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Day 6: Practice, Practice, Practice!

There was some errand for me to run in the morning, so I came into the studio a little later than usual, around 11:30am. Amy was working by herself in the corner. Kazuko sensei was calmly watching her from a distance. Hino sensei was talking with a new observer Kenzo. I mentioned him briefly in the previous blog (Feb. 6), but he is a Japanese dancer/choreographer based in Amsterdam. Kenzo not only admires Hino sensei's work fervently but also practices it tirelessly for his dance. The sincerity of his intention to learn from Hino sensei is remarkable in itself.

After a little chat, Hino sensei and Kenzo started practicing on their own. Even Kazuko sensei stood in front of a mirror and began stretching. Kenzo was no longer an observer. In fact, everyone was practicing.

I often notice that Hino sensei responds more to people like Kenzo, whose burning desire to dance manifests in his practice and his personality. It's not favoritism. It's rather like.. he gets inspired by them, and then insight and advice flow out of his mouth as naturally as breathing. And it's not exactly a teacher-student dynamic. A great artist is sharing his knowledge with his fellow artist-- that's what it looks like between Hino sensei and Kenzo.

In the afternoon, Amy wanted to look more deeply into the issue of expression. She asked Hino sensei to do his KATA (form) in martial arts as the demonstration of expressing something to the audience. He did three different versions of the same KATA: (1) without the awareness of the audience (2) being aware of the audience and addressing them directly to express (3) with the objective eye, the awareness of how you are being seen. (1) gave a general impression of how good he is. (2) made him look like a performer. (3) transformed the space into something extraordinary for the audience.

"How do you do that?" Amy looked amazed by how clear the differences were. "Have a strong, specific point of focus in front of you and maintain it" was his advice. That would allow you to see the audience clearly, which leads to defined stage presence. That is the first step towards expression.

He then had Amy stand in front of us the audience to do just that. But it turned out that just standing was the most uncomfortable position for her. She felt "naked" without doing a ballet position. That was a very interesting phenomenon for me to observe because as an actor I consider that position, standing, as the basis for everything. Just stand with presence.. some people call it "the state of readiness".. a kind of active stillness that contains the whole world of a character and more.

For Hino sensei, standing entails both relaxiation and readiness. You need to be calm and yet ready for anything in a battle, or you will get killed.

Seeing Amy and even Kenzo struggling with "just standing," Hino sensei gave them a metaphor. "When you do Rock-Paper-Sissors, you look at your partner with such active energy because you want to know what he/she would throw at you. Standing in front of the audience could be something like that. Have that kind of attitude and just look at them." You cannot just blankly stare at an empty space. You have to be curious about what's in front of, and eventually all around you.

Amy was full of questions. But she also seemed to know that she needed to practice more. What it takes to express something to and for the audience... obviously quite a lot of work and only a lot of practice can guide you through it.

So, let's get on with it, shall we?

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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