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Friday, Feb. 19, 2010

Talk of New York, artist Chuma comes home

Staff writer

If mentions in The New York Times are taken as a measure of fame, then contemporary dancer/choreographer Yoshiko Chuma is running neck-and- neck with musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. Each has notched up around 500.

News photo
Square dance: Yoshiko Chuma (second row center) and her dancers will use large cubic frames in Chuma's newest production.

And yet, if you're living in Japan, it's unlikely that you've heard of Chuma, or seen her work. Having moved to the United States in 1976, she has performed here only sporadically.

Now she is teaming up with local arts producers Root Culture to hold a series of performances around Tokyo. "Hold the Clock" kicks off at Yokohama's Zou-no- hana Terrace on Feb. 26.

In one of her Times writeups, Chuma is described as "one of the most eccentric dance artists in New York."

If eccentricity means that in order to appreciate her works, you have to consciously extract yourself from your humdrum routine, and attune yourself to something completely different, then the description is accurate.

One of the key components of Chuma's choreography is its use of large 213-cm cubic frames. Over roughly two dozen three-to-four minute "scenes," the dancers — including Chuma and others visiting from New York, as well as locals — will move gracefully through four of these structures, sometimes rolling them forward or sideways, or spinning them on a corner.

"The cubes represent slices of time and space," explained Chuma at a rehearsal earlier this week. And, sure enough, if you let your imagination go, you can see what she means. Each cube comes to resemble the confines of an individual's world, and each dancer's movement through them becomes a captivating expression of a different approach to life.

"Hold the Clock: Gangsters in Country of Roots" will be performed from 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26-28 at Zou-no-hana Terrace in Yokohama. Open rehearsals will be held daily from 1 p.m. till 1:30 p.m. through Feb. 28. The work will tour to Fukushima, Kamakura and then New York in March. For details, visit rootculture.jp/

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