Two moving as one.
Connection through each other.
The dance has begun.
It is difficult to express the wonder and indescribable joy one experiences when sitting in on new work that is being created by the two artists who comprise binbinFactory: Satoshi Haga and Rie Fukuzawa. At first glance, their rehearsal process appears paradoxical, combining extreme focus, repetitive movement and discipline with improvisation and wild abandon. But ultimately, as their collaboration of ideas and forms begin to settle and phrases of movement start to emerge, a deeper, richer swirl of emotion and meaning reveals itself to us. It is almost as if the dance evolves accidentally on purpose, or – more precisely – it arrives effortlessly through the artists all on its own.
Their process is far from happenstance. In fact, Satoshi and Rie’s methods for connecting unconscious thought with conscious action has served as their hallmark for creating dance since they first performed publicly together.
After seventeen years, their powers to create and mesmerize remain stronger than ever — and they were on full display during their recent residency in the Rudolf Nureyev Studio this past March through Baryshnikov Arts Center’s BAC Open residency artists program.
Interestingly, neither Satoshi nor Rie had early ambitions to become professional dancers. Satoshi’s initial performing interests manifested only after moving to New York City as an adult. He first focused on acting and mime and ultimately began taking dance classes to develop his body while exploring new forms to physically express emotion. It was only after immersing himself in classical training and technique when Satoshi realized that dance opened new pathways to creative expression. Soon after, he began focusing on modern dance and refining his own techniques. He learned that by committing himself to a disciplined schedule of in-studio work each week and performing daily workouts combined with repetitive movements, patterns would emerge from within his subconscious. These patterns, when strung together, would form eloquent phrases of movement.
As Satoshi states, “We believe the dance piece already exists in the deep recesses of our hearts and minds. We just have to listen to it, add a bit of soil and water and the work will emerge and grow.”
Rie’s journey to dance began a bit earlier. As a middle school student in Japan, Rie was involved in competitive gymnastics. She began studying creative movement and rhythmic dance during her sophomore year in high school and ultimately went on to university and graduate school, where she majored in dance. She moved to New York in 2003 after receiving a 2-year cultural residency grant from the Japanese government and immediately immersed herself in the New York City dance world, taking as many as three dance classes each day, seven days a week.
MEETING AND COLLABORATION
Satoshi and Rie met in 2004. They became fast friends and supported each other’s careers, but they didn’t actually start working together until almost a year later. Satoshi had asked Rie if she would be willing to meet with him one or two times per week to rehearse in studio. It was Satoshi’s intention to start creating a new collaborative dance piece together. Rie, accustomed to traditional rehearsals, described their first rehearsal together:
“In the dance world, rehearsal is rehearsal. So, before any rehearsal I usually take a dance class to warm up and prepare so I can use the rehearsal time to create shapes and movements for the dance piece. When I went to Satoshi’s rehearsal, he just laid on the floor and started doing his own exercises. I began wondering, ‘when do we start some sort of actual rehearsal?’ But after meeting with him several times, I adjusted, developing my own exercises, and focusing on filling the space with him. We talked a lot, sharing stories and building a personal relationship. We then began moving together, rehearsing, and repeating the movements many times until a piece began to emerge.
They performed their first collaboration in 2006 during a program at the Hudson Guild Theatre. In 2010 they gave their partnership a name: binbinFactory. Since that time, they have created dozens of dance pieces together, mixing forms of classical and modern movement with mime, clowning, acrobatics and raw passion. They are constantly exploring and discovering new forms of expression – and they always manage to captivate audiences with their inventiveness, and their inexorable connection to one another.
MICRO AND MACRO
The dance piece Satoshi and Rie continued to develop during their residency began before they ever met. In 1998, while Satoshi was studying dance and honing his artistic talents here in New York City, he had received word from his family in Fukushima, Japan, that his father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Determined to figure out a way to express his emotions in the face of loss, Satoshi brought an empty notebook with him to document his thoughts while at home in Japan. As Satoshi writes on the binbinFactory website: “To get my emotions organized, I took out a notebook and unconsciously began drawing spirals. Soon, other shapes began to appear. The shapes eventually evolved into circles of different sizes.”
Satoshi’s circular/cellular drawings would go on to become the backbone of this dance piece, which they continue to develop while serving out their residency at BAC.
Although Satoshi continued creating his series of cellular drawings through the late ‘90’s and into the first decade of the 21st century, it wasn’t until the 2011 earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster in Fukushima, when Satoshi and Rie began seriously considering a performance piece, where Satoshi’s drawings would be animated and projected onto a screen and the artists would dance and move within the animated drawings. For Satoshi, this work was especially personal, particularly since it was steeped in the memory of his father alongside the devastation of his hometown in the wake of our world’s worst nuclear catastrophe to date.
They began work in late 2011 but were forced to put the project aside due to technical and financial limitations. It wasn’t until 2018, when they resumed work on the project during a residency in Volda, Norway. Initially intending to present his drawings and discuss the concept behind Micro and Macro, they were told upon their arrival that they were also expected to present a version of the actual dance piece. The team scrambled to create the choreography to support their proposed work. Because they were so connected to each other, they were quickly able to lay the framework for the piece, upon which they could continue to build.
They continued developing the piece in 2019 at Le Festival De Bargemon in Southern France, making new discoveries while finding additional depth within the original elements.
But it was during their March residency at BAC when the piece finally reached bedrock and began to click solidly into place. The Nureyev Studio offered the space, ability, and inspiration to open up the work and elevate it to a much higher level, never before realized by the artists.
Micro and Macro can truly be considered one of binbinFactory’s masterworks. The piece incorporates the use of swirling graphic images (all created by Satoshi), a stark use of light and shadow, and precise choreography that both mesmerizes and evokes a sense of foreboding and loss. This is a piece that works best in a large, cavernous space, so the artists can establish very acute differences in distance and proximity. The overpowering images and the manipulation of light and shadows, provide an exceptional canvas for the artists to express their tragic, yet courageous story.
Most notably, the piece represents an incredibly poignant tribute to both the artist’s father and to his homeland. In a generalized context, Micro and Macro also relates to a world, threatened by forces which are much larger and beyond our control, and demonstrating how powerless we are to stop what lies ahead.
The residency at BAC provided binbinFactory with the opportunity to explore the work with a depth never before achieved in the company’s previous explorations. Satoshi and Rie discovered new layers of hope, despair and connection and were able to incorporate their findings into this installment, making it their deepest, richest, and most profound work to date.
It is rare to experience a pair of artists so connected to their instruments, to each other and to the material they create. What is truly exceptional about binbinFactory is the fact that every element of their work – from the artwork and music to the choreography – is completely organic and home grown by the artists themselves. It is often said of artists that one must learn technique so they can forget it and concentrate on what their hearts, souls, and unspoken connections inspire them to do. It is very clear that the two artists who are binbinFactory embody this artistry, lifting it to its highest form.
Thoughts like butterflies,
An open heart receives them,
Creating new art.
Nicholas Visseli is the Artistic Director of Theater Breaking Through Barriers, New York City’s only professional Off-Broadway theatre company dedicated to advancing the work of performers, writers, and directors with disabilities. As an actor, director, sound designer, administrator, and core TBTB company member since 1997, Mr. Viselli has acted in more than 25 TBTB productions and has produced and coordinated several of TBTB’s international tours, including performances in Japan, Croatia, and for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. He studied at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and is a graduate of Hofstra University.