From Rolex Web Site: http://www.rolexmentorprotege.com/pairing/2012-2013/lin_hwai-min_and_eduardo_fukushima/a_year_of_mentoring?ch=1
Lin Hwai-min and Eduardo Fukushima
A year of mentoring
Overview (Chapter 1 of 6)
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Lin Hwai-Min, 2012-2013 Dance mentor
What qualities made you choose Eduardo Fukushima as your protégé?
Eduardo’s choreography is pure, fresh, original and full of youthful energy. I was impressed by his strong desire to move, his stubborn dedication to create, and, above all, his eagerness to learn.
What do you hope to contribute to his career?
It takes so much to become a good choreographer: sensibility, creativity, resilience and an ability to deal with reality and yet remain vulnerable about creating. I will try to expose him to different forms of arts, different ways to approach a choreographic idea, and different ways of living. I hope this year’s experience will enrich him as a good artist in the long run.
How do you envisage working with Eduardo over the next year?
Eduardo will stay with me for a year, observing how my company, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, works at home and on tour in foreign countries. At the same time, he will also work on his own.
I was fortunate to find an apartment in my neighbourhood for Eduardo. As such, we can easily meet each other. My flat and my library of books, CDs and DVDs are open to him. We can discuss about the arts, dance and his work in progress. We will travel together to discover the mountains of Taiwan, to join rituals of indigenous people. Next spring, we will hike for 10 days in a religious pilgrimage.
Eduardo and I are so different in almost every respect, and I believe we can energize and inspire each other. I look forward to a good year of sharing.
Has someone acted as your mentor during your career? How did that person – or people – help you to establish yourself?
I am blessed to have had several mentors in different stages of my life. Their generosity in sharing their knowledge and life experience with me has made me what I am today, as an artist and as a human being.
Among them, the late Professor Yu Ta-Kang literally shaped my life. Coming from a very prestigious family, Professor Yu was a respected scholar in history and literature, and a renowned playwright of Beijing Opera. I founded Cloud Gate at the age of 26 without any previous professional experience; I was easily frustrated and often thought of quitting. Professor Yu would say to me, “Come over, let me entertain you with poetry of Tang Dynasty.” In the class, he cultivated me with topics of literature, history and theatre. After concerts and opera performances, he would take me to a restaurant and discuss the show over exquisite food.
When I mentioned about quitting again, the gentle professor turned angry. “I am old and will not live long enough to see the fruit of your artistic endeavour,” he said. “But I am willing to contribute whatever I have to help you. You are young. As long as you strive, you will surely harvest good results in the long run. I do not permit you to quit!”
Professor Yu passed away in 1976. And Cloud Gate will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.
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First impressions (Chapter 3 of 6)
I do contemporary dance – experimenting with choreography and engaging in research into dance.
I choreograph dances for my own body, I feel this great need to dance. I have not had the opportunity to choreograph for other people, but I want to do that in the future.
As a performer, the best thing is the premiere, when the work comes to the world and you first make contact with the public.
On my father’s side, I’m of Asian descent. My mother’s family is Italian, mixed with Africans and Indians. When I’m with my Western family, I feel very Eastern, and with my Eastern family, I feel very Western. I consider myself Brazilian – that is, mixed by nature.
These different ancestries are in my mind and in my body, and that is reflected in my dance.
My Japanese family is very small. My grandmother told me that the family actually came from Fukushima, but moved to Tokyo. Many family members died in the war and a few came to Brazil. I don’t have contact with the family in Japan, but I have friends in Japan and I was very sad and worried about the nuclear accident in Fukushima last year.
Eastern practices such as Japanese Seitai-ho and Chinese Chi-kung are much more than a way of preparing the body – they help me before the act of dancing, in fact they help me in my life. These methods bring me the silence and the concentration to enable me to understand my needs and the desires of the body. They help me to be calmer and live in the moment.
When I got a message from the Rolex Arts Initiative inviting me to apply to be a protégé, I thought it was spam. But then I saw that it was serious. When I looked at the website, I felt lucky.
When Rolex rang to say I had been selected as the protégé, I was at a friend’s house. We all started celebrating!
In the initial encounter with the mentor, Lin Hwai-min, when he was interviewing the finalists to choose his protégé, I didn’t feel like I was participating in a selection process – it was just like a very personal encounter. I felt honoured to meet him and to go to Taiwan.
In his work, Lin Hwai-min is very serious. As a person, he is very simple and very kind.
I’m very curious about the first day I will spend with Lin Hwai-min. I will be so happy to have the chance to observe his work, and experiment with movement with him. To be able to receive his vision as an artist in relation to my own work will be wonderful.
The main things I hope to gain from the year of mentoring are experience of life and art, and a strong body! I will get to know places and people that I would never know otherwise.
