Shinichi practices and performs Japanese avant-garde and traditional forms with the context of physical theater. From 1997 to 2008 he worked with many wild collaborators (including Do Theatre, Yuko Kaseki, Yumiko Yoshioka, Ko Murobushi and Takuya Ishide) in the Berlin and Tokyo “off-scene.” He is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco-based performance company, inkBoat, founded in 1998. In 2007, he and his wife Dana Iova-Koga founded the northern California studio inkGround, to continue the exploration of dance through the land, utilizing the surrounding forests, rivers and ocean-side as new media for the life/dance investigation. He has co-directed works with Anna Halprin, Ko Murobushi and KT Nelson (ODC) and collaborated with music groups Rova Saxophone Quartet and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and a variety of projects. Shinichi was named one of the “25 to watch” in 2008 by Dance Magazine and awarded a “Goldie” by the SF Bay Guardian in 2007. inkBoat has received 4 Isadora Duncan “Izzie” awards. Shinichi has been teaching dance at Mills College since 2009.
Dana began her investigation of dance at New York University’s Experimental Theater Wing, where she studied under Annie B Parson, Tamar Rogoff and Wendell Beavers. She also had the good fortune of working with Ellen Stewart (aka: Mama).
The discovery process continued when she began dancing and farming in Japan with Min Tanaka. From 1997-2002, she danced in many performances and diverse venues under his direction and learned how to grow food.
She joined inkBoat in 2005.
Dana’s research in the intersection between dance and the natural (non-human) world that was kindled during her time with Tanaka has become the driving force behind her explorations. She co-teaches the annual “Dance on Land” workshop with Shinichi and guest teachers (Sherwood Chen, Dohee Lee) on the Lost Coast of Humboldt County.
Artist Questionnaire for Double Exposure
How long have you been making your own work as a choreographer? How long have you been making work on the West Coast?
Shinichi has been choreographing and directing since 1988, and most of that time he has been on the West Coast. (With intermittent periods spent in Europe)
What does it mean to you to be a ‘West Coast choreographer’, if anything?
We are still coming to an understanding of what it means to be a part of the West Coast dance scene. For both of us our formative dance experiences happened elsewhere- Japan, New York, and Berlin most particularly. So in some ways we feel transplanted here, despite the fact that most of our body of dance work has been made here. Happily transplanted though. Our roots are growing deeper all the time.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.? How collaboratively do you work with your dancers (if applicable)?
Most of our work is performed by inkBoat. But inkBoat is a unique company in that we are made up of 2 core members (us) and a collection of independent collaborators who come together in various constellations for each project. We also do a fair amount of collaborating with other local companies. Our process is extremely collaborative in nature, regardless of who is involved. Typically, all performers generate material, which is then sculpted/curated/organized by the director.
Describe your aesthetic or choreographic style.
We work primarily in the realm of images. Rather than coming up with set choreography we “seed” our bodies with images. We often work with nature-based images. An example of this is: there are drops of rain falling into your palm. In many instances our work could be called minimalist, though the images can be layered into a rich layer cake.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field? How would you define your artistic lineage, if any?
Though we shy away from using the word Butoh because of the sterotypes often assigned to it, we do feel as if we are following the lineage of Tatsumi Hijikata. Dana lived for 3 years in Japan with Min Tanaka and Shinichi studied and performed for years with Yumiko Yoshioka, Hiroko and Koichi Tamano, and others who were students of Hijikata. Hijikata believed in constantly being reborn through dance. His dance was deeply connected to the ground. It feels as if what we are researching as dancers fits within his very wide philosophy of what it means to dance.
Shinichi has also been deeply influenced and has studied Physical Theater under Ruth Zaporah.
Both of us have been very deeply influenced by Anna Halprin.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
Often we will begin with an intention of what we want to explore. In a case such as this, when we are working with dancers who are very skilled in a different area from us, we take into account their strengths, and consider how our different abilities can meet and join.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
Yes, we have made very short pieces before, but they have always been within the context of a larger piece. Our piece for Wendy and Ryan will also of course be part of a larger context, though one which we are not responsible for. The duration obviously impacts the use of time, which we are looking forward to playing with. It also impacts how choices are made. With such a short piece, we want to be very selective about what material is chosen. It is like making a very flavorful sauce rather than a big pot of soup.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
We have created duets, but not predominantly.
How does the duet you’ve created for Double Exposure dialogue with your other work?
In Double Exposure we will be working with some similar themes as we are currently exploring in our own work. One such theme is simplicity of choice. We have recently been examining how we can eliminate the unnecessary decoration from our dance and concentrate on the most essential components. We will also be working with Wendy and Ryan on finding imagery that they can embody, which is a constant practice in our work. We very much look forward to stepping into this collaboration with them again!