Dance artist Kota Yamazaki (NYC / Tokyo, Japan) will create the second installment of Darkness Odyssey, a series of dance works inspired by writings of authors Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and Butoh pioneer Tatsumi Hijikata’s notion of “dance of darkness.”
BAC Space Resident Artist
In 1977, Kota Yamazaki was introduced to butoh through the teaching of Akira Kasai; then in 1981 began studying classical ballet under the late Hirofumi in Inoue. He graduated from Bunka Fashion College with a BA in Fashion Design.
In 1989, Yamazaki was invited to work with Daniel Larrieu at CNDC in Angers, France; he then became a finalist in The Platform of Bognolet Competition in France in 1994. He was invited to join in the TAP (Triangle Arts Program) artist exchange program in 1997. Since Yamazaki established his Tokyo-based company, rosy co., in 1996, the company was invited to perform at national and international festivals and theaters including Bunkamura Theater Cocoon (Tokyo), New National Theater (Tokyo), Indonesian Dance Festival, The Place Theater (London), Biennale Nationale de Danse Val-de Marine (France), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, Buena Center for the Arts, and Yorkshire Dance Festival. With the invitation from Germaine Acogny to create a new work for Senegal-based company Jant-bi, Yamazaki decided to close rosy co. in 2001, and left Japan.
During six residencies he received in Senegal between 2001 and 2004, Yamazaki created a new work, FAGAALA, in collaboration with Germaine Acogny, for her company Jant-bi. FAGAALAwas presented around the world for four years following its sensational premiere. In 2007, Yamazaki received the New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie Award) for its choreography with Germaine Acogny.
At the same time, Yamazaki moved his base to New York, and started creating new works with Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug. The company has performed national and international venues including Melbourne International Arts Festival, Dance Theater Workshop, PICA/TBA Festival, FIAF/Crossing Line, Bates Dance Festival, Danspace Project, ASU Gammage, NUS for the Arts (Singapore), Globalize: Cologne (Germany), 92Y Harkness Dance Festival, Painted Bride Art Center, Andy Warhol Museum, The Dance Center at Columbia College Chicago, Miami Light Project and Japan Society. Yamazaki also has created choreographic works for national and international dance companies, theater companies and students at universities.
During these years, Yamazaki has taught at Bennington College, Barnard College at Columbia University, Arizona State University, National University of Arts in Korea, Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tokyo Zoukei University, Kinki University, Earthdance, CAVE, Vangeline Theater, Movement Research Festival among many other national and international universities, festivals and communities. His projects has been supported by Japan Foundation, New England Foundation’s National Dance Project, Asian Cultural Council, The Saison Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Harkness Foundation for Dance.
In 2013, Yamazaki received the FCA award (the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant Award) for his artistic achievements in New York. He has been serving as Director for Body Arts Laboratory in Tokyo since 2009, and organizes Whenever Wherever Festival.
BAC Story by Cori Olinghouse
Jan 12, 2017
“Being is fractal.” This is the concept that floats in my mind days after witnessing Kota Yamazaki build Darkness Odyssey with performers Mina Nishimura, Julian Barnett, Raja Feather Kelly, and Joanna Kotze.
“A fractal is a figure with a fractional number of dimensions. […] What you end up with looks like a snowflake. […] The outline is endlessly dividing and is therefore infinitely riddled with proliferating fissures.” Every snowflake is different, singular.
In Darkness Odyssey, dissimilarities between bodies, the performers’ cultural backgrounds, trainings, and ways of translating Kota’s choreography live inside a fragmented reality, in which a simultaneity of gestures, utterances, and inflections form an interconnected network. Kota offers a vision of the body becoming like a black hole, which absorbs everything.
Kota isn’t after approaching bodies or cultures as solid, fixed objects. Instead, he extends his porous notion of blurring: “I want to break the western way of labeling different cultures. I am trying to find a way to internalize varying cultures, unlike fusing or mixing. It’s an interbeingness of cultures, bodies, and perspectives. Not me and you – not like looking at a clear mirror of the self. More like when you see into aluminum, you see yourself blurry, not clearly. I’m interested in this kind of blurry image.”
In the studio at the Baryshnikov Art Center, as part of his BAC Space Residency, I witness layers and layers of translation as bodies decipher each other in unfamiliar physicality. Kota speaks in bursts of English and body movement, while Mina translates from Japanese. They are working on a form in which one person remains stationary in the center, in what Mina calls a landscape spasm, as the other person orbits improvisationally. Kota watches and points out moments that connect to his idea. Glimpses of form congeal, and are shaped as they go.
