Brazilian born Andressa Miyazato´s main concerns are social connection and transformation, kinesthetic empathy, decolonization, community and identity topics. In Brazil, the arts and cultural work are linked to the community. That is why she first started dancing because of a community dance project and later taught contemporary dance in public schools. Her artistic vision focuses on dance pieces that use objects as main dramaturgical bridges between body, movement and (invisible) worlds.
Miyazato studied Kazuo Ōno’s work based in the Japanese tradition of Butoh dance to find procedures that could be relevant when dancing intercultural topics. It helped her to find a way to dance the „in-between“ which she is interested in. In Japanese it means MA or Aida. Butoh is mostly understood to have an internal somatic approach with therapeutic effects. Its origins come from the period when Japan was struggling to find a proper identity during americanization. Both Butoh founders resort their inspirations in European artists, in the rural and local people as well as their own life experiences of war and dance; at the same time the dance movement and the happenings were trying to go against and resist the western dance tradition. They worked with photographers and through this idea discovered that the body “playing” in the environment would display another body of that imposed by classical or modern ballet. Unfortunately, Butoh is seen almost as an esoteric practice, dance therapy or only as means of expression of emotions. For Miyazato it is much more: a philosophical approach in which she finds deep inspiration for her work.
In western dance practices, expression is understood as a means to show one’s own identity and personality, as pushing emotions outwards. However, in Butoh, dancers perceive a body/ mind relation. Waguri, a former pupil of Hijikata Tatsumi, explains: “It is often said that ‘You have inside, but it doesn’t come out’ or ‘You have only outside but no inside’. I think we have to change these ways of thinking, which split the things in two” (Kasai & Parsons, 2003 p.2). This idea strongly resonates with Andressa Miyazato’s vision:
“Identity has many layers and is always in relation to the environment and to others. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that imaginary sensory perception is the differentiating factor to the expressionist notion of western dance. In addition, the exploration of Ōno’s self- portrait reveals the potential of memory recall as a choreographic procedure in the present moment. By exploring the stereotypes that have come to conceal notions of embodied
identity in the West and East, and by including the complications of intercultural and kinetic confusion: dancers’ identifications dwell between postcolonial and post-identity contexts, a series of connections are triggered that foster a dancer’s worldview. In a postcolonial context, the construction of identity seems to be a process of permanent assessment. Ōno takes this process to a level of transmogrification of the embodied self through others by constantly othering himself on stage. According to dance anthropologist Andrée Grau, dance can be ‘useful as an entry in the realm of identities’ (Franco & Nordera 2016 p.193). Ōno’s dancing body seems to be in transit between different identities, and by doing so it consolidates a unique way of dancing. This constant movement between mortality and identity, confused with his stage memory, created different narratives on stage. For Ōno, dance is not separate from daily life. When dancing a self-portrait, a dancer has access to the components that constitute their own identity. According to Andrée Grau (Franco & Nordera, 2016), identity is not something fixed and impermeable. Although it refers to individuality and how we differentiate ourselves from others, it is still connected to others and to the environment. Identity has a complex structure that passes through a series of complicated systems of affiliations.
The body ‘re-percussion’ method I use for my workshops with students encompasses my Japanese ancestry where the state in-between is not an empty space; it is a way to see the collective instead of individual selves; and the percussion of Nigeria, ancestrally the polyrhythm of my movements like percussion. ‘Re-percussion’ also refers to the impact of the outside happenings in my dancing body. By doing so, the dancer claims, on a metaphorical level, the social identity, the identity as a dancer, as well as the imaginary identity invented by imaginary landscapes. With this in mind I assume that the ‘rigid self’ has no means to access imagination. The ‘rigid embodied self’ is not able to recognize the entries into the exploration of concepts, because it is not able to realize the ‘other’. Hence, the ‘other’ would become a ‘rigid other’, because it is being seen through the lens of another ‘rigid self’. Performativity in these terms seems to be a tool for the rehearsal of communication between one’s inner landscape and the outside stimulus.”
Furthermore, it is the distortion and fragmentation as well as the unification and fusion of bodies and objects that create new theatrical realities for Andressa Miyazato. Within those spheres she pays attention to detail and possibility rather than to restriction and limitation. An image that is reassembled and a corpo-reality that is reallocated stimulates the audience´s curiosity and playfulness by assigning potential to conditions that are otherwise characterized by insufficiency. Miyazato´s poetic choreographies revolve around sensory perception and are deeply rooted in the human desire to become ONE. Her work is interdisciplinary and aims at making the invisible visible.
“When I was very young, my siblings and I did not have many real toys; toys from the store, toys that only had one shape and meaning. When we wanted to sink deep into imaginary worlds of dolls and trains we made our own versions of them. I would cover an orange with plastic paper, stick a long wooden spoon into its juicy head and name the newly created doll Toquinho. Later I would peel off Toquinho ´s head and dig my fingers deep into its flesh to enjoy the fruit´s sweet taste. What comes naturally to a child´s mind – the playful transformation of objects and its versatile changeability – has accompanied and formed me as an artist in later life.
One of my shows at the Upper Austrian State Theatre, that used objects to alter the shape of human bodies, was watched by a wheelchair user. After the performance, she told me how the transformation of bodies into a new corpo-reality had touched her deeply. I went home and started to think about the emotional connection of my piece to the woman´s identity. It is clear to me that the general inability to move one´s own legs and having to rely on an external object for mobility is bound to the feeling of restriction. Navigating through everyday life – that rarely caters to the need of differently abled people – feeds into the perception of otherness and isolation. Watching a piece that sees the use of objects as a source of possibility and new corpo-reality rather than a state of limitation, must have stirred an emotional response. In return, I asked myself if objects and dance can become connected and interwoven to one another in a way that reaches further into a political and social sphere? A sphere in which the lack of things, the void creates a space of possibility?
Movement is enough. Through dance the body can speak to an audience. However, the interaction between objects, textures, space and time that includes the body as one of these elements, enables me as a choreographer to expand and redefine the micro universe of the stage in different ways. Even as a physically fully capable human I am shaped and forced into a form by an external power to my body in everyday life. I wear shoes that confine my feet, I put on clothes that restrict my mobility, I ride a bike that transforms my mobility, I work in an office that relates my body to space in difference ways than the time I spend watching the stars with my back on the ground. When a moving body is bound to an object, limitation might occur. However, this limitation of movement also creates new forms of physicality. The human body becomes one with a body of different textures and materials. The focus shifts, details of perception change. A body within another body, an extension of limbs and heads. A distortion of shape and frame. Props are used as separate entities fulfilling purpose and utility in a staged scene, they can be decoration or ornament. Objects on the other hand that morph into the structures of the dancing body become one with movement, unified and transformed. Through the process of playful rearranging, visible elements and ideas of the world we know reappear in new shapes and forms; what has been invisible before becomes perceptible as a new corpo-reality allocated in a space that reaches unknown possibilities.”
Text Susanna Schulz