In dance, both Lin Hwai-min and I like the body’s centre of gravity to move towards the earth. And we repeat the same gesture, the same movement, a million times – in order to transform it.
I like the fact that Lin Hwai-min can work with large groups and relate to other artistic disciplines. To be able to study and approach your art form one-to-one with a mature artist is a gift. In the mentoring year, I want to surprise myself.
I haven’t any idea of what I will be doing in five years from now. I want to continue dancing.
First steps with the mentor (Chapter 4 of 6)
Martialling his art
In mid-2012, young Brazilian dancer Eduardo Fukushima moved half-way round the world so that he could spend a year in Taiwan with his mentor, renowned choreographer Lin Hwai-min. But Fukushima was determined to change a lot more than just his location. He was interviewed in Geneva for the Rolex Arts Initiative.
Rolex Arts Initiative: You have made a big change in your life, choosing to leave São Paulo for Taipei for the entire mentoring year.
Eduardo Fukushima: I have been there for two months. I thought a lot about this, but I decided I should go. In the first days it was a bit hard because it’s the opposite culture in relation to my own: to Brazil, the food, the people, the way they behave. And, in São Paulo, I live downtown, close to the centre, while in Taipei I live almost in the countryside, so much calmer. I live behind Mr Lin’s house. He is in one flat and I’m in another.
How does the mentoring work with Lin Hwai-min?
I see him every week – some weeks, two, three or four times, other weeks just once. He has a very busy schedule. Usually, I dance and he watches, and after I’ve danced we talk a lot about my dance. Because now I am beginning my new work and he is helping me with that. He talks a lot, he is a real workaholic.
Does he praise or criticise your dancing?
He doesn’t say if my dance is good or bad, but he talks a lot in terms of structural choreography. He says I should find more diversity of movement, different rhythms. He told me: ‘You are free now, you don’t need to be closed when you dance for me.’
I’m happy working with him because I realize that we have different ways of thinking about movement and dance, completely different. This is opening my mind and my body to other ways. He pushes me a lot.
You also work with the dancers of Lin Hwai-min’s company, Cloud Gate.
I take classes with his dance company, such as ballet, yoga, tai chi dao yin [a Chinese breathing technique] and martial arts.
When you began the mentorship, you said you were eager to explore your Asian side, as your father is of Japanese descent.
Yes, I am very happy to be with Cloud Gate as I wanted to study oriental movement. I’m in the right place as I’m learning the principles behind these practices. It’s amazing for me. And at Cloud Gate they have such good teachers and masters of tai chi.
Has your dance style already changed because of the work with your mentor?
My style hasn’t changed yet, because the body is slow to change. But at the same time, I feel that I will change, my inner self is beginning to change because martial arts is about inner ways of movement. This is what I needed. I have time to concentrate on this, as I’m away from all my friends in Brazil. I only have one year in Taiwan, so I want to make the most of it.
Have you been able to get to know other people in Taipei?
People who live near Cloud Gate know me as the Brazilian guy because there are no foreigners living there. It’s interesting for me because I now use my body to communicate with people with whom I don’t have a common language as I don’t speak Mandarin. I’ve found other ways to communicate with people, it’s really funny.
What is your principal goal for the year?
I don’t want to just dance, I want to transform my body. I’m trying to create dances that I’ve never made before. My focus is to understand more about Oriental body practices, also to become more fluent in English. I’m in a strange situation, I’m in Taiwan and I’m studying English with a teacher, two classes a week. It’s all a bit unusual.
How would you sum up your experiences so far?
I’m very happy with my mentorship because everything is new for me. It’s the first time that I live outside Brazil and the first time that I’m learning another language. And it was my dream to get to know Asia and now it’s happening.
After a year with a master (Chapter 5 of 6)
The Dance of Life
In Lin Hwai-min, Taiwan’s master of dance, young Brazilian choreographer Eduardo Fukushima encountered a demanding and generous mentor who has given him deep and enduring lessons in dance, and in life itself.
After a year of mentoring (Chapter 6 of 6)
Pilgrimage for body and soul
Young Brazilian choreographer Eduardo Fukushima spent a year with Lin Hwai-min at his famous Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in Taiwan and found himself harvesting rice and climbing mountains in a quest to build resilience and discipline.
By Deborah Jowitt
“My idea is that being a mentor is not a job; it’s really a tremendous obligation in our culture. I gave Eduardo a ticket to ‘Madama Butterfly’. I sent him to concerts and recitals. He has had classes with our musical director and English classes. Living in Taipei and around me has been a big cultural shock and he is not the yes, yes, obedient protégé that an Asian kid would be… But he has been learning and studying with great consistency. He and I share two things in common: we both came to dance late in our lives and work far away from the capitals of dance. We have to fight. With a discipline to study, plus determination and resilience, I believe he will work better and digest what he has learnt here after going back to Brazil.”