Kota proposes his somatic practice, Fluid Technique, to cultivate sensitivity to an ever-changing body. He then teaches an abundance of phrases selected from years of material captured in his video archive. In conversation I learn how Kota dances everywhere: in his kitchen, as he’s fishing, running. Many of these instances are recorded. In transmitting movement, the inflection of each performer is more important to Kota than the movement itself. I ask Kota why he makes so many phrases, “schizophrenia,” he responds. He doesn’t like to repeat the same movement. He likes things to be happening simultaneously.
This must be why I seem to be seeing fractals. The performers move through layers of interpretation, similar to the way a fractal becomes a “web of proliferating fissures in infinite regress toward the void.” They seem to mutate as sparks fly off fingertips, radiating with vibrant texture. Fiery watery movements grounded and unhinged. They vocalize, too; each utterance is distinct.
Multiplicity and heterogeneity, elements of fractals, also speak to the nature of translation. At first I feel anxious, concerned that a rendering from western bodies may be an impediment. Writing this piece, I, too, am implicated in this web of interpretation as a western practitioner learning about Kota’s relationship to ankoku butoh, butoh pioneer Tatsumi Hjikata’s philosophy of dance of darkness. Kota describes his own approach and interpretation of ankoku butoh: “Dance of darkness is connected to dark emotions, or desire, or the dark side of human nature. This might be the true nature of ankoku butoh. For me, this darkness is more like a black hole. It’s not so much about expressing the dark side of people, it’s more like it absorbs everything.”
As Kota transmits the phrase material, the movement lives in a “state of perpetual transformation, perpetual translation” functioning “somewhat like DNA, spinning out individual translations, which are relatives, not clones, of the original,” allowing the material to live on through multiple iterations. This process reminds me of the words summoned by Eliot Weinberger and Octavia Paz’s Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, suggesting that a “poem dies when it has no place to go.” Across the space, my eye connects these slippery disjointed translations. It feels as if a collective body is becoming disassembled, morphing into a black hole. In this fragmentation, there is a kind of wholeness. A wholeness, which is about dispersing, evaporating, disappearing, and becoming absorbed.
Julian enters with arms as icy shards as three people collide in towards the center, on toes drifting along an invisible terrain. Mina is squeaking, sounding, blowing air past her clipped hand gestures. Raja’s limbs jab erratic. Sounds composed by Kenta Nagai and Masahiro Sugaya move from slippery, watery drips to frenzied percussive repetitions.
In between, fragments are spoken by the dancers. A “firefly hovering,” “the boy became like a shadow, like a black hole,” “the way the fork creates a shadow is like a volcano.” Chills move through my body as the piece builds up steam. The performers move in a rage with siren-like blasts of sound penetrating the space. In an associative rant, Julian recites glimpses of what he sees. “Hudson,” “Jersey.” We are reminded of the extended space in view.
The violence of sound is exalting. Bodies are caught, vibrating. Morphing together, the sound dissipates; everything is swallowed.
1. Massumi, Brian. A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1992) 22.
2. Massumi 22-23.
3. Yamazaki, Kota. Personal interview. Translated by Mina Nishimura. 21 Dec. 2016.
4. Kota draws inspiration from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia in which schizophrenia is associated with multiplicities and producing connections, rather than a pathological condition.
5. Massumi 22.
6. Weinberger, Eliot, Octavio Paz, and Wei Wang. Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese Poem Is Translated. (Mount Kisco, N.Y: Moyer Bell, 1987) 180, 184.
Cori Olinghouse is an artist, archivist, and curator, spearheading the Trisha Brown Archive as Archive Director since 2009, a company she danced for from 2002-2006. As an archivist, Olinghouse has worked with film historian, curator, and archivist, Jon Gartenberg, choreographer Cathy Weis, and is currently developing a series of projects with choreographer Melinda Ring. Recently, she was the recipient of The Award, conceived by Dean Moss (2015), a participant in Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Extended Life Dance Development program made possible in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2016-2017), and a panelist in the Museum of Modern Art’s Storytelling in the Archives forum (2015), alongside Boris Charmatz and Marvin Taylor. As part of her graduate research at the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) at Wesleyan University, Olinghouse is working on a series of hybrid projects that bring together her research in archives, curation, and performance.
Thank you to Kai Kleinbard for his editorial assistance.