photo: Isamu Murai
NINA – Materialize Sacrifice
Photo: Kishin Shinoyama