Eduardo Fukushima sits on the floor of a small dance studio in Taipei City, compressing himself into an attentive bundle to hear his mentor, choreographer-writer Lin Hwai-min, comment on the progress that his protégé has made on a new solo. It’s December 2012, and, on 9 April 2013, the young Brazilian choreographer is to present the solo, Crooked Man, to an invited audience as a work-in-progress, along with an earlier piece. In October, as a finale to Fukushima’s year in the Rolex Arts Initiative, he will perform the piece in Venice.
However, as Lin remarked earlier in his apartment overlooking the Tamsui River, “From the very beginning, I have thought that my responsibility is to see him growing, instead of emphasizing that we should dish out a good work, or a better work, to show in Venice. That’s never been in my mind. But I need to force him for April and October so that we have an arena to talk, to communicate.”
At the session in the studio, Lin does most of the talking – and does it wonderfully – sensitive to both the young choreographer’s ego and the differences between the two men’s lives and choreographic concerns. Although Fukushima has left his native São Paulo, his friends and his family to live in an apartment around the corner from Lin’s and to take classes with members of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, the company that Lin founded in 1973, this mentorship is not one of a master talking to a disciple. Their concepts of dance are too far apart for that.
Lin’s immaculately designed group works for Cloud Gate are rooted in Taiwanese culture. They are lucid, yet enigmatic; fluid, yet strong; meditative, yet capable of explosion. Fukushima began focusing intently on choreography in 2007 and creates only solos for himself. These are rapid, insistent and highly repetitive. He embraces rawness and performs as if a punishing, urban world has invaded his body and is in disharmony with itself. He slams himself against the floor, pushes his head against a wall. The small theatres in which he usually appears become arenas for ordeal.
Fukushima has been fortunate to have his own studio for the period of his residency; it’s in the same building as his compact apartment. The space has a wooden floor; prints of three Degas sketches hang on the walls. On this December day, he begins the session with his mentor by performing the movements he has identified with Crooked Man. The day before, he told me, “When I start each work, I don’t want to repeat the last one. I want to find some other ways to dance. I know that some things remain, but I try to discover a dance that I never danced before.”
The “little baby” of an idea that came to him in São Paulo has been steadily developing and growing. It is his practice to improvise on the material he has established, setting the piece at a later date. Hands curling into paws, angling arms and a sinuous torso seem to be motifs in Crooked Man. The mood is introspective, but sometimes the dancer glances upward or at his surroundings. He never pauses. The basic, ticking pulse coming from the speaker is still to be layered into a more complex electronic score by the composer he works with in Brazil. He’s a compelling performer – that’s evident, as is the originality that fascinated Lin and made him choose Fukushima as a protégé. Lin hasn’t seen the work-in- progress for a while. “It’s wonderful that you are doing it so intensely,” he says, but also suggests that Fukushima think about becoming looser at times, relaxing, letting go. He points out that when the dancing is always at the same level, “after a while, we don’t see it”.
Fukushima has been following Lin’s suggestion that he try to perform the solo to different music. Now, as the Bach piano piece he has chosen plays, his movements yield slightly to its flow, and, as he continues, Lin calls out instructions that subtly alter the way he relates to the music. This experiment, Fukushima admits, has been hard. He’s used to starting a dance with “my music inside”. Yes, Lin says, but it’s his job as a mentor to create problems in order to provide new, possibly useful experiences. He emphasizes that a choreographer doesn’t have to follow music like a puppet. “Be cruel to it, go against it, go with it… You need good musicality to create music with your body. I’m happy to know that you are unhappy dancing to this music!”
Fukushima is used to working alone (and not always every day) in a bustling, pulsing, multi-ethnic city. It takes him about a year and a half to produce a solo, and he has to work at other jobs. Only recently have he and other young Brazilian dance artists been given some government support (his 2010 solo How to Overcome the Great Tiredness? received an award). Lin, who was honoured with the prestigious Samuel H. Scripps Award from the American Dance Festival in July 2013, leads a world famous company of 24 dancers and also directs Cloud Gate 2 (which performs works by other choreographers). He sometimes wishes he could slow down, that he had more time to think: “I am one of the craziest, the busiest choreographers in the world!”
For Lin, “Being a mentor is not a job; it’s really a tremendous obligation in our culture.” The books, CDs and DVDs that fill his apartment are available to his protégé. “He is very generous,” says Fukushima; “each day that I go there, I look through his library and: ‘Mr Lin, may I take this?–Of course’.”
Lin sends him to concerts and recitals. Discovering that Fukushima doesn’t listen to classical music, Lin asked the company music director to give him classes. That’s in addition to his English language lessons. Lin also sent him to see his first opera, Madama Butterfly (Fukushima was startled to find himself sitting in the presidential box, Lin’s usual seat). “Butterfly is very beautiful,” he says, “lyrical, sad; it touched my heart. I can relate its history to my life a little bit, because it talks about Japan and America together. It was very important for me to see this.”
