Looking ahead with dance
A dancer actively performing in contemporary dance circles, Yamashita belongs to a dance company and she has choreographed and directed works in her own name.
Her activities at ACAC centered around the dance production based on the boundaries between the forest, buildings and the sky, and three activities of workshop, creation of dance pieces, and exhibition works. She repeated experiments and practices while holding workshops as well as working on her installation and dance production to present at the opening of the exhibition. Furthermore, she kept working even after the exhibition’s opening. Needless to say, she continued holding workshops, and in the process, she started creating dance that corresponded with the other artists’ works in the exhibition space and built up on her practices.
During the residency, she talked about “what dance is.” Her impressive comments included: “Dance is originally spontaneous. Even if your body no longer moves, you can still dance.” “Even if the moving person is not aware, the surrounding people might sometimes call it a dance.”(*1) The contradictory contents of these remarks seem to represent how dance is currently captured. Certainly, who knows how to define dance? Many attempts that she made at ACAC seemed to explore ways to face this question, bridging the awareness gained on one side and developing it on the other side.
Yamashita says that looking at contours in the scenery makes her feel comfortable even in her busy daily life. Her ways to create dance from the boundary in the landscape are derived from that. She decided to call these borderlines “ridgelines,” and drew a line that she felt attractive on paper, beginning with tracing that line carefully, and by moving even small parts of her body, she connected lines and made them into a piece of dance. For example, she first traces with her fingertip a gently-sloping line of a one-stroke drawing depicting the edge of a mountain, then her wrist starts to move influenced by the finger, and next comes the shoulder, and then the hip, and so forth. By paying attention to her physical senses and changes in them as much as she pays attention to the line in front of her, she carefully picks up the chain where the movement of her body and their lines overlap.
She spent most of her weekend during the residency to hold workshops. From the middle of her residency, she began to incorporate simple instruments like a tambourine for the dance performances. The lines she traced in the dance are not only from her memory of the lines drawn on paper, but also from the surrounding scenery and her memory. The motive to create her dance was the moment when her own body overlapped with the surrounding environment. As long as she moves according to the lines surrounding her, and as long as she consciously follows her own body movement, the chain movement expands infinitely.
Yamashita made use of workshops as a place for her own quest, and gained ideas for her exhibition work by confirming tangible feelings that she could share with the participants through their reactions. She presented her installation work, There was a dance born from a ridgeline, in which a visitor could experience vicariously the production process of the dance works. In the gallery space are only pieces of paper hanging on invisible fishing line, a mat, and several notes written with instructions to move. Viewers are asked to take off their shoes at a position in front of the mat, walk on a somewhat cold concrete floor according to the route, step on the soft mat and look at the drawing of the ridgeline. As they proceed, they find a note at their feet, pick it up, interpret written instructions and move their bodies as they understand the notes. They are urged to trace the ridgeline using the small parts of their bodies such as finger, belly button, throat, heel and the tip of their fifth finger. Here, the viewer, just as the workshop participants experienced, will have the experience of keeping their movements synchronized with the line.
When we display dance works, we often exhibit videos and photographs that record dancers’ movements. Yamashita, however, did not choose a duplicate of such a dancing body. This work is also a follow-up experience of her dance production, and it is a dance work to be viewed without the dancer’s body.(*2) It seems to make a dance work exist by having the participant’s body dominated by Yamashita’s dance. When we remember her remark, “dance is initially spontaneous,” however, we understand that if the moving person does not realize it, dance is not supposed to be born there. So, in this work, such questions are raised: “Will dance be established without (duplicate of) body presentation?” and “On which side does dance exist, the dancer’s or the viewer’s side?”
Yamashita has questions about the current situation where dance is appreciated by its duplication, and a dance work comes into existence on the premise of a dancer’s body. She quietly confronts them, and it is a kind of attitude that Yamashita practiced at ACAC. She has acquired here the freedom to ask questions regarding dance by means of an exhibition that belongs to a different field. Just like that, the future of dance might be much freer and more open than we think.
(*1) Yamashita made similar comments in the interview on December 8, 2018. AC2, no. 20 (Aomori: Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, 2018).
(*2) Leaflet, Ayako Yamashita’s installation, ACAC, 2018.