Shinichi Momo Koga, artistic director, inkBoat
What most inspires me to create new works: Dissatisfaction. If I'm just happy about something, I'll usually just dance in that moment.
But what gets me into a studio to spend time and life laboring over? Something is broken and I want to spend the time understanding broken. How to turn broken into beautiful. Like a junk collector, finding the beauty in what people have thrown away, making something new of it.
If I go into nature, that is inspiring to me, it elevates me and gives me the strength to continue with the life struggle, but I do not put the woods on the stage. The woods make better woods than I can. No competition there.
NEW WORK: "AME TO AME/CANDY AND RAIN"
The meaning of "Ame to Ame" is "Candy and Rain." The title came first, like brainstorming on the seed that will create the work. The seed came first.
It's a play on words, in that the same sound (in the Japanese language), depending on the Kanji, will have a different meaning. So, the title is connected with desire and pain, two of our great engines for moving in this life.
But what is candy and what is rain?
Shown above: "Ame to Ame"
Photo: Beth Martin
If you take the rain as tears and the candy as the thing of desire, then a small circle is created. We want, can't have, then we cry.
While we cry, we cement our desire for the thing and then the spiral goes on and on down to some lower depth we don't even want to talk about.
But there's always singing in the rain.
I read things in my own way, but I expect that the audience, coming with filters different from mine, will see it differently.
Butoh is hard to explain. But the Japanese cultural references, the line between the grotesque and the beautiful -- these are certainly part of my vocabulary.
I take what is necessary for the moment. Well, sometimes I fall on habit. But I try to keep the form alive by constantly re-working it.
Shown above: "On the Boards"
Photo: Eric Koziol
Some people or companies are "classics" in the Butoh world. They have found their way and they keep working it.
Me, I keep getting lost and getting interested in cobblestones (or substitute any small detail which might come across the way of walking).
That's just how I am. For good or ill, I keep my hands in many pies.
COMPLETION: UNEXPECTED ELEMENTS
Most unexpected is how I am going to talk about a work when you put me on the spot. Maybe I'll talk about how the breakfast I ate changed the dance that day, or maybe about a passage from a book I read that keeps resurfacing in my mind. Or process. In the work itself, the surprise is going to really depend on each person.
Completing a work can take anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 years, depending on numerous conditions.
On average, a work that will show in the theatre will take between two to three months to be realized. I've created entire shows within a few days, but these are usually some kind of experiment.
If I stare at the ceiling long enough, something is bound to creep into my brain.
LIFE AS ART
I typically take from childhood events when I'm conceptualizing. But when the moments are coming, it could be anything, from how I drink my orange juice to waiting at the bus stop.
Real life usually has a stronger punch. But there are always exceptions.
The most [powerful] thing anyone ever has said to me was: "I love you."
Many small flashes went across my brain, small revelations others have shared with me, but none of them can hit me like that most overused phrase, spoken by the right person at the right time.
Some of the themes that occur over and over in my work: Going back to childhood dreams, life emerging from death, looking for love, and strange crawling insects.
This is my constant. I've been working with different disciplines since the first day of thinking "I am an artist." They all feed me incredibly well and I'm growing fatter and fatter from the experience.
Like love, death and taxes, [dance is necessary]. Can't actually eliminate it.
So, we’re talking about what gets put up on stage? I've never been to Spain, but of course I hear the stories about how the dance is a major part of existence... more, anyway, than in the USA.
But people go dancing in clubs for what? Are they trying to express something?
Usually, they just want to remember that they are alive and have a good time. Or they're on the make. Then we come back to that whole desire and tears spiral.
Shown above: "Black Map"
Photo: Beth Martin
The most important thing a creative person needs, apart from funding or daily necessities: A life. If a "creative" only has some techniques, then it's totally boring.
What life experience has come to someone, and how is that digested and coming out again?
The hardest was the solo, "Tasting an Ocean." Just being by myself, making a solo, was more difficult than assembling a dozen people for a show. I had no mirror. It was totally disturbing. The only things that ever come easy are improvisations.
SPEAKING WITHOUT WORDS
On what’s more most important: technical proficiency or emotional resonance: Emotional resonance. The rest is just architecture.
