Joy of Practice
February 28th, 2022
I’m currently in The Hague, the Netherlands to work as a translator for Hino sensei. He is giving a 6-day workshop at NDT (Nederlands Dans Theater), one of the prominent contemporary dance companies in the world. It is always an honor and a privilege to observe Hino-sensei’s work. His method and his way of teaching have been transpiring transformative bodily dialogue between him and the dancers. It is an inspiring thing to witness.
Today was the first day of the workshop. The place is called Amare, a center for culture and education in The Hague. The company has just moved into this brand new building. It houses not only NDT but also a dance/music conservatoire and an orchestra. When we arrived there, I was just stunned by its sheer size. The gigantic facility has one big theatre (1300 seats), one big concert hall (1500 seats), one mid-size hall for the conservatoire (600 seats), one concert/rehearsal studio (200 seats), one black box, several dance rehearsal studios and two cafeterias.
We were led to one of the dance rehearsal studios for the workshop.
It was a bright, big space with big windows. There were about 20 dancers waiting for Hino’s arrival. Their faces lit up when Hino-sensei stepped in and began speaking to them. “What would you like me to do first, a little bit of talk or do you just want to work right away?” The dancers smiled and hesitantly said, “Maybe a little talk first?” Then Hino-sensei briefly introduced himself and the gist of what he’s been studying for the development of his method. Afterwards he started working with the dancers.
The day was divided into two sessions, with a 45-minute lunch break in between.
During the first session, they worked on sensitizing and feeling the spine, the elbows and the Kyokotsu (a point on the chest bone, 1-2 cm above the solar plexus). The exercises were simple in terms of movement but requires such focus and sensitivity to monitor the subtle changes of the body and how it organizes itself to execute a certain movement. The room got quiet and the air in the room got denser as the dancers worked on their own bodies in such a precise, sensitive manner.
The second session started with a Q&A session. Hino-sensei answered a few questions regarding his background in Budo (martial arts). The dancers were intrigued and amused by his colorful, insightful anecdotes from his life. And then Hino-sensei asked the dancers, “Do you know that you all are wonderful dancers? Do you really know that you are great?” A little taken aback by his question, the dancers hesitantly replied, “.. Yes? At least on good days.”
“No, no, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your good day or not. Do you really know that you are great no matter what?” Hino-sensei insisted. Then he pointed out the fact that the dancers were able to do all the exercises without any major problem in the first session.
“It is extremely difficult to do those exercises, but you were doing them so well. Doesn’t that bring you joy?” he continued asking the dancers.
They shrugged their shoulders and said that they were used to being asked to perform difficult things in their professional life. “Of course, it was great to be able to do them well, but we feel a little hesitant about showing joy so openly,” they said.
Hino-sensei paused for a second and told that there were two ways of practicing. One is to practice because you are a professional dancer, and you practice for the profession. The other one is that you practice because it is your own body; You practice because you are curious about your own body and how it can develop. The latter way is bound to be personal and means a lot more emotionally.
For the rest of the session, they continued working on the spine, the elbows and the Kyokotsu with different forms. The work remained intense and focused, but there was a bit more laughter in the room and a feeling of joy in each dancer.