Erika Kobayashi (writer and comics artist) Erika Kobayashi (1978–) is a writer, comics artist and artist currently based in Tokyo. From 2008 to 2009 she was invited to New York as an Asian Cultural Council Fellow. Kobayashi has authored the novel “Madame Curie to choshoku wo” (Breakfast with Madame Curie, 2014), which was nominated for Japan’s most prestigious literary awards, the Mishima Yukio Prize and the Akutagawa Prize in 2014. Other works by Kobayashi include the manga/graphic novel “Hikari no kodomo 1,2LUMINOUS” (Children of Light: Luminous, 2013, 2016), which traces the history of the atom and of radiation.
photo: Yohta Kataoka
First of all, the innovative yet refreshingly unrestrained title “Dance& Nursery project !!” – including the two exclamation marks – is brilliant.
It has a notion of intensity that is quite different from the risk-free standard formula of “art workshops for parents with children.” As a matter of fact, I’m participating in such “standard” events with my child quite frequently, but frankly speaking, I always catch myself feeling some kind of pressure as to how I am expected to behave as a mother, and what I am supposed to teach my child, whenever it’s something “for parents with children.”
However the Dance& Nursery project !! – especially with those two exclamation marks that totally defined the atmosphere at the venue – put me in a similar “!!” kind of mood right away, and from an early point on I felt that we weren’t there as “mother and child,” but we were participating on a perfectly equal footing, just like all the other children. It was a wonderful and fortunate experience that made me feel (with two exclamation marks) the true appeal (with two exclamation marks again) of art.
photo: Yohta Kataoka
Dance & Nursery project !! took place in the entrance hall of the World Aoyama Building, as part of the program of the Dance New Air 2018 event on October 7, 2018. Together with my 2-year-old child, I attended the class with tap dancer SARO that started at 13:30. I was also very interested in the class with Memi Shinozaki, formerly a member of the Strange Kinoko Dance Company, but I’d always been fascinated with tap dance (and even attended tap dance classes for a year in junior high school, but eventually quit because I didn’t like the costume for the recital).
Against the rhythmical acoustic backdrop of musician Venue Vincent’s live performance and tap dance, the children scampered around on a mat, joined by their parents who moved their bodies to the rhythm as well, before all of us ended up dancing the same steps. Above all, the performance by 12-year-old NOBO was outstanding. The children watched NOBO with sparkling eyes, as here they had the opportunity to watch a pretty performance of someone close to their own age.
Come to think of it, the reason why I love art is perhaps the fact that I can be all by myself and on my own when standing in front of a piece of art. In front of a great work of art (whether it’s a painting, a book, a song, a performance, or whatever) I feel disconnected from all kinds of positions and roles (such as being a Japanese, being a woman, being of a certain age, having a certain profession and a certain bank deposit, etc.), which enables me to face the respective work as one human being that simply stands there and lives the moment.
photo: Yoita Kataoka
From the organizers’ statement on the Dance & Nursery project !! website one understands that Dance Hoikuen!! was launched as a magnificent artistic project that aims to offer much more than just occasions for children and their parents to study or enjoy dance.
“It appeared to us that dance and other studios and nursing spaces are usually safe and creative environments with a high affinity. Those who go in and out there from morning to night are dancers with extraordinarily keen physical senses and a high awareness of safety, who are well familiar with the joy of physical expression. From a perspective close to the floor like that of crawling babies, they watch each other carefully and listen to each other’s bodies’ voices.”
If parents and their children, or grown-ups and children in general, listened to each other’s bodies’ voices just once, they would find a lot of things they can learn from each other.
In our hectic daily life, we grown-ups and parents tend to content ourselves with our role, and forget how to listen to our children’s voices and learn from them. The simple fact that there exists art that reminds us (with two exclamation marks)of such things is something that makes me feel like shouting, “Thank you!!”
Translated by Andreas Stuhlmann
Official Program for Dance New Air 2018
Class. Memi Shinozaki / Class. SARO TAP
Entrance hall, World Kita-aoyama Building
Space design: Yuko Nagayama, Yuko Nagayama & Associates
Choreography: Memi Shinozaki, SARO
Participating artists: Dance Hokuen Dancers and others
Music: Kazuki Kunihiro, hiderow and others