YOSHIKO CHUMA & THE SCHOOL
OF HARD KNOCKS
Dance/Multimedia Performance "6 Seconds in Ramallah" with Japanese and Palestinian Performing Artists Promotes International Understanding through Artistic/Cultural Exchange
21, 2011 - Amman (Jordan) Contemporary Dance Festival
Concept/Director/Choreographer: Yoshiko Chumab
Assistant Directors: Noora Baker, Ryuji Yamaguchi
Choreography: El Funoun Dance Troupe and The School of Hard Knocks
Lighting Design: Sahoko Oshima, based on a concept by Rie Ono
Image Design: Hiroki Ohishi
Cube design and concept: Ralph Lee
Production Liaison: Yukiko Takahashi (Japan/Palestine)
Executive Producers: ROOT CULTURE, El Funoun, GOH Productions
Performers: Yoshiko Chuma, Ryuji Yamaguchi, Kohtaroh Inoue, El-Funoun (Noora Baker, Laila Bukhari, Atta Khattab, Sari Huseini, Sharaf Dar Zaid) with El-Funoun and Bara'em El-Funoun
Music/Sound: Sizzle Ohtaka (voice), Aska Kaneko (violin), Koji Setoh (sound design),
Yacoub Hammoudeh (qanoun), Samer Jaradat (percussion)
Text excerpts: "Sayonara Gangsters" by Genichiro Takahashi
Visual design, Sound and Music Structure: Yoshiko Chuma
Kazuko Asaba (Director, Asaba Art Square), Hugh Burckhardt (photography), Robert Flynt (photography),
Naomi Mizoguchi and Carlos Gomez (documentation), Gabriel Berry (costume consultant), Anas Abu Oun (coordinator), Bonnie Sue Stein (Producer)
The song "Mother" by Marcel Khalife is used with permission from the composer.
Chuma dedicates the project to her mother, Chiyoko
6 Seconds in Ramallah, a dance/multimedia performance will be presented at the Ramallah (Palestine) Contemporary Dance Festival on April 27 and the Amman (Jordan) Contemporary Dance Festival on April 21, with an additional community engagement at Beirut (Lebanon) International Platform of Dance on April 23.
Yoshiko Chuma is currently in Ramallah, Palestine for one month, immersed in a daily rehearsal process with 30 dancers and choreographers from the El Funoun Dance Troupe, as part of a three-year project. Last April 2010, at the Amman Contemporary Dance Festival Yoshiko Chuma met Noora Baker, a dancer and choreographer from El Funoun. Their inspirational meeting planted the seed for 6 Seconds in Ramallah. Chuma and Baker found a strong common ground, and mutual passion to work together. One year later, after much planning, their dream has been blossoming in Ramallah, where artists are working side by side in the first collaborative project between several outstanding artists from The School of Hard Knocks (Japan/USA) and the El Funoun Dance Troupe (Palestine).
6 Seconds in Ramallah is directed by Japan-born Yoshiko Chuma Artistic Director of The School of Hard Knocks, three-time Bessie award-winner who has been based in New York since 1978. Chuma first came to the Middle East in 2008 to work with Ryuji Yamaguchi, a choreographer from Chuma's company who is teaching dance at the King's Academy in Jordan. They created several engagements, involving artists from Japan and Jordan. Their initial projects encouraged conversations and dialogues between Chuma and local residents of various socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic origins and eventually led to the fortuitous meeting of Chuma with Noora Baker, which extended the project to Palestine and El Funoun.
6 Seconds in Ramallah emerges from several sources which relate to Chuma's long time interest in Palestine and the Middle East, an awareness that began when she was a student in Japan in the late 1960s when Palestine's fate in the 6-Day War was doomed for the second time after the ‘Nakba' catastrophe of 1948. Dabke, an Arab folk dance with intricate foot work, is El Funoun's specialty and a large part of the performance. As a choreographer, Chuma investigates the unique movement vocabulary and identity of each performer and offers an alternate perspective on the rhythmic expressionism of ‘dabke' combined with individual expression. Many Palestinians feel dabke is a form of personal and public resistance, keeping Palestinian culture and tradition alive in the midst of any daily circumstance. Here is an excerpt from an interview with a dancer from El Funoun called "Dance and Death."
"A BBC journalist asked me: "How do you dance despite all the destruction and death around you?" My answer "We never ask ourselves that question. We simply continue dancing." I later thought to myself: Even at this most testing period of military occupation, do we question whether to cry, laugh, or otherwise express ourselves? Do we think twice about reading, or listening to music? No. Thus, we dance."
Dance is complimented by other elements of the project - music, video projections, and text. Live and recorded music has been created in a collaboration between artists from Japan and Palestine. Films and projection images from around the world tell a parallel complex visual story on 7' x 7' screens that act as a "magic box" manipulated by the performers. Chuma has been developing this multi-screen projection image method over a period of 10 years; exploring interior and exterior spaces and their effect as background and context for themes of cultural and psychological expression. Four 30 x 30 foot fabric tarps in white, yellow, camouflage and orange are transformed onstage like origami into various forms and shapes. Text spoken in Arabic and Japanese is drawn from passages in Sayonara, Gangsters by Genichiro Takahashi, an inventive novel about language, expression and the creative process that unfolds through hilarious sketches. All of these seeming disparate elements of 6 Seconds in Ramallah combine elegantly to tell an abstract story in a performance that challenges the notion of cross cultural collaboration.
6 Seconds in Ramallah is influenced by the March 2011 catastrophes -- earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear threat-- in Japan that are ever present. Yoshiko Chuma and her collaborators seek to create an abstract performance that crosses and exchanges the notion of Palestine as a mirror to the devastation in Japan. The new work also addresses in abstract terms, the Palestinian Diaspora and the notion of dislocation in general; and how to maintain identity separate from one's homeland in the face of cultural or psychological alienation.
6 Seconds in Ramallah is supported by foundations in Japan, Palestine, Jordan and the US, including major support from the Japan Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and A.M Qattan Foundation's Performing Arts Development Project, plus additional support from El Funoun Dance Troupe, Popular Arts Center, GOH Productions, Al Hussein Theater and King's Academy.
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