Members of the ISDHIDA Dance Company come together to perform a dramatic story through movement. Photo submitted by ISHIDA Dance Company
Photo submitted by ISHIDA Dance Company
Faraway, So Close
Through the poetry of movement, Brett Ishida of Austin’s own ISHIDA Dance Company invites audiences to question traditional forms of motion and storytelling with Faraway, So Close, an evening of contemporary dance. The show will premiere in Austin on August 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. at the Dell Fine Arts Center at St. Andrew’s.
Choreographer and artistic director Brett Ishida has found both a lifelong passion and solace in dance. Growing up a Japanese American in rural California, Ishida said she often felt isolated from her peers. “Growing up in a small rural town, there were very few Asians,” she said. “It was predominantly White and Hispanic, so there weren’t a lot of other children who looked like me. The other thing that isolated me from other children was that from a very young age, I wanted to dance. I think for me, a lot of the movement and the things I created as a young child was a way to process isolation and loneliness. I created a story there. My parents would come and watch. The trees and nature were my spectators.”
In response to Ishida’s desire to dance, her mother responded as many mothers do. “She put me in a kind of smorgasbord of tap, gymnastics, jazz and ballet. I really loved ballet,” Ishida said. “My parents have pictures of me in my first recital. I’m looking down and all the other children were watching me.”
Ishida took that interest in creating and retaining movement and blended with it the elements of dramatic storytelling. In this way, Ishida’s choreography invites existential questions about where movement comes from and what it means to be human.
“You watch children and it seems so spontaneous,” Ishida said. “We can look back and remember those days. It was from the feelings you had, which is all part of storytelling.”
Ishida’s approach to narrative dance starts on paper, where she scripts out the story she wants to convey within the performance. “That framework is what I use to keep me tethered to that narrative in the studio,” sh said. “All the movement comes from that structure.
From there, Ishida carefully selects music and performers to accentuate the piece. “The music is a huge part of it,” she said. “I can be in love with a song, but if it doesn’t fit the narrative, I find something else.”
As for the cast of dancers, the process is equally rigorous and includes screening videos, interviews and in-depth conversations about the dancers’ history and background.
“It’s quite a vetting process for the people who are part of this time,” Ishida said. “It’s a unique and special ensemble, very diverse from ethnicity and backgrounds. It’s rare that you get to see this conglomerate of dancers.”
Among the collaborators are former Batsheva dancer and USC Professor, Bret Easterling, Australian native Danielle Rowe, who was a former principal with Houston Ballet and Netherlands Dans Theater and European awardwinning choreographer Kristian Lever.
For Ishida, the title Faraway, So Close is a nod to the 1993 Wim Wenders film, which was indebted to all of the directors Wenders admired.
“It’s both a nod to the choreographers I’ve worked with in the past,” Ishida said, “and also an existential poem. Dance is this special medium because our bodies are so expressive. Sometimes we can’t express ourselves through words. If you have a narrative, people can follow that story. I’m really trying to do is make sure that our audience members walk away with some deep understanding of what they’ve seen. It’s a tool that allows us to grapple with existential questions — depression, intimacy — as well as celebrate the human spirit.”
Tickets are currently on sale for Faraway, So Close at ishidadance.org. The 80-minute program will feature an introduction by the choreographer and personal insights into each piece.
“Dance is this special medium because our bodies are so expressive. Sometimes we can’t express ourselves through words. If you have a narrative, people can follow that story.”
– Brett Ishida