This is a story of Fumiko Yamato, a Japanese dancer. Though highly acclaimed both domestically and internationally, she has long been considered as a misfit or unorthodox within the circle of traditional Japanese dance. While following the structure of her signature performance “Renjishi”, my attempt in this book is to visually represent her life that broke through the wild side, the difficulty and ambivalence in exchanging the art and love.
Now at the age of 77, she had been active on the forefront of the post-war dance society’s most flourished era and continued to dance. She had given up the life as a woman, abandoned respected company and performing on stages of high regards. Those traits signify the fact that she is completely different from usually strict and often conservative Japanese traditional dancers.
We, Japanese, regard popularity as value with unconditional admiration especially in the world of tradition. Yet, theater goers decline greatly in numbers through generations over the years. For me, this addresses assumptions that casually abandoning the responsibility in judging values of any form of art for oneself, and the cruelty of denying or disregarding the value of our fellow average folks without prominence as illegitimate are evident thus very ominous. In this respect, her choices and conflicts in life on the little-known side, not captured by existing values, have a rare attraction that became the initial impulse of this project. Therefore, the beauty and tradition of dance is not the essence of this story, but they serve as tools for storytelling.
During the research, I found a picture of her taken around the time she started dancing. I felt that the wormhole, which drilled through her whole body in the picture, was a strong metaphor that talks eloquently about the period of her hunger for affection, and consequently what fulfilled it.By casting a light both to her existence on the stage and off, I captured the life of a dancer who travels back and forth between the imaginary and the real world. Duplication, collage, reboosting and connecting of impressions, I organized in multiple layers using various photographic methodologies while looking back over 70 years. This work is a tribute and a new interpretation of the classical piece “Renjishi”,
* “Renjishi” is …Legend has it that on the Chinese mountain, lions pierced cubs to the bottom of the valley and watched them climb back up the cliff. After the tale was introduced to Japan, it was transformed into the unique culture of Noh, Kabuki, and other Japanese traditional dances. In this performance, white represents a father lion, red represents a cub. The dance embodies affections between a parent and a child, as well as the challenge and hardships of pioneering one’s own path.