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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NYC DANCE-NAMI YAMAMOTO rehearsing a howling flower

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NYC DANCE-NAMI YAMAMOTO rehearsing <i>a howling flower</i>
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on May 21, 2008
Briana Blasko

A Day in the Life of New York Dance: Nami Yamamoto and her dancers rehearse - a howling flower at Trisha Brown’s Studios on the Upper West Side of Manhattan


Photos Briana Blasko

Story Christine Jowers, The Dance Enthusiast

"I really try to think that he is not a puppet. When I do I get blocked," states Yamamoto.

"Tony is another performer...a performer with special skills. He can fly we can't. It is eye opening to treat him this way."

Part English language, part Japanese.

Performers savagely hurl themselves into one another, yet fall to the floor light as feathers.

A peculiarly constructed haunting marionette.

Lyric-less, blaring Japanese underground rock.

The exquisiteness of a flower in full bloom altered by the tortuous idea of this bloom emerging from one’s eye....

Meet the curious components of Nami Yamamoto’s poetic imagination at work in today’s rehearsal.

“For me, it’s easier to communicate in two languages,” laughs Yamamoto. That is how my mind works, I go back and forth. Even the people (in the company) who speak only English get something from my Japanese... they are sensitive.”

Yamamoto relies on the sensitivity of her performers. Her choreography is about their experiences as much as it is about her movement and metaphor. She requests her performers bring their varied histories to rehearsal. “ I choose very particular people, they are the base for me...they are my foundation.”

Creation always begins with discussion. For a howling flower, the topic was parents. Inspired by studying with choreographer Tere O'Connor, Namamoto employed one of his improvisations in her investigation-The Parent Portrait. Each artist was asked to create depictions of their parents, imagining and exploring their unique blood relationships through dance. Yamamoto is fascinated by the complexity of individuals and this exercise appeared to be one way of delving into that density.

The idea of the multiple layers of experience in one body is pronounced in Tony, the marionette brought to life by Yamamoto’s colleague Matt Acheson. Tony, who is never referred to as anything other than human by the artists in a howling flower, is an intricate creation of found parts- only his expressive hands fashioned of wax and wire were made specifically for him. With a baby doll face, round belly of shell, a back that is a miniature violin, and one tibia that is a spoon, he is at once natural and surreal.

“I wanted Tony to be a skinny fat old baby... all these different things in the same body,” Yamamoto elaborates. “ My dad is getting older and my niece is three... when I look at them at this certain point in their lives, they look very similar to me. One person is learning how to walk, run and talk, while the other is slowing down.” Yamamoto sees in Tony the ability to capture the point where the ascent and descent of life meet.

She became immersed in the world of puppets in 2003 when working on Hiroshima Maiden, with theater artist and master puppeteer, Dan Hurlin. Impressed with the specificity of movement articulations that these creatures could manage, she vowed she would work with them again. After much contemplation with Acheson she decided on employing a marionette.

“I really try to think that he is not a puppet. When I do I get blocked,” states Yamamoto.

“Tony is another performer...a performer with special skills. He can fly we can’t. It is eye opening to treat him this way.”

Yamamoto, Tony, Acheson, Takemi Kitamura, Johanna Meyer, Ryutaro Mishima, and Darla Villani will perform a howling flower at Dance Theater Workshop from May 28-May 31st, each performance starting at 7:30 pm

When asked what she will be working on after her DTW Season, Yamamoto is not sure. Usually after these performances she feels empty. But she would like to work with Tony again. After all, she admits with a sly smile, “ Tony is only here for me, and dances for me because he has no other life.”

“The next piece will be about what Tony thinks.”


Performances of a howling flower are at Dance Theater Workshop from May 28th- May 31st, start at 7:30 pm

On Wednesday May 28th, there will be a post-performance talk with Sara Nash.

For more information about a howling flower and to buy tickets check out this link to Dance Theater Workshop.

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