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."
Social media has made the dance world a lot smaller, giving users instant access to artists and companies around the world. For aspiring pros, platforms like Instagram can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the life of a working performer. But there's a fine line between taking advantage of what social media can offer and relying too heavily on it.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
On August 19, 1929, shockwaves were felt throughout the dance world as news spread that impresario Sergei Diaghilev had died. The founder of the Ballets Russes rewrote the course of ballet history as the company toured Europe and the U.S., championing collaborations with modernist composers, artists and designers such as Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel. The company launched the careers of its five principal choreographers: Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine.