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A Fine Balance

Interview

Miyoko Shida Rigolo is the Japanese dancer joining Hugo Ticciati to perform the extraordinary Sanddorn balance act.

Why did you decide to become a dancer and where did you train?
As a child, when I heard natural sounds or music I moved freely as in a dance improvisation. But under my parents’ direction, I attended public school and it was only after I graduated from the university, and worked as a civil planner, that I decided to start dancing. I was almost 27 years old when I entered the Japanese Modern-Jazz Dance Company’s school. And I spent ten years as a member of the company before I stepped up to soloist level. In 1997, I emigrated to Paris to deepen my artistic practice. I engaged in many sorts of projects, from contemporary dance to circus and opera. During those 20 years, I continued regular training in professional dance classes, singing, acting, mime, circus-skills and Japanese traditional art.

Do you remember first seeing the Sanddorn balance Act done by its originator, Maedir Rigolo? Why did it interest you?
In the summer of 1999, in Italy, I was one of the dancers in Maedir’s Balance Tanz, the final part of which was Maedir presenting his Solo Sanddorn balance. It made a very strong impact on me; he is a fantastic and talented creator.

‘Ma is important as a concept of time and space: silence is close to it. Ma is also freedom of the imagination’

Was it a big decision to start learning it yourself?
I only started learning it myself in 2011. I never thought about doing it, as the act seemed already perfect and complete, and I was also more interested in a role as singer-dancer in Sanddorn balance Duo, so started taking private lessons as a soprano in Paris. But in 2010 Maedir was looking for a female Sanddorn balance artiste so, finally, a year later, I decided to start creating my own version. Maedir gave me his sticks and tried to teach me his special technique, but I worked alone for long months and devised my own way. Finally, he allowed me to do what I wanted. He said, ‘Miyoko is not a good student,’ but I insisted, ‘I’m not a student. I’m a professional dancer with 25 years’ experience, please let me work with my creative sense.’ It went well and continues to do so.

Is the act always done with music? What difference does it make having live musicians performing as you do it?
I always perform Sanddorn balance with music. In the original act there is one part using simply the artist’s breath, but I breathe almost silently. Even though I’ve lived in Europe for 20 years, I’m Japanese and bring experience of Noh theatre and traditional Japanese arts. Ma is very important in the concept of time and space: silence is close to this for me, and Ma is also freedom of the imagination.

In the act, music is so important because it’s a collaboration. I catch a special sense of the music, feel waves from the musicians’ playing and try to become part of the music with my body. For Sanddorn balance with live musicians, I imagine we form an ensemble which includes the sticks and my body. Our harmony can take the audience on a fantastic journey.

How do you enter a state of total concentration and how do you find the physical strength to complete the balance act?
Thirty years of dancing have made me who I am today. I often enter a state of total concentration in the dance class or in rehearsal. In my daily life, I try to do everything step by step, carefully, as if for the first time. I’m poised to concentrate: I enjoy each moment with all of my senses. I don’t think much about the physical strength needed to complete the balance act. Every day my body is changing: I just look for a harmony between my spirit, my body and my sticks.

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