Contemporary dance movement Takao Kawaguchi's way

James Khangenbam *

Takao Kawaguchi
Takao Kawaguchi :: Pix - Takuya Matsumi

"Through arts we experience something that makes us discover certain things. There are lots of realities that we don't see in this world. Arts make us open our eyes; open our mind and we started seeing something that we were not seeing, although it was already there.

Our reality was there , we do not know how to relate to it but then sometime art can open up and make us able to accept or relate or be critical", stated Takao Kawaguchi a popular contemporary dancer from Japan who recently conducted a workshop for the second time in Manipur in collaboration with Nachom Contemporary Dance supported by Japan Foundation, New Delhi.

Recalling his working days in Manipur Takao said, "I told my friends in Manipur to incorporate their skin in dance movement, it works a lot on the floor. Dance is not only about bones and muscles. With the help of our skin, we can relate to the outside world, it is a simple fact but we often neglect our skin in dance movement. If we can really be sensitive and feel the world with our whole body and generate whole body movement back and front, then the dance will be very extensive, the whole body will expand. Feeling with the touch of the skin and opening up to sensation, perception and imagination which would make the body move and dance is really something".

Artists' response to human tragedy from natural disaster

Takao while sharing his artistic experience in Japan said that, " In March 2011, right after a disaster earthquake in Japan, artists were asked to response to the natural calamity by sending message at the Spiral Hall, an art centre in Tokyo. The project was called 'the power of Art. So lots of artists send message which were exhibited in the hall. Personally, I went to see the exhibition. All I think was tearing the paper into strips, I did not understand it but that was my response to the disaster because everything was down in the northern region. It was a huge disaster earthquake. It did not destroy Tokyo but the entire northern region and nearly 18,000 people died and left 120,000 people missing till today ",

Takao was asked to go to Okinawa after the earthquake for performance. He recalled, "the place has a very historical and political problem. More than half of the island is occupied by American army and there are lots of struggles. To go to Okinawa and to make a performance one has to have a political opinion or view, otherwise it is a big challenge and I had never done that earlier".

Takao Kawaguchi
Takao Kawaguchi :: Pix - Takuya Matsumi

He continued saying that, "Okinawa is an island with a paradise image for people from mainland Japan. But I started to realize and started seeing actual problem of the island, I stayed four weeks in Okinawa in developing a performance theme. During those four weeks my mother called up to inform me that my aunt passed away. I was feeling sad, I did not know what to make but I had to do something. I thought I had some newspaper so I started tearing them, lots of newspaper strips piled up and it filled the studio. I decided to use the paper strip as a stage design which would represent the hilly region of Okinawa. Also the story of cycling my aunt was riding bicycle when she was young. That became a story, I make a story and did my performance with those elements.

I gave the title 'A Perfect Life' for such series of performance - which talk about my personnel experiences. I talk about my health problem or my physic as I have an asymmetric finger; I talk of my broken relationship from the past that makes a very nice story.

Takao's first piece - Decanoinl (Say you don't see)

Takao heartily spoke about his early days, "I was to make a performance with the flickering and loud sound of a tube light. It was like fighting. There were drum beats together. It really makes violent sound. I have to do something with it.

I spin for 5 minutes in the beginning thinking I would fall down. If you practice you never fall. It was very funny and violent piece lasting for 25 minutes.

The technical part which my sound and light artist collaborators played was quite amazing. They use one florescent light on stage. Actually florescent light make noise inside the tube like the lightening. The electric voltage was controlled by the light artists so that florescent light flickers with sound. The sound artists streamlined the noise inside the tube to a louder version through sound system. The flickering light and loud sound appears monstrous to the audience.

I collaborated with the three sound and light artists during 2003, 2004 and 2006. Those years were the defining time of my work, which I really enjoyed

Second Piece De De De (Heart Beat)

Takao said , "In 2004, I work with another artist who uses the sound of heartbeat. When the artist sings a double tone (comic singing) the heart beat fluctuates in pace. I ask him to play punk electric guitar along and the combination was terrifying.

"How many times my heart will beat before it stops was the theme of the dance piece"

I made a table of one meter and twenty centimeter square and I jump on it and make solo wrestling. My sound artist uses his heart muscle and I use my body muscles and the performance was like boxing. There were altogether 7 rounds of boxing and that piece was very popular. It became an internationally acclaimed one as I started travelling with my own dance piece. I performed at Curasia, Singapore, Korea and Venice in 2004.

The guitar was very violent, sometime quite and loud. It was very physical and responsive performance

Third Piece

Takao said, "My performance this time was based on my personnel story. I was hospitalized in 2005 and that story in hospital, I make into a performance story in 2006. I perform with trembling muscles, and it was kind of cold table mime, that was my third important piece.

The artists whom I collaborated with put a muscle sensor on my body. Whenever I move, the muscle sensor sent some electric signal which gets converted into sound and he actually uses the electric signal to play music. It appeared like one can see one's own reflection in electric panel


Takao's performance style has been first- Punk Mime based theatre, second - Otta dance, third - Dum type , fourth - Physicality, fifth - Perfect Life now Kazuo Ohno's Bhuto dance.

The German choreographer late Pinbounce who is regarded as the Goddess of Punk contemporary dance was his biggest inspiration. Takao happened to watched couple of her work when she performed in Japan during 1986, the very year he graduated from University. Takao was thrilled and very much affected and influenced. Those moments in his life really motivated him to go to the performing Art.

Takao Kawaguchi
Takao Kawaguchi

No doubt about doing what I like

Takao when asked as to how he opted his career as contemporary dancer said that, " I never made a clear decision that I would become a dancer during my early days. I happen to join a summer intensive workshop organized by a professional company, so I was kind of absorb and went to that way. I do not know where I had forgotten about job hunting stuff. I was into theatre. I never thought of those job things after graduation even once. I have no doubt about doing what I like".

Bhuto Dance

Talking about his current phase of contemporary dance performance Takao said that, "I had always wanted to work more with my body, feelings and movement. That was my objective and I thought Kazuo Ohno was famous for doing that. So I wanted to study and do something about him and what I did was watching his video and just copying his dance. I pick up certain themes from his major works and make a two hour long piece, which became very popular. With this piece, I toured last year and this year I tour 30 countries in Europe, 7 cities in United States, also Indonesia. Last year, I went to Korea and there were lots of other places. That became a major work which is appreciated much by my audience.

He further said that , " Kazuo Ohno was a Bhutto dancer who passed away at the age of 103 years in 2010 and I had not watched him on stage so I was watching him on video. I thought it is going to upset many people when I copy Kazuo Ohno as he was a great master of Bhuto dance. I was scared if question arises like how dare you copy. But people came and were amused by the idea. How I dance and how they remember the old master's dance is a good message. Actually people really like and encourage me to go on. So I was really happy and felt honoured".

Collaboration work in Manipur

Takao Kawaguchi has done collaboration work with Manipuri contemporary dancers in two separate occasions with support from the Japan Foundation, New Delhi. He has a work in progress with Surjit Nongmeikapam highlighting migration issues, the piece is titled The Unknown Landscape' which was premiered in Manipur.

Takao mentored few contemporary dancers in Manipur during his recent visit in November 2016. During the workshop he choreographed a piece for his students titled 'Falls and Rises which caught attention and won applause from many spectators at the Giving Tree, Sangaiprou. Takao also performed a solo 'Touch of the other.

* James Khangenbam wrote this article for
The writer is an independent documentary film maker based in Imphal. He could be reached at jameslaphoi(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 10 , 2017.

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