Fukushima’s family on his father’s side is Japanese, and he wants to understand his own Asian heritage more fully, which was one reason that he accepted Rolex’s invitation to apply for the mentorship. In São Paulo, he studied both a form of Japanese martial arts and Butoh, the transgressive postmodern dance form that developed in Japan during the 1960s.
Lin has hoped to open his protégé to new possibilities without endangering what is intriguing about the work, but also to push him to work in the studio every day (which Fukushima has been doing). Resilience and stamina are key words. After Fukushima’s first month in Taipei, Lin sent him to a national park in Hualien to hike into the mountains. it took him seven hours to reach the prescribed destination (where his mentor had a hostel room waiting for him). “He knows that in Brazil,” Fukushima says, “you have to fight to do something, so you have to have willpower.”
Fukushima has also been able to observe a creative process very different from his own. He, who researches only his own feelings and body in building a dance, went with Lin and the Cloud Gate dancers on a trip to the rice paddies of Chihshang in Eastern Taiwan. There they joined the farmers in harvesting the crop. Why? Lin is developing a new piece, Rice, and he and his dancers (talk about stamina and resilience!) will draw movement material from their labours.
In Taiwan, Fukushima has been taking Cloud Gate’s classes in internal martial arts and in T’ai Chi Tao Yin, a form of Qi Gong that focuses on breathing exercises (he also embarked on Qi Gong classes elsewhere in Taipei).
On a Monday in December, Fukushima (who is “ah Du” to everyone here, because the first person from Cloud Gate whom he met upon arriving in Taipei found “Eduardo” too long) finds a spot in the circle surrounding the T’ai Chi Tao Yin master, Chen Ching-Yen. In the immense space, carved out within a former marble factory, the dancers – extremely slowly and in endlessly differing ways – fold their bodies and expand them. Twisting and leaning and spiralling, they bend so deeply that their buttocks touch their heels, then unwind and rise. And again. And again… Seated or standing, they move as if each breath were thick oil pouring through their bodies. It’s easy to see what Fukushima loves about this technique and how it may inspire him to allow a little more slowness and flexibility to enter his choreography.
Four months later, on 9 April 2013, an audience, including members of the news media, gather in Cloud Gate’s studio to see Fukushima perform Crooked Man as a work-in-progress, followed by How to Overcome the Great Tiredness? The choreographer’s introductory programme essay states that, “we are not symmetrical. We differ in character, and, with our diverging personalities, often find ourselves at odds with others and the world around us. We are rarely at ease in this world. We are always in search of something. We are never quite at peace.”
Lin reported via email that “Ah Du did well in the showing. He is calm and centred, with a touch of fluidity unseen in his previous works. He still needs to work on phrasing and contrast, but I am impressed by his new way of using his body. He has plenty of time to develop and finish the work for Venice in October.” Taiwanese television showed parts of the event, including shots of dancers rushing up to envelop Fukushima in a group hug after the performance, and mentor and protégé smiling widely, Lin’s arm around the younger choreographer.
The following day, as a kind of “graduation”, the two joined the thousands taking the annual Matsu Pilgrimage Walk – Lin for the first hours, Fukushima for four days. The pilgrims walk from 2 a.m. to 8 p.m. in honour of the sea goddess, Matsu. “The experience,” Fukushima wrote, “affected me very deeply. In some parts of the pilgrimage I could not go on, my body was so tired, I lost the sense of time, direction, I could no longer recognize myself… I also could realize that, when I hadn’t the power to go on, I found extra power inside of me and I could go further and further.”
One thing that Lin hoped his protégé would gain from the pilgrimage was increased resilience. When asked what he himself may have learnt from the mentorship experience, Lin summoned up the same word, “resilience”, to which he added “patience”, although he is happy with how hard and consistently Fukushima worked.
Fukushima sent an email too, saying that he was inspired by watching Lin at work, by their talks, by seeing how a large company is run, and by Lin’s choreography: “His work is a lot about Taiwan, this specific place, but he transforms the issues about this country into dance without clichés or stereotypes.” He thinks that, pushed by his mentor, he has gained skills that will be useful “when I start to make work with other dancers”.
Travelling with Cloud Gate to places new to him – including many in Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and five cities in China – and going alone to Japan to become more familiar with his heritage, have made the world seem not as “big and impossible” as he had thought. He met people he would not otherwise have imagined meeting. Learning English made it easier for him to communicate with those in different countries.
Among the many things that Fukushima says he gained from his year as a Rolex protégé are these: “I really wanted to open my body to new information, and I believe that I got it.” And “I started to look at Brazil from another point of view.” And “I learnt to be my best friend.”
Deborah Jowitt is a New York-based author, teacher and choreographer.