More photos of "Documentation #1 -gallery onetwentyeight"

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

6 Seconds in Ramallah was affected both artistically and pragmatically by the “breaking news” from Egypt and Japan last spring. Due to political events in Middle East, our planned performance tour to Syria and Lebanon was restricted. The project subsequently shifted its focus from a broader interaction with the Middle East to a more in-depth relationship with Palestine.
-Yoshiko Chuma

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

-In the past they used to build population centers-- those for protection were built on a mountain, and those for agriculture were built in the valley because of the soil and the water. That’s why you don’t find villages around Amman. Before ’96 they didn’t mind if you visited. You could go.

-You mean before Intifada?

Conversation with Khaled Qatamesh, Director of El-Funoun
Interview by Carlos Gomez

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Performance & Installation Photos

all photos by Hugh Burckhardt

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

Image by Robert Flynt. Photo by Hugh Burckhardt

On safety...

Photo by Robert Flynt

Yoshiko (on life outside of "6 Seconds" rehearsal):

Because everyone has to get home on their own

At night in Ramallah the atmosphere is ominous

Last time they told Sizzle and I

That walking around late at night was safe

They said that, remember?

So on the one hand you have that safety,

But then Noora is scared to drive alone at night

I have no idea what kind of arrangements they make to get home.

We’ve been up since 5 this morning

Noora is substituting for me in some rehearsals

She is incredible

So if she goes to the night club to let off some steam

That’s up to her

On Collaborating with El-Funoun

In El Funoun we look for spaces for happiness. But reality is not exactly happy. There are some moments of joy But the daily life of Palestinians is 80% tragedy and 20% joy. with Yoshiko we felt there was enough chemistry to produce a collaborative art production after three of our members had participated in projects with Yoshiko in Jordan. In our discussions we felt that we had joint artistic, cultural and even political visions. So we felt that we could collaborate on this production. Noora told me that you only see the production on the last day... To me she is a very mysterious person. I think it will be great because she is very creative.
Interview by Carlos Gomez

More Interview Transcripts...

Yoshiko Chuma:

“One week ago Noora told me that her mother was going to drive us somewhere. Then it didn’t happen and Noora apologized. It turned out her mother’s co-worker had been arrested. I asked Noora, ‘how come?’ For us it’s normal to ask this, but for them it’s normal not to ask. That’s a big difference. They don’t ask themselves why. It’s been like this for a long time…

...My sister, brother, and mother all died within a time-span of 18 months. ‘6 Seconds in Ramallah’ was created in the wake of these deaths.”

Photo by Robert Flynt

Interview transcription from Palestine footage

Noora Baker photo by Robert Flynt
Noora Baker:
My parents, family, people in prison... things close. So it was the only thing— once a week I can go to rehearsal and there are all these kids my age. I can play with them, I can enjoy my time—I can be a child. Because outside that, reality hit really hard as a 7 year old, and 8 year old, the beginning of the Intifada and the occupation. So you can run away with your imagination, you can have space for yourself as a child. It could be that if my parents didn’t enroll me in Dabke, now I’ll be one of the revolutionaries carrying a gun. I don’t know. I know that as a people, as a human being, I have the right—everybody under occupation has the right to fight in any way, violence or non-violence. You have the right to fight the occupation. We do. And I support that completely... I choose dance.
Interview by Carlos Gomez

Al Ayyam News Review "6 Seconds in Ramallah" 2010

[Yoshiko Chuma's 6 Seconds in Ramallah] was the most controversial performance from all that was performed at the “Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival 2011”where you had people who either loved it or hated it.

Muna Samara (from the audience) said: I was so moved by the performance that I had tears in my eyes in parts of the performance and in particular when the Japanese musician was playing a sad melody. It was an interesting experience to see El-Funoun with Japanese artist and it was definitely different from anything El-Funoun did before. This success is a proof that El-Funuon is able to present and this time with Japanese artist a collage between contemporary dance and folklore.

Iman Salameh (Graphic designer, from the audience) said: El-Funoun was able to prove yet again that it always succeeds to excel in whatever they do whether it was on their own or in collaboration with other artists. This performance was beautiful and touching.

Wadee’ Hannani (TV producer, from the audience): I could not sit through the performance, what I saw was an inharmonious performance on stage. The music was good so was the tsunami effect and perhaps the performers on stage on an individual level, however the performance as a whole was inharmonious and it did not reflect both cultures the Palestinian and Japanese. I also think that one month is not enough to come out with a good co production on all levels. In general the performance was boring!

