What It's Like to Be A Dancer & Choreographer When You're Blind
Since losing her eyesight due to an undiagnosed optic nerve atrophy, choreographer and performer Mana Hashimoto has dedicated her life's work to exploring how the body exists in space with or without sight.
Trained in ballet, jazz and Graham technique, she has performed all over the world, from her native home in Japan to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Jacob's Pillow. Hashimoto is also the founder of Dance without Sight, a series of workshops designed to discover movement through touch, sound and smell.
Dance Magazine recently say down with Hashimoto to learn more about her process, and what it's like to be a bridge between the seen and unseen worlds.
Where She Gets Ideas When She Can No Longer Watch Dance Alone
"I was able to see until my 20s. I have seen classic ballets, performing arts, pictures and paintings. It's in my physical memory."
"A challenge now is where can I get new information. I go to shows with close friends and ask them to describe what they see or show me through movement."
"I get ideas through everyday life. I listen to YouTube and get inspiration through people I meet, books I read. I am inspired by Helen Keller, goze (groups of blind female musicians), and Japanese female writers Sei Sh¯onagon, Murasaki Shikibu and Ichiy¯o Higuchi."
"I constantly question what it means to be a blind, Asian female dancer experiencing the world right now."
On Her Piece for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Last May
"Bridge over Troubled Water, performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last May, is a collaboration with the Lighthouse Guild Vocal Ensemble, a visually impaired choir. Before the performance, I showed them my movement by describing what I was doing and having them feel my body with their hands."
What Her Rehearsal Process Is Like
"I believe dance comes from my soul. I am presenting my soul. I have to make it convincing for those who can see. I invite close friends and family members to rehearsals for feedback to help make sure my work makes sense."
How She Makes Her Work Accessible to Visually Impaired Audiences
Hashimoto's Dances Without Sight workshops are designed to share movement through other senses. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Hashimoto.
"My performances include a seating area for audio descriptions where people describe the work. It's difficult to say everything, so I work with the speaker to make a balance between the abstract images and technical parts of the dance."
"Before the performance, I also invite visually impaired audiences on a touching tour where they can feel the costumes, walk on the stage, make sound and feel my body move."
"Dance is a visual art. It is difficult for visually impaired individuals to enjoy dance as an art form, not only as therapy. We need accessibility and sight assistance through touch to take classes. I teach workshops throughout the year. I would love to work with university dance departments to start a program to introduce movement for visually impaired dancers. They are our next generation of educators."
As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?
This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.
Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)
I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.