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Artists Open Doors: Japan/UK    
5. Community Arts Practice Panel:

Ken Bartlett
Norikazu Sato
Natsuko Tezuka
Rosemary Lee
Chisato Minamimura

Natsuko Tezuka started her career as a solo dancer in 1996. She produced her first Anatomical Experiment series with the theme of body observation in 2001 and in 2005 performed the second part of the series as part of the New York Japan Society’s ‘Emerging Dancers and Choreographers’ project. She was a finalist of the 2002 Toyota Choreography Award and artist-in-residence at ST Spot in 2005 and has organized the artist-exchange Dojo-Yaburi project since 2005. She was a participant in the ‘Australia – Japan dance Exchange 2006’ in Sydney. She performed her latest work Private Trace in ‘Japan Now 2007’, in Berlin and Poland. Since 2003, she has offered workshops for dancers, actors, musicians, people with learning disabilities, and people without arts training.

1) Introduction
As a choreographer, I create my dances by observing bodies. Let me briefly explain that when I say ‘observing bodies’ I am thinking of how our bodies resonate with our unconscious condition, movements and reactions. Indeed, when we come to reflect on it, remarkably few of our gestures are in any way deliberate or voluntary. For example, who consciously thinks about their third and fourth toes? Or their armpits? Is anyone conscious of the roots of their hair or teeth? I suspect that often, when we re-cross our legs, blink, or nod, we rarely reflect on the movement. When I am ‘observing bodies’, then, I am attempting consciously to recognise and study these kinds of more or less involuntary bodily movements.

I have been leading workshops to explore and develop these studies which focus on what I term ‘drawing a body map’. When we ‘draw a body map’, we draw from the experience of becoming more attentive to our physical bodies. For example, I ask the participants to close their eyes and ‘scan’ their bodies. If a part of the body ‘stands out’ in their awareness, I ask them to draw from that experience. We repeat this process with different body parts. When I create dance works, I draw my inspiration from what I have observed in workshops.

2) The breadth of words
Whenever I speak about my approach, I find I have difficulty communicating my meaning. Words have incredible ‘breadth’ since how each of us interprets any one term will be subtly nuanced, individual-to-individual. This is particularly challenging when our communication involves both Japanese and English. Yet by being aware of the nuances, we may sometimes see to the heart of a problem we are exploring. We may also sometimes need to be aware that it will take more time to understand and acknowledge the differences in linguistic usage. For example, whilst it may be difficult to draw a boundary line between ‘dance’ and ‘non-dance’ in general, I believe that each individual has his or her personal own line that demarcates what dance is and is not. I will touch on ‘evaluation’ a little later, but note here that it is difficult to agree on its definition. The terms ‘workshop’, ‘outreach’, ‘community’ and ‘artist’ present similar issues. It is beyond the scope of my presentation to attempt to define these words. However it may useful to our panel discussion today to have remarked on the differences that exist.

3) Two case studies
I will turn now to two of my experiences of ‘community arts’. (Given what I have just said about linguistic usage, I should here observe that the phrase, ‘community arts’, is one I am encountering for the first time at this symposium). The first example comes from two workshops that I led at a secondary school physical education class. The students were restless, neither motivated nor concentrating, and more keen to chat with their friends. I worried whether they would accept my workshop, but stepped up to the challenge. In the first workshop, I asked them to bring their awareness into their bodies. In the second, I asked them to draw ‘body maps’. While my first impression had been that they would resist the workshops, in fact, as I talked with them and looked at their body maps, I was struck by how they had engaged in the work and came to express what I sensed as their loneliness and anxiety.

The second example is from an ongoing workshop that I have long been involved in at an atelier for people with mental disabilities called Tomodachi No Oka (A Friends’ Hill). The number of participants is always small and individuals participate only with their parents’ permission. On occasion, I conduct the workshops as one-to-one sessions and have been touched by their profound and surprising creativity. Positive, free, sacred-seeming energy can burst out of individuals in these sessions when there is for me neither audience nor financial return. This time and spent is irreplaceable, comparable to performing on stage and experiencing a wonderful relationship with an audience.

4) What is evaluation?
If I was to evaluate these two cases, how might I go about it? In the example with secondary school students, the time we spent together was probably too short for the creative experience I facilitated to have an impact on the students’ lives. However, it was a significant experience in that I glimpsed issues experienced by these students. I sensed profound anxiety and loneliness, a loss of dignity, self-value and meaningful existence. It was as if no ‘energy’ was flowing and feeding their pride and sense of identity. I began thinking about their worlds and wondering how people might feel such loss or forfeiture. Such questions are not readily answered, but I believe we should look for one in terms of our connections and relationships. My inspiration to create new dance comes from how witnessing such relationships deepens my understanding of the world.

In the second example, the times I spent in the Tomodachi No Oka workshop were so extraordinary and seemingly beneficial to those present that their value seemed to extend beyond artistic ones. However, I would not be able to evaluate and position them according to a social care agenda. The vital, creative potential of this work is not readily articulated when society demands clear objectives and results. In truth, I believe that workshops such as these are as an art of resisting these normative assumptions.

5) Difference in demands
In this presentation, I have begun to touch on some of the contrasts that exist between what is demanded in a workshop by artists, by participants and by teachers or organisers. Given that their particular needs and demands differ, a different process of evaluation will be required in each instance. Additionally, I believe that there is a more subjective, unconscious quality to the relation of need and demand in a workshop, a quality too that is difficult to word. Significantly, then, in my work I have to remain mindful of these differences and be prepared to evaluate according to each individual’s standpoint.

6) Meaning and Role
Is it possible for each individual to experience community arts in a way that is personally meaningful? Is it even possible for community arts to offer this opportunity to each individual? I believe that the answer lies in continuously questioning and exploring the value of art. Through events such as Artists Open Doors, these important issues can be discussed and explored by those of us involved in community arts, even if that requires of each of us much time and energy.

Sometimes I think, on the contrary, that it is sufficient to concentrate only on my work. Is it not arrogant presumption on my part to think of my art-making as having a community role? Such thoughts are discouraging and can lead to creative ‘burn out’. The continuous effort to question the role of art in society is perhaps both the most critical and difficult task that we have as artists.

 
 
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