Khaled Qatamesh: this production is the most contemporary performance in El-Funoun history. It was a result of a one month continuous workshop with the renowned Japanese artist Yoshiko Chuma. This experience took us to unfamiliar new places in art and the experience itself is the most important thing for El-Funoun and not only the performance. It was an experimental performance and should be viewed as such. Many of the audience judged it as “El-Funoun” production which is incorrect and perhaps if they looked at it as a coproduction that came out of a month’s workshop they would have judged it differently. We are proud of this experience in presenting a contemporary performance.

Noora Baker: This performance is experimental and does not really fall under “contemporary dance”. It is an abstract production that incorporates visual arts and performing arts. What was important in this production is opening up to new cultures such as the Japanese that we have not had any connection with in the past. This production has six different projects put in one and it has to be seen as such. There was dance, documentation through video, documentation through photography, music, singing and visual art.

December 2006

The Magic Pilgrim: Intuition, Humor, And A Unique Perspective Inspire Yoshiko Chuma's Work.

In the dying light of a summer's day, an Asian woman, her hair in a pigtail A cable that has an appropriate connector on one end and loose wires on the other. It is designed to patch into an existing line or to terminate the ends of a long run. Contrast with patch cord. , turns slowly in the weeds by a Brooklyn canal. One hand is at her chest, the other stretches out to the side. Behind her, across the canal, is a factory, its windows catching the reflection of the setting sun. Near her, six other dancers turn, glide, and leap in and out of an aluminum cube frame with seven-foot sides. Seven trombonists play. It's terrifically hot, and the performers shift their locations. From time to time, they enter a silo-shaped building where there's air-conditioning, black-and-white film, and a few wandering audience members. One performer dances intermittently on a grate above the silo's staircase. Called Sundown, the work, in its entirety, is seven continuous hours, performed by these seven dancers and seven musicians. The mysterious woman by the water's edge is its choreographer, Yoshiko Chuma.

Chuma is a maverick, utterly unique, a "one-off," as the British say, on the stage of world dance. Her career has spanned almost 30 years and 35 countries. Her work is a mixture of play and seriousness, anarchy and reflection, and her hallmarks are collaboration and cultural exchange. Chuma cuts across categories. One might call her a postmodern choreographer, a movement designer, or a visual artist whose primary medium is human beings--dancers, musicians, pedestrians. She is unusually alive to space and landscape, indoors or outdoors. Gifted with great personal force and intelligence, at heart she is an experimentalist, a fierce explorer with a profound sense of structure.

Her company is called Yoshiko Chuma & The School of Hard Knocks named in 1980 when Chuma was still new to this country and intrigued by American idioms. A thousand dancers have appeared with her over the years. Early on, the work was large and antic. Five Car Pile-Up featured a hundred performers armed with newspapers, trench coats, and folding chairs. It was high energy and what some have called "choreographed chaos." Her work was anarchical: Without permit, her dancers performed in the subways. A whiz at site-specific work, Chuma was the first choreographer to require the dancers of the GROP Paris Opera Ballet's modern dance unit, to perform outdoors, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Her work is often community-based, where everyone is a collaborator, as in her 1993 commission to stage the opening of New York City's vast and giddy Halloween parade. For GAME/PLAY at New York's Asia Society in 2004, she gathered performers from several countries to recount stories about the games of their childhoods. Chuma shaped those tales and games into a charming and universal theatrical work.

Some of her work is smaller in scale and more intimate. For Solos With a Phonograph she walked up to an old phonograph, put on an old 78 record and performed a haunting solo. One at a time, several other dance artists chose a record and danced their own solos. In "The Living Room Project" (1997-99), with versions done from New York and Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Tokyo and Budapest, dancers and musicians performed in the living rooms of selected hosts and their guests.

Chuma herself--still a powerful and compelling performer at 56--usually dances in her work and has performed solos at Judson Memorial Church during their New Year's Eve poetry readings. In white tails, she danced in the summer rain with double bassist Robert Black as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival.

