Eiko Otake teaches dance at Wesleyan and
performs as Eiko & Koma through the Center for the Arts. She encourages her
students to show their emotions with or without words.
Artist-in-Residence Teaches "Delicious Movements" to Spur Body Movement
In Eiko Otake’s workshop, students only need to
bring their body, and a willingness to move it.
Otake, a visiting instructor for the Department of Dance, teaches a
“Delicious Movement” course, designed for students who love to move with
“delicious feelings.” Dance experience is not a requirement.
“You don’t have to be a dancer to enjoy movement,” Otake says. “We move and
dance to actively forget the clutter of our lives so as to fully ‘taste’
body and mind. I like to say dance is like dream. It comes and goes. It
reflects life but is not bound by it. Like a dream, a dance can bring
delicious and/or emotional tastes.”
In her Spring 2007 course, “Delicious Movement for Remembering, Forgetting,
and Uncovering,” Otake combines dance and movement with study of postwar
Japanese arts. The course picks up on the heels of the Spring 2006 course,
“Japan and the Atomic Bomb,” which Otake co-taught with Bill Johnston,
professor of East Asian Studies, Science in Society and history, and chair
of the Department of History.
“Learning about human experiences of the atomic bombings is not an easy
process,” Otake says. “How does one express what is essentially
inexpressible? But through movement study and discussion, students can learn
how to support each other’s learning process with or without words. We ask,
‘what is it to forget, remember, mourn, and pray?’ and how does being a
mover, a dancer, affect our learning and creativity?”
Otake encourages students to be compassionate to others and to themselves
through appreciation of body, movements and life. Creativity, disobedience,
respect to others, flexibility and coordination are all interwoven in her
Otake, who works as a performer with Eiko & Koma, a New York-based dance and
choreography company, first performed at Wesleyan in 2002 with her husband,
Koma. In 2004, she began visiting Wesleyan as one of the founding members of
Center for Creative Research (CCR), a group consisting of 11 choreographers.
In 2005, she started working as a CCR artist-in-residence, teaching students
workshops, faculty workshops, guest-teaching other classes, presenting
lectures and participating in panels. In the spring of 2006, Eiko & Koma
presented Cambodian Stories with 10 young Cambodian artists at the Center
for the Arts.
Recently, the Otakes have focused on presenting outdoor works, such as the
River, The Caravan Project, Offering, and Tree Song, as free events in
public sites. Eiko Otake believes she is “most human” when she is dancing.
dance Koma and I would like to present our bodies as parts of archaic
landscape. Mountains and rivers dance too,” Otake explains. “Through dancing
we can also momentarily forget that we are human. Dance is the oldest art
form, yet we treat performances as contemporary rituals.”
Eiko & Koma have received many honors, starting with being named John Simon
Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows for 1984. They were awarded one of
the first New York Dance and Performance "Bessies" in 1984 for Grain and
Night Tide, and were honored again in 1990 for Passage. They were named
MacArthur Fellows in June of 1996, and they received the Samuel H. Scripps
American Dance Festival Award for “lifetime contributions to the field of
modern dance” in 2004. Recently, they received the 2006 Dance Magazine
Award, and this year, they were recognized by the United States Artists as
one of the 50 finest living artists across the fields.
Eiko and Koma Otake didn’t move to the United States until 1976. They were
law and political science students in Japan when, in 1971, they each joined
a dance company in Tokyo. What began as an experiment turned into an
exclusive partnership, and “Eiko & Koma” started working together in Tokyo.
Eiko & Koma will spend the summer researching and planning new works in
North Carolina and Alaska. Eiko Otake is planning to return to Wesleyan in
Spring 2008 to teach another Delicious Movement class.
Her ties to Wesleyan are growing through her family, as well. Her son, Yuta,
is graduating from Wesleyan this month; her other son, Shin, is member of
the Class of 2010.
“I love that my relationship with Wesleyan is so multi-layered,” she says.
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection
editor. Photos by Rose Eichenbaum, top, and Varga Mtyas, bottom.