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Choreographer Eiko discusses work as translator | Eiko + Koma
Choreographer Eiko discusses work as translator
photo by Grant Halverson

Choreographer Eiko discusses work as translator

  • The Herald Sun, May 12, 2016
  • Susan Broili

GO and DO

WHAT: The American Dance Festival presents Eiko Otake in three new works this weekend as part of her "A Body in Places" solo series.

WHEN: Performances, free and open to the public, are:

-- "A Body in a Farmer's Market," 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Saturday at the Durham Farmer's Market, Central Park.

-- "A Body in a Market Place," 11 a.m. Sunday at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro.

-- "A Body in a Library," 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh.

DURHAM -- Eiko Otake is known to many here for her American Dance Festival performances with Koma and, more recently, as a soloist. But on Tuesday, at the Durham Public Library's main facility, she explained how she became the translator of "From Trinity to Trinity" by atomic bomb survivor Kyoko Hayashi.

From her apartment in New York City, Otake said she had seen the Twin Towers fall on Sept. 11, 2001. And, that had started her thinking about how people survive such human-caused catastrophes, so she had started reading about such a catastrophe in her native Japan when atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Born in Japan in 1952, Otake has lived in New York since 1976.

Her readings led her to the work of Japanese female writer Kyoko Hayashi, including this author's "From Trinity to Trinity," about Hayashi's pilgrimage to the Trinity Site in New Mexico where the first atomic bomb explosion took place on July 15, 1945, Otake said.

The success of that test led to U.S. nuclear attacks on Japan cities Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Hayashi, age 14, had been working with other students at a munitions factory in Nagasaki, less than a mile from the epicenter of the atomic bomb. It has been estimated that, by the end of 1945, that bomb had killed 70,000 people, almost a quarter of Nagasaki's population of 270,000, Otake writes in her introduction to "From Trinity to Trinity."

"It was her grief I wanted to breathe in. Reading Hayashi's writing closely, literally word by word, has taught me how an artist can sustain her mourning through the process of creating art," Otake writes in this introduction.

"Mourning is not negative," Otake told the Durham audience on Tuesday. "We are mourning because we are sad."

After 9/11, she and Koma, her partner in life and art, had dealt with mourning in three works: "Offering," "Mourning" and "Hunger," the dancer/choreographer said.

Otake had translated Hayashi's "From Trinity to Trinity" as part of her master's thesis at New York University. Now, at Wesleyan University, Otake teaches a course that combines the study of movement, postwar Japanese arts and the atomic bombings.

She sees her role, not as a Japanese person seeking revenge, but as an artist who wants to show how to use movement and art in digesting knowledge, she said.

In her class, Otake bans the use of the phrase, "I can not imagine ..." as a response to human tragedies. "It creates distance," Otake explained.

In working with Hayashi on the translation of the Trinity Site pilgrimage, she and the author had become very close friends, Otake said. And, Otake said she is also glad that this work by the author is now available to American readers.

"From Trinity to Trinity" had been included in the eight-volume Kyoko Hayashi Complete Works, published in Japan in 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the nuclear attacks. This body of work mainly features the author's semi-autobiographical stories and novels that chronicled atomic bomb survivors.

"From Trinity to Trinity" features her very personal experience at the Trinity Site and a revelation as she stood outside in a fenced-in area and became aware of the bomb test's effect on the environment there.

She writes: "The only things that move in this wilderness are humans walking in the Trinity Site. In the treeless field, it seems even a bird cannot make a nest ... I wanted to hear the small but lively sound of popping seeds from the pods warmed by the sun ... I wanted to hear the kind of noise a living thing makes ...

"Until now as I stand at the Trinity Site, I have thought it was we humans who were the first atomic bomb victims on Earth. I was wrong ... They are here but cannot cry or yell. Tears filled my eyes."

On Tuesday as the post-talk discussion neared an end and a Japanese woman headed for the door, Otake asked her, in Japanese, where she was from.

"Okinawa," the woman replied. She then turned, and added, "No more atomic bombs. We pray for the peace of the world."