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I love strings… and dance

My new butoh project is in full swing… here’s Azumi Oe dancing to my music in Vangeline Theater‘s latest production, simply called ’5th’.

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I love butoh, and have had the honour to collaborate with Vangeline a number of times. She is recognised as one of the leading proponents of Butoh in the US, with a strong following in Japan, too. She is admired by her peers for her mixture of innovation and tradition, and her pursuit of excellence. She’s dedicated to her craft, and she’s uniquely imaginative.

We first worked together on David J’s production ‘The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse’ in Los Angeles, for which she was praised in the Los Angeles Times. Then again, when she generously flew to Los Angeles to dance to my music for one of my films, ‘Roses’. And once more when she danced to my music in New York last year.

I’m excited to be flying her way this time, to the Big Apple, to play for her newest production, featuring a cast of butoh, ballet and contemporary dancers.

I’ve always had a close relationship with the dance world. One of my happiest productions was for opera director Peter Sellars, who has since become a friend, and remains a great source of inspiration. We worked together at the Venice Biennale on his production of ‘The Love Cloud‘, which featured Steve Chandra and Anniruddha Das from Asian Dub Foundation composing the music as a trio with me.

The dancers were extraordinary. They are the King of Java’s royal court dancers, the leading proponents of Javanese court dance. It’s delicate, all about the eyes and the hands, then strong and acrobatic. Highly skilled, utterly beautiful. The Javanese dancers are also world-travelers, and one of them toured the world with Madonna. As with all artists, their experiences all inform their work, which now includes a rich mixture of deep tradition and exciting innovation. To compose music for them was a fabulous experience, watching their movements reflect my music in real-time on stage in Venice. Truly one of the most magical moments, hard to describe.

There have been many more occasions over the years when my music has come to life in the movements of dancers and actors. It was fun creating violin lines for Tilda Swinton in Doug Aitken’s ‘Sleepwalkers’ exhibition at MoMA. which is officially the most viewed exhibition ever to be stage at MoMA. And in it, Tilda is projected onto the outside of the huge MoMA building, a block long, and played the violin like a champ!

Well, here’s the secret. Tilda is an actress. Tilda doesn’t play violin…. so she wasn’t actually playing. It was Tilda pretending to play the fiddle (which is her job!), but the sound she made was created by me!

The process was collaborative; Tilda mimed to a piece of music, and then I created a new piece of music based on it to match her movements… like backwards engineering. A lot of fun.

Anyway, I can’t wait to perform on stage for Vangeline Theater alongside her Butoh performance…

See you in New York!
Ysanne xx