inDialogue: Shirotama Hitsujiya, Daisuke Muto, Fumi Yokobori 
Dance in the Time of COVID-19: Choreography of Site 

Live Streaming Date: Thursday, October 8th, 2020, 6-7 PM (JST)
Youtube link:
Language: Japanese only
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In this episode of InDialogue, moderator Daisuke Muto along with speakers Shirotama Hitsujiya and Fumi Yokobori discuss their individual challenges and possibilities in performing arts during the pandemic. Muto opens up the conversation by addressing the term ‘choreography of site’, in other words, how one can organize and create a place where people of various circumstances and backgrounds gather together and exchange ideas through performance.

Echoing the idea of ‘togetherness’ Shirotama emphasizes the notion of collective in Sapporo Dance Collective (SDC) and the Asian Women Performing Arts Collective (aka Ajokai). These organizations provide a valuable site for developing necessary communities and networks that can offer support, particularly in times of COVID-19. During the pandemic, SDC had applied for the city’s emergency support fund, which allowed her to direct a film with a budget and stream it online for free. Whereas SDC puts more focus on localized projects, Ajokai is an international network that aims to bring together women in performing arts.  In a video clip, Shirotama highlights the tasks that lie ahead of Ajokai, questioning how it can position itself within the bigger society and within the context of a pandemic. Both SDC and Ajokai are fluid and organic in its development - traversing cultures and disciplines, yet with roots firmly planted in the belief of shared social power.

An attempt to locate oneself within the bigger society is a challenge also shared by Dance Box Director, Yokobori. For Yokobori, rather than imposing oneself on the often linear (and Western) history of dance, it aims to shift the dialogue away from such grand narrative. Instead of fitting into a pre-existing cannon of dance, it would exist as one of the many strands and layers that build the (dance) site of Shinnagata. For Yokobori, dance “lives in the everyday.” Indeed, what becomes apparent through her project 新長田のダンス事情 (The Circumstance of Dance in Shinnagata) is that dance is a part of the everyday life and marked by omnipresence, its dance culture is deeply intertwined with residents of Shinnagata. 

Inspired by The Circumstance, Muto created his own iteration called the 放課後ダイバーシティ・ダンス (After-school Diversity Dance) as a part of Tokyo Tokyo Festival, where children learn traditional dances from international residents of their wards. As Muto observes, their projects, along with Shirotama’s collectives, operate outside the traditional framework of stages and theatres - pushing the envelope of dance and creating a new context for it. The spread of COVID-19 has, on one hand, given a rare opportunity to expand the periphery of dance by using online presence and testing new ideas. It has challenged the ideology of dance on multiple levels and helped redefine the physicality and relationship of a body in a space, on a site, with other bodies. It has also tested, in Muto’s words, how we choreograph the site.

However, there have also been new concerns and challenges, as Yokobori reflects. One in particular is how we (re) negotiate the relationship between space and body. As she observes her child growing up in times of COVID-19, she questions how social distancing and lack of physical contact may affect their understanding of body-space relationship. Having entered into 2021 with continued vigilance in social and physical contact, the question still remains for dancers, performers and artists alike: What is the new normal in performing arts?