In addition to longtime collaborators like Black and visual artist Ralph Lee (she has been working with his aluminum cubes since 1999), young choreographers and dancers are eager to work with her. School of Hard Knocks has included talents as diverse as Sasha Waltz, now an internationally sought-after dance artist living in Germany, and downtown powerhouses like the British choreographer Sarah Michelson and Americans Vicky Shick, Dan Froot, and Christopher Williams. Chuma choreographed and directed Tan Dun's opera, Nine Songs, long before he scored Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

"Fate and chance," she says, are what have been responsible for her remarkable career. As a young woman who had been active in political protests in her native Japan, Chuma came to America 30 years ago. She quickly settled in downtown Manhattan and found herself in the milieu of theater experimentalists Ellen Stewart, Robert Wilson, and Mabou Mines, and dance avant-gardists Steve Paxton, Simone Forti, Meredith Monk, and Pooh Kaye. She picked up on the creative vibe of downtown New York at that time. "It was so exciting just watching people on the street," she recalls of her beginnings.

In 1977, a year after her arrival in the U.S., she first appeared in Douglas Dunn's Celesta , and was influenced by minimalism and the loft and downtown scenes as well as the landmark Einstein on the Beach. From Japan she already had a passionate and innate sense of politics. She met poet Allen Ginsberg and performance artist Eric Bogosian. She took Ginsberg's philosophy of "First thought, best thought" and applied it to dance-making. She came to know Edwin Denby, the dean of American dance critics, in 1978 and later married Jacob Burckhardt, son of the filmmaker and photographer Rudy Burckhardt, Denby's closest friend. Her husband often creates the soundscapes, videos, and films that accompany her work. (Their teenage son Hugh sometimes travels with her and works on her productions.)

She gives credit to Pooh Kaye, who, in their early years of sharing a loft, collaborated with her on projects that were outlandish, arduous, and inspired. Chuma started using chairs and props in work that was--and still is--deeply structured in concept. There were other artists she worked with who influenced her, including painter Alex Katz and composer Alvin Curran. "I have to accept somewhere that I'm very disconnected, with different histories," she remarks about her eclecticism.

As if this weren't enough, Chuma also directed, in addition to The School of Hard Knocks, Ireland's Daghdha Dance Company, commuting between New York and Limerick for four years, beginning in 2000. Her Yellow Room for that company, performed within a yellow room constructed onstage, toured Ireland in 2003. "Exciting, bright, skill-fill" is how she describes the dancers, musicians, and composers of Daghdha.

Her upcoming work, A Page Out of Order, receives its U.S. premiere mid-January at Dance Theater Workshop. It was inspired by a Japanese silent film of the 1920s, A Page of Madness. In Chuma's work, singer Sizzle Ohtake portrays a benshi, a narrator who accompanied silent films in Japan. The piece will use dancers from the U. S., Japan, and Macedonia (where she has worked extensively), as well as Macedonian music and a shakahachi player from Japan. The mix is typical of her highly successful cultural fusion.

Choreographer/performer Dan Froot, his work and life strongly influenced by Chuma, recalls working with her. "You never know what will make Yoshiko laugh," he says. "Her abundant humor seems driven by the non sequitur Part of her ability to see absurdity and irony in everyday life is her position as a cultural outsider. But probably a bigger part is just Yoshiko; her irrepressible cackle transcends all that cultural outsider stuff."

Chuma has an inquiring mind about art, music, dance--and myriad aspects of the world around her. Although she is sure about what she wants in rehearsal, she always keeps open to the next possibility. "What my work is about?" she asks, chuckling. "I do not know."

Amanda Smith, a longtime contributor to Dance Magazine, was on the faculties of Coe College and Hofstra University.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Dance Magazine, Inc.

This article appeared with several photographs in December issue 2006

Yoshiko Chuma by Deborah Jowitt published: June 10, 2009

Yoshiko Chuma's "Not About Romanian Cinema: POONARC." Ayumi Sakamoto

Yoshiko Chuma & the School of Hard Knocks
Danspace Project at Saint Mark’s Church 131 East 10th Street 866-811-4111June 4 through 13, 2009


“Chuma considers herself a citizen of the world, and she turns a penetrating and concerned eye on societies in turmoil and on the depredations of war. Some of her earlier pieces investigated the tensions between life in the U.S. and the postwar Japan she grew up in. She has developed pieces in Bosnia, Macedonia, and Transylvania, among other places, and presented them in various forms. For the last month, she and her performers have been traveling through Romania. In each place, she collaborates with new performers, filmmakers, and musicians. Dancing barely appears in some of these works, yet you watch them as if you're peering into an untidy, unstable, volatile world of motion, where something can explode at any minute. The shreds of peace and understanding that Chuma looks for are so fragile that weaving them together might be dangerous. Like dancing on a volcano's rim.”