Rolex Arts Initiative: Can you describe what happened to you in Taiwan during your mentoring year with Lin Hwai-min and his dance company Cloud Gate?
Eduardo Fukushima: I opened myself up to Taiwan like a sponge. The great thing about working with dance is that your body is the creative material and I was able to work in many of the places along my route. I rehearsed in hotel rooms, plazas, streets, art galleries, temples and rehearsal rooms of the theatres in which Cloud Gate staged shows. It was an intense year during which I passed through Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Kuala Lumpur, four European countries, small cities in Taiwan, Kyoto and Nara [in Japan], performing in many different environments. By the end, I realized that my dance had matured and that shades of my experiences remained in my body.
What influenced you the most during that year and remains with you now?
Many things stayed with me after my residence in Taiwan. Here are a few I’d mention: Firstly, being in direct contact with an artist, Lin Hwai-min, who has been active for 40 years. This was inspiring and encouraged me to continue. Secondly, my encounter with T’ai Chi Tao Yin masters descending from Taiwanese master Hsiung Wei was of paramount importance. I have been interested in oriental body-control techniques for the past 10 years, and encountering T’ai Chi Tao Yin in its native land transformed my understanding of how I warm up and study myself. It has even had an impact on my creative work. Thirdly, I gained a lot from the opportunity I was given to observe the collective work of Cloud Gate, Lin Hwai-min’s company.
I’m still surprised by how brave I was to go and live on the other side of the world alone for a year. Knowing I did that makes me feel more courageous these days!
Did you meet your stated goals during the course of the mentorship? For example, were you able to transform your body and thereby create dances that you’ve never made before, as you had hoped?
Yes. One of my main objectives was to focus on the creation of a new work, and I can now confirm that Crooked Man was a dance that I have never done before. At the end of 2013, I was invited to participate in an assemblage for a work entitled Take my breath away under Brazilian director Elisa Ohtake. I felt that there were many different creative possibilities open to me, and I did things for this piece that I have never done before. It’s been about a year and a half since I returned to Brazil, and this period continues to be very productive. It feels like I’m putting everything I learnt into practice, drawing on my reflections about my year of mentorship.
Do you feel that by living in Taiwan for a year, you were able to get in touch with your Asian persona?
I always strive to remain connected to my Asian side, even in Brazil, and it was a unique and exciting opportunity to live in Taiwan, whose culture is strongly influenced by Chinese, indigenous, peasant and Japanese cultures. My experience of passing through Japan – a dream since my childhood – was also life-changing. It brought me closer to the Orient.
Are you now able to work full time on your choreography?
Yes, my main occupation is taking care of every aspect of my work as a choreographer and dancer. I work with a small team and coordinate the technical and artistic sides of production. I have a producer and a choice of three people for my technical installations.
You had indicated that you would like to teach dance students in São Paulo. Has this happened?
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot with my pieces over the last couple of years, 2013 and 2014, but this interferes with my work as a teacher. Despite this, I was able to give three months of classes at a São Paulo dance studio and I also ran a long workshop in Belo Horizonte.
You recently performed Crooked Man at Dance Umbrella in London. What was the reaction?
Dance Umbrella in London was a marvellous experience. Full houses at the two shows greeted my work warmly and I received great criticism as well. I made some changes to Crooked Man in London and I’m now completely satisfied with it. I plan to tour Europe this year. Frankfurt in Germany, Brest in France and Barcelona in Spain have already been confirmed, and other venues are still being negotiated. I should be doing a show in Switzerland at the end of 2015.
You also gave a workshop in London to intermediate level dancers.
In London, I worked with around 14 people in one five-hour day. I tested methods that I use in my workshops in Belo Horizonte and São Paulo, and it was fascinating to observe the differences between dancers from Brazil and London when given the same training and instructions. I returned from London full of ideas.
Your work is gaining increasing recognition in Brazil, it seems.
Yes, I won a prize for Crooked Man as the best dance composition in 2014 in São Paulo. The award, called Prêmio Denilton Gomes de Dança, from the Dance Cooperative of São Paulo, was set up two years ago. The judges are very respected people linked to dance in São Paulo. The prize made me very happy because São Paulo is a huge city with so many choreographers and dancers doing very well.
And Take my breath away, in which I took part, won a prize for the best dance show in 2014. The prize was given to the director, Elisa Ohtake, and for the cast – six artists including me. The prize, from the APCA [Association of art critics], is for productions from all of Brazil and embraces all fields of the performing arts.
Do you have plans to return to Taiwan?
Yes, I want to return to Taiwan very soon, in 2015 if all goes well, mainly to hug Lin Hwai-min and all the friends I made at Cloud Gate. I also want to return to refresh my T’ai Chi studies. And it would be great if I were able to close the cycle by presenting Crooked Man over there too, as it was in Taiwan that I spent a year shaping this work.