PuSh PreView : Hiroaki Umeda
Hiroaki Umeda has earned a reputation as one of Japan’s most exciting dance artists, using lighting, projections, self-created music and a powerful dance technique to create striking solo dance pieces.
Born in 1977, he studied photography at Nihon University and began dancing at the age of 20, having trained in classical ballet and hip-hop. In 2000 Umeda founded his own company, S20, and has showcased his work at cutting-edge dance festivals in Korea, Japan), Italy, France and Canada. while going to a condition, which will be presented at the PuSh Festival along with Accumulated Layout January 22-24, has been described as “a visual and sensorial experience . . . The discovery of a young artist, both original and promising.”
Borrowing elements of hip hop, ballet and butoh, Umeda has said in interviews, “there are no conceptual themes in my shows, which I empty of everything that might constitute a meaning”. Alternating between stillness and frenzy against a background of projected images and a cacophony of sounds, Umeda constructs meaning out of chaos, disorientation and sensation.
He currently lives and works in Tokyo.
Interview with Hiroaki Umeda
Usually when I interview someone that I don’t already know, I research them on the internet—looking at various websites and reading biographies and reviews. In your case I can’t find a biography or anything that tells me much about you. I also read in several places that your work doesn’t mean anything . . . so now I’m very interested! Maybe you can tell me a little bit about yourself: where were you born? When did you begin studying dance? Who did you study with?
I was born in Tokyo, Japan and grew up there. Until university, I had played soccer, not dance. And I decided to study photography at an art university in Japan. Studying photography, I was going to see many kind of arts, which means that I was looking for a suitable form of art for my piece. And I saw contemporary dance and started. At that moment, I didn’t know at all about contemporary dance. I went to take many kind of lessons or workshops. But after one year, I found that I didn’t like to take lessons. So I stopped and decided to develop my dance by myself.
I said that I couldn’t find anything written about you on the web, but there are a number of videos on YouTube. And maybe they say all there is to say! The videos are very striking and give a good sense of what you do. Do you do all the lighting, music and choreography yourself?
Thank you very much for your kind comment. Yes, I do it all by myself. For me, lighting, sound and all things for performance are parts of choreography.
You dance as a solo artist. That is liberating I suppose. Do you ever perform as part of a company or bring in other dancers for your pieces? Do you ever feel a need to collaborate?
I feel very free as a solo artist. Honestly I decided not to dance under any other choreographer. Because I started dance very late at 20. My body was made for soccer, not for dance. So to make my body for my dance, I needed to have a clear vision for my dance. Recently I just started to choreograph with other dancers. This is a different project from my solo activities. And I would like to keep this project for the next 10 years. I have never felt the need for collaboration in my solo activities but I would like to collaborate with someone in my choreography project.
I read somewhere that you have a background in ballet, hip hop and butoh. They are three very different forms of dance, but they also come from very different places, different cultures, different socio-economic conditions. It also seems like a really exciting mix. Are you conscious of blending the different styles or does it happen organically?
I had not known dance at all as I mentioned already when I started. So I just wanted to taste some dances. Actually, I took many kind of lessons, such as jazz, mime and contemporary classes. I just wanted to find suitable movements for my feeling. This is the reason I stopped taking lessons. Adding to that, I have never studied butoh.
You say your work has no deep inner meaning, so what influences your work? Are there external things that get your creative juices flowing, give you ideas? Are you influenced by visual imagery? Writing? Films?
For the concepts of pieces, recently I am interested in visual perception. But my main inspiration comes from physical feelings in daily life. Accumulation of many physical feelings in my body makes piece and moves my body. You have emotions when you talk with your friends or family. Those happen as reactions in your conversation. Physical feelings mean reactions of body, which is impulsion rather than emotion in my thoughts.
While searching for your blog I found this quote on another blog: “Hiroaki Umeda is almost creepily good at what he does. He ripples with energy. His limbs move at such pace but with such precision. He transcends definition, it’s clearly modern with more than a hint of hip-hop but he has all the grace of a classically trained dancer. Few dancers can stand alone and transfix an audience.” Your blog is mostly in Japanese. What do you write about?
Thank you for finding such a good article! I don’t criticize my dance in my blog like that as you can imagine. I just write my news and also what I think on my travel. Japanese people don’t have so much chance to know different cultures. We don’t have much chance to see our culture objectively. I write what I feel and think, hoping Japanese people get to know more what ourselves are.
Thank you very much for reading this. I hope you could understand a bit more about me in my bad English. And hope to see you soon!