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The Key to the Heart

February 14th, Valentine's Day. Also the second and last day of the public workshop.

As a warm-up, they did the rolling of the spine on the floor. It is an extreme stretch, and the purpose of it is to feel the spine. So, Hino sensei constantly reminded the participants, "It is not about doing the form correctly. The exercise is for you to feel your body more and better. If the form makes it difficult for you to touch the bottom of the spine, for example, try changing your leg position or whatever makes it easier. To find many approaches to the same goal is also a very important part of practice."

Then Hino sensei asked them to pair up and do the pulling-up exercise. Person A lies on the floor and Person B holds A's arm by the wrist and walks back so that A can follow and get up. It sounds like a simple thing. But the challenge is to move as one unit; neither of the two should feel any resistance or weight of the other.

They then moved onto Facing (Connecting). Hino sensei told them to feel the partner with the eyes. "So, don't 'look.'" A little strange notion to understand for many people since your eyes are indeed 'looking' at another person for the exercise. But when Hino sensei demonstrated, it was clear that it wasn't about looking the other person in the eye blankly. The connection in between was palpable.

To practice a new level of eye contact, Hino sensei asked them to play a game where they sat in a circle and made eye contact with another person in the circle to get up together and exchange seats. The tricky part was that they weren't allowed to make any sound or facial expression or to use body language to communicate. Only after the eyes met and consensus was reached could they start to move.

Afterwards, they were asked to pair up again and to do something similar. So, two persons sit on chairs, facing one another. Person A gives a signal to Person B only with the eyes (without moving them). B stands up as soon as he/she receives the signal. If B stands up at the exact moment A gives a signal, it is considered as a success. If it doesn't happen so, A and B give each other feedback as to what they were trying to do and how they felt. Sometimes B gets up a bit earlier or later than A's signal, which implies that B was anticipating too much and moved on his own. Or it could be that A's signal was way too weak for B to catch, etc. etc.. By giving each other honest feedback, you can start to know what you are doing to the other.

When the two were truly connecting, it happened so naturally that they were surprised and overjoyed. "I didn't think that it could happen like this. I didn't think I could do it. So, when it happened, I was shocked," one of the participants jumped out of her seat to express her joy.

Then Hino sensei asked them to do the pulling-up exercise again. But this time, "Incorporate the eye contanct you've just learned. The person who pulls gives a signal, the other follows in receiving it." Each pair started to look as if they were communicating on a deeper level, which made them look more "together."

Then they worked on the Fifth Position. Amy instructed them to get into the position by going through several stages such as Rendo (connected movement stretch) and twists. It was to review all the body work they had done in the workshop and incorporate it into ballet.

Just like the previous day, they took picutres of their Fifth Position for comparison. A big difference already.

As one of the last things, they worked a few different stretches. First, the Kyokotsu stretch with the elbows streched to the side. If you are stretch enough, two persons can lift you up easily. "Don't use your muscle power to lock your arms. It's the stretch that gives you power and true strengh with lightness. The participants seemed to love it--the feeling of lightness.

Then the whole body stretch. Hino sensei showed how to help one's partner by tracing the line of stretch with his hands.

When the body is fully stretched, it is light enough to be lifted up without much effort.

Then Hino sensei asked them to do Facing (connecting) for the last time.

Then Hino sensei said, "Do the Fifth Position again. And as the last thing, look at a specific point in front of you as if you were looking at your partner. And then take a picture." So they did. Many of them were amazed by how alive they looked in the photograph. "I look like a man now," one of the professional ballet dancer rejoiced in his newly found presence.

Even for those who are not dancers by profession, the new sensation of aliveness was clear and visible. Some of them did look like dancers.

At the end of the workshop, they sat in the circle and reflected briefly on the process. They were overwhelmed by the amount of new things they had experienced, but undoubtely happy about it.

"This work is so valuable not only in dance but also in life," one of them said to Hino sensei. Everyone agreed.

They said thank-you to the whole group and and then to their partners in Japanese style. "Arigatou gozaimashita!" A round of applause, and that was it.

I want to mention a few more things before I finish my blog for this journey.

There are two persons whom I would like to ackowlege here. The first person is Kenzo. He came into the process as an observer, but eventually became an assistant to Eddy the filmmaker. I was touched by his dedication and more than once entertained by his and Hino sense's exchange. Along with Amy, people like him are what drives Hino sensei to teach performers. They have the passion, dedication, and creativity needed to pass on the work and make it their own. The potential they have makes Hino sensei smile.

And the second person is Kazuko sensei. She has been Hino sensei's assistant for many, many years. Hardly in the spotlight, but she has always been there for him. She herself is also an excellent teacher who knows what students need to work on and gives concise advice. For me personally, she is one of the teachers who have changed the course of my life with kindness and honesty. She is also a fantastic cook and has taught me the joy and creativity of cooking. "When you cook for somebody else, it tastes good, doesn't it?" It is about relationship and connection. Hino sensei's work does apply to everything.


As the translator of Budo Ballet Initiative, I was given an incredible opportunity to be an intimate observer to the whole process. For that, I'm grateful to Amy Raymond who had also graciously allowed me to write about the process.

I can only hope that my words and photos caught the glimpse of what it's like to work with Hino sensei. There is always a daunting amount of information to process, and the highest degree of concentration is needed. You must be present in order to be in the flow with him. Once you are in, the amazing force of his energy takes you to a completely new place.

One of the workshop participants told me that Kyokotsu (a point about 2cm above solar plexus) has a different name in Hebrew language. She said, "It's translated as 'the key to the heart.'" In hearing this, Hino sensei smiled big and said, "That is very good. I'll use that one from now on."

"The key to the heart"-- that's what Hino sense's work does to people. When they are doing the Kyokotsu exercise, their hearts start to open.

He gives them the key and gently asks them to turn it on their own.

Arigatou gozaimashita!

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