This weekend, inkBoat joins with AXIS Dance Company at the newly renovated ODC Theater. Both inkBoat and AXIS are known as hybrid companies: inkBoat for its unique juxtaposition of physical theater with Japanese Butoh dance and AXIS for combining performers with and without disabilities into one free-flowing performance group. This pairing brings us ODD, an investigation into the grittiness of the human condition, accompanied by music by well-known cellist/composer Joan Jeanrenaud (formerly of the Kronos Quartet)
Shinichi Iova-Koga, ODC artist-in-residence and artistic director of inkBoat, took a few minutes (or perhaps more; I didn’t ask that he time himself) to answer a few questions about partnering with AXIS and creating his new work.
Becca Klarin: What motivated you to partner with AXIS for this new work?
Shinichi Iova-Koga : I had the wonderful opportunity to work with AXIS in a completely process oriented exploration in 2007 at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University. For three weeks we experimented and became familiar with each others characters, methods, and proclivities. It was a rare experience in the performing arts world- to make discoveries without the pressure of a final product, and to have a trial run at working together, before embarking upon an ambitious project. After that initial intensive, Judith Smith, the artistic director of AXIS, proposed that we create a full length work together, and ODD was born.
inkBoat’s movement landscape blends Japanese Butoh and physical theater while AXIS leans towards contemporary dance for dancers with or without disabilities. Will we see a hybrid of these in ODD?
Certainly. I feel that both companies to a certain extent, but AXIS in particular, will be moving in ways that are different from how they have been trained.
Of working with the AXIS dancers, you’ve said, “I am as exacting with the disabled dancers as I am the non-disabled. The difference is, I have more to learn from them – where is their ‘ground,’ is it in the chest or tailbone? And then work to put myself somewhere in their place.” Has this process with AXIS affected how you describe or teach your movement in general?
Working with the disabled AXIS dancers, it’s not so much that my approach towards dance has changed, but rather deepened. They have overturned some new stones in my continuing research.
I am constantly examining the issue of body connecting with the ground, and working with the AXIS dancers in wheelchairs has expanded my perspective of how that connection manifests through dance. I am also very interested in dancers developing the ability to sense without the use of our primary sensors, i.e. hands and eyes. The AXIS dancers who are in wheelchairs are living this attempt in a daily basis, never able to take for granted ease of mobility, the way most of us do. They are already navigating the world using sensitivities that most of us have left undeveloped.
Photo courtesy of Pak Han
Your inspiration for ODD derived from Odd Nerdrum’s paintings: the juxtaposition of dark and light, loneliness, and flesh and the body. How did these themes affect you?
For me these juxtapositions are the very fabric of existence. Working with them, as I do in many of my pieces, I feel as if I have the entirety of the human condition to draw upon and expose. And there is never a lack of material! Nerdrum’s paintings similarly contain a broad spectrum, images gruesome and beautiful exist within the same canvas. I’ve never experienced a human being, actually any life form, who doesn’t contain contradictions and opposing forces. So I can’t imagine making a dance that represents only a singular quality of being.
Were there any surprising moments when setting ODD?
One day, Rodney pulled the wheel off his chair and sent it through the space.
What: ODD, with inkBoat and AXIS Dance Company
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street
When: Fri-Sat, Nov. 5-6 at 8PM; Sun, Nov. 7 at 3PM
Tickets: $18 general/$15 student, senior or child; online (Friday night is sold out)