The Joy of Embodiment
Internationally renowned dancer Kaiji Moriyama is known for out-of-the-box dances where he uses his body to express abstract concepts like “katana” and “human viscera.” What does dance mean to him?
The following are excerpts from our interview.
When I created the piece ”KATANA”, I was interested in the Japanese spirit. I wanted to learn more about ancient Japanese, about what was great about old Japan. With this dance, I wanted to imagine my own body was a Japanese samurai sword katana—a weapon. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to express a katana without putting strain on my body. So some of the poses are strenuous, and in those strenuous moments I wanted to get closer—even if it’s just a little--to embodying a katana. That’s where the choreography started. I started changing the shape of my arms and hands, the angle of my body. And just as a katana is beautiful when seen from a variety of different angles, I wanted to show my body from the front, from the back—all of it. More than simply express this thing called a katana, I tried to portray the human heart through a katana. Ultimately, it is a piece depicting human beings.
You could say I’m very interested in seeing just how much potential the human hands have when it comes to expressivity. Imagine, for example, that your body is a tree. Your feet are like roots, drawing up water from the earth beneath you into your body, then to your stems and leaves. You sprout leaves, and you sprout flowers. The water evaporates, and then eventually falls back to earth. That cycle—drawing up water from your feet and through your body...as that energy flows through your body, it gradually turns into emotions and feelings. Maybe when that passes through my chest, I find it easiest to express my feelings through my arms and hands. When you breathe, your diaphragm expands. It expands, and maybe for me my arms naturally spread out and start to express.
The piece “Live Bone” was made to recognize and share with everyone how amazing the human body is, how there are all of these unconscious bodily functions. The idea came from...I was doing a children’s TV show. There was this segment on the show where I would use my body to express a certain thing in around 30 seconds. We wanted to show kids that you can express anything with your body; animals, insects... then we started talking about internal organs. I think I find a kind of joy in embodying things. Becoming that thing. When you try to channel something that isn’t human—when you embody an object, or something completely outside the box, you start to see things from a different perspective. For me, dance is about chasing after something that cannot be seen. Something uncertain that may or may not be there. When I dance I’m seeking out those things. You could say I’m trying to summon something that is there but cannot be seen.