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Day 5: How to Practice Expression

Today was the last day of the first week. 10am to 4pm.

Amy and Hino sensei focused on connecting and relationship.

In Hino sensei's work, the exercise called "Shomen-mukaiai (正面向かい合い)" is considered to be the most fundametal. Shomen means the right side. Mukaiai means facing each other. I usually translate the exercise as Facing. Two humans meet face-to-face. That is where everything begins. It starts out with the simplest format; two people stand facing each other, 1-1.5m apart. As your sensitivity gets more and more refined, the distance between you and the other(s) can vary, and it doesn't have to be frontal all the time; you can have them stand on any side of you: front, back, side, and/or diagnal. The point is to strengthen the ability to connect with others so that you look like and move as one unit rather than two separate entities moving on the same cue. The former is relationship, and the latter is often called choreography.

As they worked on the varieations of Facing, Amy was trying to grasp what exactly she was or should practice. Is it about never taking your eyes off of the other? Is Kyokotsu involved in moving together? Where should my focus be, on my body or the other, or both? etc. I could understand her confusion more or less since she had heard him say "You need to know exactly what you are practing when you do something. Otherwise you wouldn't really develop the bodily sensitivity."

But in Facing, Hino sensei, after many attempts to give her specific words of instruction, only made a circular motion with his hand in between her and him and said, "This. You have to feel this more."

The space between the two-- is what he meant. But it's not just the space as most of us know it. It has many layers, and yet it is one all-inclusive dimention of some sort... The most crucial is often elusive and always impossible to put into words. In Budo (martial arts), to master the space is one of the highest skills. At the moment I'm not capable of expounding on it any further. But I know that Facing and Connecting are a part of the process to master the space.

Seeing Amy's getting a bit flustered with the exercise, Hino sensei and Kazuko sensei told her to think less and do more; it's practice that clarifies conusion, not words. Especailly when you are a beginner, it's wiser to put words aside until you gain a certain amount of experience.

So she did. And not long after that, she started to enjoy whatever it was that was in between her, Hino, and Kazuko.

Then Hino sensei told her to apply it to ballet by doing simple duet choreography where Amy and Hino sensei walk towards one another and their palms touch, like a princess and a prince. "What kind of prince would I be??" Hino sensei laughed out loud.

Then there was this talk about expression. It all started when Amy asked him, "What is dance to you?"

She was curious to know how a person like Hino who has incredible physical sensitivity and perception would see dance. His anwer was, "It is when a person's inner world, emotion and spirit included, comes out and manifests itself in his/her body. That's dance. Being able to do many tricks or having high physical abilities has nothing to do with dance or expression."

So, how do you practice expression if it doesn't have anything to do with practicing jumps and turns and getting your legs higher?

That was the loaded question implied from their conversation.

"There are people who like to dance. So they do, learning all kinds of cool moves. And there are people who not only like to dance but also practice to dance for the audience. The former group tend to become dancers with great skills. The latter one become performers who can express something on the stage," Hino sensei gave a hint to think about what it entails to practice expression.

Simply put, it is about having the objective eye (the audience's eye) when practicing.

That is also why Facing and Connecting are importanct things to practice. They challenge you to feel the other and be present with it.


After the session, we met up with Kenzo, a Japanese dancer based in Amsterdam. He took us to an Indonesian restaurant in Leidseplaein for dinner. I had a steamed mackarel wrapped in banana leaves. I was told that it was actually a Balinese food. "The first time I had this, I thought, 'I could eat this for the rest of my lfe!' It's so good," Kenzo passionately recommended it to us. And it didn't dissapoint. Not at all.

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.

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