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Our Ambitions | Eiko + Koma
Our Ambitions
photo by Rick McCullough

Our Ambitions (2010)

Our first ambition has been to make art that is potentially moving to audience members, to people we work with, and to ourselves. We never know if we can or even how to move people, but we always strive that through a moment of kinetic encounter, not necessarily through the construct of a whole piece, we can touch and affect someone’s mind, one person at a time. Without this ambition, we are nothing.

The second ambition is to become and to be the kind of artists that we set out to be: that is being inter-everything (international, interdisciplinary, inter-generational, etc.), negotiable, tough, and available.

The third ambition is to survive as artists financially and spiritually. We strive to continue to honor these ambitions while recognizing and negotiating with changing factors.

The fourth ambition, which is new to us, is to deal positively with our aging and reflect deeply how we want our “later” work to be. Koma has turned 60 and Eiko 57. This is amazing. We started making art in the early 1970s, inheriting political and cultural questions raised in the late 1960s. Throughout our career, we have kept the culture of periphery, experimentation and independence. Though we dance slowly, we often have surprised other people with our uncontroversial ideas and almost excessive energy. It is a bit of a problem becoming old this way. We look and behave differently from how we remember the old people were many years ago in Japan. Thus we do need to reinvent our own senior years as working artists. Being choreographers residing in our own performing bodies, we can and should actively recognize our age. We strive not to look younger as the mainstream culture implies, but be the age itself. Through dancing, however, we also wish to forget such concerns. Artistic metaphors would make us ageless. This is similar to how our dancing can be almost unhuman (actively forgetting that we are human, we look for ways to be more human). The artistic balance between remembering and forgetting and the paradox of life have been always important for us.

The fifth ambition is to be clear about what matters to us and to strengthen our insistence. My recent teaching experience made me realize this even stronger. The fact that Eiko & Koma have worked as a collaborative team for the past 38 years matters for us. The minimum size company, working together as a pair, has freed our work from our personal stories. Being able to present ourselves as nameless creatures enabled us to collaborate with other artists and to make personal and lasting relationships with our audience members, in each case extending the notion of “us.” We then ask and keep asking what is important for this “us?” We realize that we have always looked and will continue to look for an ancient place where we were all more exposed and vulnerable. This nakedness is important for “us.” In such a place, we look for our commonalities as humans and our relationships with other beings. In such a place we can affirm that our human emotions have, despite how we live differently now, not changed so much from our ancient time. This is the place we can embrace our grief and joy as naked beings. We may not be able to find many more new amazing themes but we can certainly deepen our existing themes and gain/offer different perspectives by our insistence. Being artists who quietly insist is our ambition as well.