in conversation w/ Hiromoto Ida
Hiromoto Ida is a dancer/actor/choreographer based in Nelson, BC. His newest piece, The Gift, will be performed this month at the Vancouver International Dance Festival. He spoke to The Bulletin from his home in Nelson.
The last time we talked you were creating a new piece in Nelson for four older women. The work was based on your feelings about your grandmother in Japan who died when you were young. For The Gift, you are looking at your family again, this time your sister who lost her son in a traffic accident. Does creating these pieces help you come to terms with these events and the emotions that come out of them?
Making these pieces isn’t art therapy to me. Every night when I perform, every emotion comes up and catches me on the stage, so in that sense it is almost the opposite of art therapy. I create an entrance to another world where I can meet both my own emotions and persons I wanted see again, even though those people don’t exist anymore. I use my own personal memories and emotions because of my acting background. When I work as a performer in other peoples’ shows, all the movements, all the characters are not mine at all. But to be a powerful performer, whether it’s dance or acting, I can’t just pretend to feel happy or sad, etc. I have to collect my real emotions I had in the past then quickly connect with them. Everybody has a different way to perform, but this is what I do, so when I create a piece I still work that way. But I rather prefer not talking about my personal story to audiences. I almost to do it the other way around—starting with personal emotions, then unpersonalizing them. I haven’t been successful in that yet. I guess I have to work harder to achieve that.
Where does the title of the piece come from?
In one sense it is simply that I am working with boxes. This man is from a box—so he is the gift. If I use the word GOD (or whatever you want to call it) . . . God somehow packed him in the box and sent him to this world. He is the gift himself, but also he is giving him to himself as a gift. This sounds like some kind of Sunday newspaper religion section’s article. Most of us forgot about it and complain about it, trying to exchange the gift for something we think is better. Because this gift includes some not so good and happy things. The man in this piece has to carry himself as a gift, so he also has to carry a sad gift, too. That’s why I called it The Gift. Maybe by thinking about it like that, we can sooth ourselves and it will gives us a little hope.
Tell me a little about the piece and how it is structured . . .
This piece was to be one component of a bigger piece—Man, Woman and two kids. It’s about family. Each family member carries all different sizes of their own boxes. While dealing with their own box, they also try to build something together. But I did not get enough founding, so I had to change the plan. And I just picked the one scene—Man’s solo—and changed it a little to make an independent piece.
Living in Nelson you are pretty removed from the dance scene which pretty much centres around Vancouver. Does it affect the art you make, do you think? If so, how?
I was working as a performer in Vancouver and I never created my own pieces there. So I can’t compare being a creator there vs. here. Sometimes I wonder if I watched more of other artists’ shows, might it affect my own piece? But then this is a perfect place to hear and watch your own voice. Although sometimes it is hard because, you know, do you want to visit your honest place all the time!?
This piece and the last piece were about your family and you have a young family of your own now. Does having kids change the way you look at life and art?
The first thing I thought when I held my baby in my arms was “now there is a possibility that when I die, this person will hold me and watch me die.” That had a very strong impact on me as a performer. Raising kids is a continual series of small (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) details. But I get to practice my patience every day for 14 years! That skill is very helpful when you try to create anything from zero. I have these things about family and art. When I young in my own family I always thought there is no ART in here. Good art is in the quiet museums, nice cool-looking theatres, smoky cafés, or maybe eccentric crazy studios. Usually the places families go are noisy, crowded, sometime smelly, dirty, everyday life places. Since I have a family of my own I have to go to those places, far from the cool arts scene. But I started finding great art hiding in all of this ordinary, boring, everyday stuff. Sitting in a Tokyo subway and watching real people is far more interesting than watching a snobby-looking contemporary dance show in a beautiful theatre. Have you ever read Raymond Carver poems at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant table in a sad rural Canadian mall? You will know what I am talking about. A few times I thought giving up the arts! But when I think about all those un-art people struggling to live, rushing around Walmart buying things cheaper than at other stores (including myself as a family man), getting more money, going to Mexico for vacation, having a nice big truck, etc, I always think . . . no, not yet. Not yet . . . I am not sure why.