A typical day in the studio starts around 10am. Amy does her warm-up and asks a few questions to Hino sensei. Her questions vary, ranging from a simple one "What shall we do today?" to a complex one "How can I teach something radical such as your (Hino sensei's) teaching to someone who has been educated in a way that rejects anything incomprehensible as a threat to his/her identity?" Classical ballet has a long history as a dance form. Its educational system or pedagogical approach had been set a long time ago, during 1930s, and the majority of it still remains the same, according to Amy. One of her complex questions such as the one mentioned above stems from her own experience of learning classical ballet and teaching it, too.
But Hino sensei had a simple answer, "Change your mindset."
I'm not at all familiar with classical ballet or its education. So, I can only write about what I know and think about Hino sensei's teaching.
To me, what makes Hino sensei's teaching "radical" is that he focuses on the human body and studies it tirelessly with the body and without any conceptualization. In other words, it is startlingly simple and unassuming. He doesn't seem to concern himself with "the right order" or "the right dogma" of teaching that can apply to everyone. There is no "mysterious" martial arts trick or technique involved. He only emphasizes something, in a way, quite obvious, which is that the more you know your own body, the better control and the greater precision you have. Or vice versa. For performers, that means more range and nuance in expression.. and more presence.
So, how do we get to know our bodies better, you might ask. In some school or class, you might learn human anatomy or movement theory to get an idea of what it is. But, you don't have to have an idea of what the body is to start exploring and studying it. You already have the actual thing. You are the body.
We continued our discussion on education during lunch break. "So, it all comes down to what you want to learn and how much you want to learn it," Hino sensei said. No matter how great the teaching migh be, it is ultimately the student's desire and sense of purpose that determine his/her growth. "Ideally speaking, it is very important for a student at a very young age to see as many great dancers as possible to have the image of great dance and to cultivate the sensitivity that can distinguish the good from the bad by quality. Then he/she can learn specific techniques to make his/her own dance," he told Amy, who was wondering a better way of educating dancers. But, what about those who hadn't had that kind of exposure to great art at an early age? "Whatever the case may be, you have to practice to build the body. Also, there is YouTube where you can watch many great dancers' works at any time," Hino sensei replied.
The afternoon session shifted from the individual work to the partner work to look into the "relationship" in ballet. When you are dancing with other people on the stage, there needs to be a "relationship" between you that is visible to the audience.
In Hino sensei's workshop, relationship is defined as a connection between living organisms. So it is different form what we usually think the word means. It is not of the social structure; you are not being asked to be a friend or lover or parent or whatever a societal role to somebody else. It is something that happenes between two human beings.
Back to ballet. Hino sensei asked Amy what dancers do when they have to dance with others on the stage. Her reply shocked him and Kazuko sensei. "There is no emphasis on establishing a relationship. It's all about the form that needs to be exact." Maybe that is why duets and group dances tend to look somewhat pretentious.
So, Hino sensei suggested that she start with a simple exercise where she has to move with a partner. She put her hand on Kazuko sensei's back and stood next to her. Kazuko sensei moved her Kyokotsu (a point right above the solar plexus) back and forth a few times and started to walk across the studio. Amy tried to match her tempo. The first few attemps looked a little awkward. "I felt that you were trying to follow me, not moving with me," Kazuko sensei gave Amy feedback. Hino sensei advised Amy to feel "the air" between the two and try not to rely on the visual information." Then Amy's big eyes looked straight ahead, instead of looking at Kazuko's back. They resumed walking. The last few times looked as if they were one unit, not two different people walking side by side.
"That's what you want to look like when you are dancing with others," Hino sensei made a point.
A whole new set of challenges and questions seeemed to be popping up on Amy's mind.
The clock hit 4 o'clock, and we ended the session for the day.
Disclaimer: Budo Ballet Initiative is not associated with Real Contact Project. What you read in this blog are the personal thoughts and observations made by Yuko Takeda. They are not meant to officially document or represent the Budo Ballet Initiative project. For those who are interested in knowing the entirety of the project, please contact Amy Raymond.