© Stefano Conca Bonizzoni

© Stefano Conca Bonizzoni

From Tokyo to Milan: interview with Aguyoshi

June 20 2022

Widely followed on social media, the Aguyoshi artistic duo consists of contemporary performers and dancers Aisa Shirai and KEKE. On 13 and 14 May 2022 – as part of the 5th FOG – the duo performed for the first time outside Japan. Aguyoshi invaded the urban spaces of Milan’s Parco Martesana creating completely improvised performative actions.

Video: Stefano Conca Bonizzoni

Aguyoshi was founded in 2016 in Tokyo. The duo’s choreographies are influenced as much by Japanese dance – with traces of Butoh (a form of dance-theatre developed in Japan in the 1960s) – as by classical dance and other Western styles. Adapting these influences to create a new style (known as “Moyayoshi”), Aisa Shirai and KEKE explore the streets of Tokyo by reinventing the relationship between bodies and public space. The forms of urban architecture and the rhythms of city life determine the arrangement of their choreographies, which are almost entirely improvised in situ. Going against all expectations of virtuosity or breathtaking acrobatics, Aguyoshi offers the audience the experience of “weak bodies” being swayed by the wind. During FOG22, we had the pleasure of interviewing the two artists.

© Lorenza Daverio
© Lorenza Daverio

Tell us about your artistic journey. What are your reference points? 

Aisa Shirai learnt classical ballet during her childhood, going on to encounter contemporary dance at secondary school. As a dancer, she has performed in productions by Megumi Kamimura and KaeruP, among others, and has choreographed several pieces. KEKE, on the other hand, studied a method of physical expression called “Miimu” for fifteen years (under Chieko Wada). He also danced for the company directed by Kim Itoh. We formed Aguyoshi in 2016 when we started living together in the same house. At first, a few short pieces were created for the stage, but then we gradually developed Aguyoshi’s current style. Our references are the concepts and philosophies of post-modern dance and Butoh, which are primarily reflected in our approach to the body, understood as a “non-privileged body”. Our bodily responses are like dances designed to react to what is happening in front of us. With respect to visual arts, before founding Aguyoshi, we were influenced by an exhibition by John Wood and Paul Harrison in Tokyo (2015). We were also strongly inspired by local TV programmes and videos on social media centred on animals. We know it might sound a bit silly, but they’re important to us.

© Lorenza Daverio

© Lorenza Daverio
© Lorenza Daverio

In relation to your expressive language, what kind of relationship do you have with social media?

Our performances would find it difficult to attract the audience’s attention in a theatre. Our works are too modest and low profile. However, we were sure that an audience would appreciate this kind of “dance”. The people you can meet in the theatre are limited, while social media, on the other hand, expands your opportunities. We thought that opening ourselves up to social media would increase our chances of being seen by people with unusual tastes, so to speak. Our creations are also strongly influenced by digital interfaces and the way algorithms work, as well as our habits with respect to cameras, or the size of our viewers’ smartphones. These factors influence the compositions of the choreographies, the orientation of the movements, the length of the works, and so on. Although there are some drawbacks, we like to be choreographed by various external factors outside of our control. We prefer to base our work primarily on these elements, both on the spaces where the performance action takes place and on the structures and dynamics of the web and social networks.

© Lorenza Daverio

Can performative practice redefine the way we live and conceive metropolitan spaces?

In everyday life we’re dominated by the logic of targets, in a constant race. Most people don’t care about the roads they regularly walk on, about the shape formed by a growing tree, about the angle of a slope. Approaching “city shapes” through our bodies frees us from an “entrenched perspective”, packed with goals and meanings. We think life could be slightly easier and lighter if we could establish a balance with spaces and cities in a flexible way.

If social networks and the web didn’t exist, would your art have developed differently?

We could hardly predict the eventual success of the videos we post on social media. Of course we pay attention to our followers’ reactions, but this doesn’t particularly affect the content we create. We prioritize our own satisfaction and make what we like. Naturally, if social media and the web hadn’t existed, we would have developed differently: we would have needed different ways to communicate our performance imagery to the world. However, our basic philosophy would still be the same: to dance while being choreographed by the external environment. This originates from our conception of the body, space and movement, and also from our cultural values.

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