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© Lambie Brothers.

Photo: Lambie Brothers.

An exotic dancer

So many people drift down to live in Hastings – and sometimes you wonder how and why. One particular person is Japanese, Yumino Seki, an exotic bird in our midst, who is introducing us to her European take on Japanese Butoh dance. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was curious to know more about her.

How long have you lived in Hastings and what brought you here?

I have lived in Hastings for about ten years. I’d visit with my partner Jim (artist Jim Roseveare). He had been brought up in the country and loves the country and nature. We had friends in Hastings and I liked to visit, but about living here I wasn’t sure. Looking at the sea I felt insecure, there was nothing on the horizon, nothing to hold on to – it was just water expanding into the eternal.

Living here for some time do you feel Japanese, English or a mixture of both?

It depends on the context. Normally, walking down the London Road, I just feel like a person. But obviously there are cultural references and I’m not English. In Japan I feel Japanese, but at the same a bit different. I can’t see myself, so if I am with a group of Europeans I look different but I don’t necessarily feel it.

a screenshot from Kaizo (video) directed by Alex  Franck

a screenshot from Kaizo (video) directed by Alex Franck

What dance training have you had?

In Japan I was classically trained. I loved and love dancing. I also took classes in contemporary movement and danced in a musical. That was my job. I didn’t learn Butoh until I cam to Europe. I learned Butoh in London with a British and an Australian teacher.

I was already interested in Butoh when I was in Japan, because its beauty exists in darkness; it’s  surreal, grotesque, anarchic, and I found it very powerful. Butoh is quite  extreme – the dancers would be naked with white painted bodies, screaming.  And if you didn’t know or understand the political background, it doesn’t really make sense.  There is a slight astigmatism towards such extreme artform in Japanese society.  So I ended up dancing in musicals in Japan.

So has England changed your approach?

I came to England to further my dance career and learn a different approach. London taught me a creative movement from your inner landscape. It is about sensation, feelings, state of mind and thought processes. The shape of the body and the choreography follow the feelings and that was different from Japan, where it was very teacher/student orientated. In England there was a real enjoyment and sense of who you are in the body; getting in touch with your feelings and expressing yourself through movement to convey who you are.

Have you performed outside in an outdoor space before?

I performed at the Stade when Stade Hall was opened. Like Majusaka – as part of this year’s Coastal Currents – it was also a performance piece and we moved from the beach to the Stade to Stade Hall. And it was a beautiful day. I have also performed in the open in Germany, Egypt, Belgium and Dover.

I like working with architecture like in Hastings Museum or St Mary in the Castle, however, in the open we have to bring a focus to the space. Also to shape the area for the audience who will be moving around us – and that is an unknown until the day. I am working with a lighting designer, Caleb Madden, who with LED and Neon lighting will help shape the space and bring a suggestion of a Neon district.

© Sin Bozkurt

© Sin Bozkurt

Tell me about Manjusaka?

Majusaka is a red flower from the Amaryllis family. It flowers at the autumn equinox when, it is believed, there is a portal when the dead and living meet. In Japan it is a cultural  time, when family and friends get together; a time of memories of the dead and a time to visit ancestors’ graves. In this work I am really interested in exploring what is beyond our physical bodies, that indefineable thing that makes us who we are –  including our physical bodies, which as sheer matter decays and goes back to the soil.

There are also light and sound installations: is this a collaboration between the three of you?

It’s a dance piece, it’s not a busy lighting show. The light installation, by designer Caleb Madden and the sound installation by sound artist, Nick Weekes are supporting the dance. The ideas come from me and the sound and lighting artists interpret and respond to them – and what they create might change the dance. However, there is a scene that is only light and sound. I wanted it to celebrate the theme’s undercurrent of the invisible; the absence.

What do you miss most about Japan?

The food. And something I didn’t think I had missed until I went back is the landscape and the mountains. I go with a group of dancers sometimes to dance in a field outside Battle. I do love the English landscape, but it’s not like my connection to the Japanese landscape; my feelings don’t come from my heart.

Manjusaka was performed as a work in progress last year in St Mary in the Castle (review here) This Manjusaka is the fully fledged version. Directed by Yumino Seki and conceived by Seki, Alison Grace and Fabiola Santana. Soundscape: Nick Weekes. LED light design: Caleb Madden.

Performances: Saturday 29 August 1.30pm at Rye Studio School, The Grove, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7NQ and later at 8.30 at Stade Open Space, Hastings TN34 3FJ as part of Coastal Currents and Stade Saturdays.

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Posted 14:52 Wednesday, Aug 26, 2015 In: Performance

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