Shown above: "Ame to Ame"
Photo: Beth Martin
On whether dance/body movement is a language:
Ever been punched? Ever been kissed? More direct than words, I'd say.
DANCERS: BORN OR CREATED?
Both. A more finely-tuned dancer or choreographer is created through discipline.
LIFE, THE PUZZLE
Something that genuinely puzzles me: Good question. Yes, plenty, but I can't come to one single thing at the moment. I mean, life puzzles me.
Nothing frustrates me like myself. The world could be hell outside, but in the end, how do I deal with it? When I come short of my own self-expectation, then bingo: frustration.
On whether writer’s block exists: Absolutely. Go back to "frustration."
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
In music, I’m most influenced these days by traditional musicians -- really old style shamisen or shakuhachi or tabla or and or and or...
And then there are people I work with, like "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum" or "Faun Fables" or Sheila or Carla or Nils doing independent stuff. And I've never disliked a Tom Waits record.
Recently I've been reading things like Anne Carson or Murakami or Gurjieff. But there's so much good stuff out there, it's hard to say who’s my favorite.
I saw the film "The Cost of Living" by DV8 recently. I was totally jealous. It was great.
The most interesting stranger I’ve ever met: Mase Shooichi. I met then spent some days with him in Kyoto, forming what seemed like a strong friendship.
Then one day he cut all ties and disappeared. Now a stranger again. Hopefully to meet again. He inspired me to make “Black Map” (to be performed in SF in May; a 30-minute version, anyway).
Reads: Just finished "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Murakami and just opened "A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters" by Julian Barnes.
Discs: Right this second, I'm listening to the song "Viel Glück Im Privatleben!" by Zak May and Shiva. Russians living in Berlin.
Downtime: Photography. Playing shakuhachi (badly).
On the biggest myth about being a creative: The biggest myth is "How wonderful it is that you get to express yourself!"
If I wasn’t a dancer/choreographer, I would definitely be: "Farmer" is next on my list. Been a photographer, cook, multimedia producer (or slave may be a better term) and coffee maker.
What I wish someone had told me when I first started out: Get real.
Favorite quote: "Am I shoveling sand to live, or living to shovel sand?" by Kobo Abe. So, what's the point of our struggles, anyway?
Interesting fact that nobody knows about me yet: Interesting? What would someone be interested in, exactly? The more hidden, the more interesting. Best is whatever I've kept hidden from myself. Hmmm, have to get back to you on that...
Life is life is life is life is life.
Artist bio: Shinichi Momo Koga (Artistic Director/Performer, inkBoat). Originally a photographer, filmmaker and theater actor and director, Koga became primarily known as a Butoh dancer after 1991 when he began dancing under Hiroko and Koichi Tamano (primary dancers in Tatsumi Hijikata’s company). In 1994, he created the group Uro Teatr Koku with Alenka Mullin Koga. This group became inkBoat in 1998.
Koga's productions, both solo and ensemble, have been experienced since 1988 throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan.
Restructuring dance, theater and cinema forms, he extracts the vital essence of each to create a sharper reality. As a teacher, performer, and director, Koga inhabits the shadow self and swims the collision between modern life and primal being. He challenges himself and others to attain balances between chaos and serenity, to be a raging storm in blue skies and a breath of calm in the midst of turbulence.
Koga collaborates consistently with diverse performance artists such as Yumiko Yoshioka and TEN PEN CHii (Germany: 1996-2001), Do Theatre (Russia: 1997-present), Shadowlight Theatre (USA: 1993-1997) and the group adapt in Berlin (co-founded by Koga in 2001) with Minako Seki, Sten Rudstøm, Yuko Kaseki and Yael Karavan).
Upcoming tour dates: "Ame to Ame" at Dock 11, Berlin (Kastanienallee 79, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, Tel: 030-448-12-22) on March 10 - 13, 15 – 19, and "Black Map" at Dance Mission on May 26, 28, 29 as part of the SF International Arts Festival.
Visit official site: inkBoat
Read interviews with other creative artists, in the FEB/MAR 2005 issue of "Arte Six."