Here at True Colors Festival, we are one big family of artists, creators and planners. As we set the stage for CARAVAN, our yellow little camper with a big mission, choreographer Makiko Izu tells us her aspirations for the traveling show, and the stories that inspired the poignant dance performances she has created.
By True Colors Festival Team
Name: Makiko Izu
Accolades: Through an encounter at Japan’s Art Tower Mito in 1994, Makiko grew to love contemporary dance and has never looked back since. Having worked with Kim Itoh and The Glorious Future as a dancer and assistant, she is now the resident choreographer at GRINDER-MAN, an experimental art performance group advocating the philosophy of the here and now. Makiko has performed with the Dance Theatre LUDENS in its production, “Distance”, and has choreographed the amazing dances behind True Colors CARAVAN.
Q: Tell us how CARAVAN came about.
According to the results of a survey conducted by The Nippon Foundation on diversity and inclusion, many Japanese across the country still have a low awareness of such issues. CARAVAN was initiated to bring this message of diversity and inclusivity to different parts of Japan. We see CARAVAN as a bud that slowly grows and blooms to become a flower. We hope that our CARAVAN performances will act like the seeds that are sown to nurture the values of diversity and inclusivity. Hence, flowers play an important role in our concept. For our photoshoot, performers stood beside the caravan, with rows of colorful flowers blooming in its trails. We wish to move the audience with our performances and eventually allow our message on diversity and inclusion to bloom within their hearts.
Q: Since the goal of CARAVAN is to get people around Japan to think about diversity and inclusion through the arts, how will the dance segment facilitate this thinking?
Whilst visiting a rural community in Japan to research for CARAVAN, I found that people in various parts of Japan were already using physical movements to convey the messages of diversity and inclusion. Yet, many people had not heard of the terms, “diversity” or “inclusion”. True Colors CARAVAN will provide us with the opportunity to spread this message in two ways – the first is through workshops and rehearsals whilst the other is through the live performances at our participating venues. I believe that communicating through visual performances instead of mere words can capture these very terms – diversity and inclusion.
Q: Could you talk about the accessibility considerations for the diverse performers of CARAVAN?
Firstly, I was worried if our rehearsal venue would be easy for patrons in wheelchairs to access. We also have a dancer with a hearing impairment. Thus, I requested for everybody to speak slowly and to use transparent masks for our enunciation to be clearly portrayed. We also looked out for the participants with Down syndrome. For example, participants who did not have families to accompany them to the rehearsals were fetched by our CARAVAN members and we regularly checked in on their physical welfare during the training.
Q: What are your personal aspirations for CARAVAN and what does it mean to you?
CARAVAN to me represents looking ahead, towards the future. During the coronavirus pandemic, many artists lost the opportunity to perform in public in front of an audience. The loss of opportunities during the pandemic made me wonder what our future would be like, so I tried looking ahead, beyond the pandemic.
Q: Why do you think the performing arts are essential?
The performing arts are dynamic; it’s “alive”. Even if we perform the same piece or view it again, there is something new each time to be learnt that changes our perspectives. Hence, it is my hope that the audience may be touched by our performances and connect with our vision through our dances.
Q: The message of the True Colors Festival is “One World One Family” – what do these words mean to you?
This is a simple but profound phrase. In True Colors CARAVAN, not only are the performers involved in the dances but the audience are too. This creates a shared moment between the performers and the audience where everybody becomes one. For example, the audience is invited to clap their hands during certain segments of the performance. I feel that the act of clapping makes one happy just like the song, “If You Are Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands”. It is my wish that audiences who aren’t able to be physically present at the performances may partake in the clapping too. Thus, in that moment when the sound of a unified clap is heard, be it online or in-person, a shared joy is born and that is a moment of connection.
This article has been edited and condensed.