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Japanese dancer Kaori Ito on Plexus, her collaboration with Aurélien Bory that comes to Sadler’s Wells in 2015


Plexus is the second work in Aurélien Bory’s series of dancer portraits, following his collaboration with Stephanie Fuster. Functioning as both metaphor and dramaturgy, Plexus refers to a network of blood vessels or a series of interlaced parts. In his collaboration with Japanese dancer Kaori Ito, Bory introduces elements of both narrative and restrictions - a dark female figure, a series of strings and fabric – in order to evoke and explore not only Ito’s own physicality and movement language, but the very notion of a dance portrait.

Ito trained as a classical ballet dancer in Tokyo before moving on to the US for contemporary dance training, and work throughout Europe and Asia as dancer and choreographer. In a recent interview for French newspaper Le Monde, Ito speaks of embodying a paradox: ‘both clean and dirty, orderly and chaotic, selfish and generous’. She has collaborated with some of the world’s finest choreographers, and has also developed a career as a solo artist, moving in relation to her own cultural roots. We speak to her about Plexus, her excavations of memory and sexuality, her work with materials and narrative, being a muse and agency in her own practice.

Run Riot: Plexus is first and foremost a portrait for a dancer; so what does this portraiture, choreographed with Aurélien Bory, mean to you, and what was the process through which it took shape?

Kaori Ito: First of all, it is very rare to make a portrait of a contemporary dancer. Working with Aurélien was a joy.  It was very precious just having someone making a work for me, and it was a strong experience since it had been a long time since I focused on my own history, and on myself. By the end, the piece became something more abstract and universal than just a simple portrait.

Run Riot: The title of the work, Plexus, refers to a network of nerves and blood vessels, but also, to a combination of interlaced parts – so it has both a poetic and clinical connotation. Can you tell us more about how this concept envelops the work, and what part it plays within it?

Kaori Ito: When I was little, my ballet teacher used to correct my plexus to make me have a good posture. I showed how he was correcting me to Aurélien and we started to call it “Dance of Plexus”. We also worked with a puppet, a marionette, which looked like me, and then Aurélien suggested that I try to imitate the puppet’s movement. Then at the end we decided to keep only the puppet’s strings. I felt that these strings became a part of my body and even of my brain. I became a puppet.

Run Riot: In the piece, you navigate a range of materials – cords, strings, and fabric – as well as play with shape, gravity, disappearance and entrapment. Can you tell us more about the development of the choreography and the dynamic of the narratives within the piece?

Kaori Ito: The dramaturgy of the choreography is very realistic. Within these strings, the limit for a dancer is infinite. Then we worked on “what is the possibility to dance?”

Run Riot: As someone who has lived a considerable part of her life in Europe, as well as Tokyo and New York, how do you feel your work has changed in this process, particularly in the ways in which you relate to and think of the body?  

Kaori Ito: For me, I always learn so much in the creative process and it brings me to another world, another layer. It is special to go down to my roots and discover that I am not attached to any country. I am floating constantly. Then it makes sense to have this complexity of string because all the dance, body and culture is floating and constantly moving.

Run Riot: In your own work, be it dancing, choreography or painting, you’ve excavated memories, explored sexuality and played with materials. Originally you trained in classical ballet, but your training has encompassed a much wider range of work. How would you identify your own choreographic language?

Kaori Ito: For me, I always learn so much in the creative process and it brings me to another world, another dimension. It is special to go down to my roots and discover that I am not attached to any country. I am floating constantly. Then it makes sense to have this complexity of string, because all the dance, body and culture is floating, and constantly moving.
There are dancers who dance with their skin, their muscle…I think I dance with my bones. That means I dance with the empty structure of my body, with some kind of emotion and energy inside. It is as if I am controlled by the space around me but still having a will from inside. I also identify my dance as “a sensual insect”. For Plexus, I loved to discover how the puppet dances with a soul, and this made me work on the choreography.

Run Riot: What was the working relationship with Aurélien Bory, and how do you navigate questions of authorship, meaning and choreographic vocabulary?

Kaori Ito: It all started as friends. We talked about a lot of things including personal experiences. He also came to see my shows and I went to see his. This made for a very intimate relationship and it helped us to work together. This sort of work is always a dialogue between people and we have communicated a lot in the process. I propose, he responds, he proposes, I respond…

Run Riot: You are both dancer and choreographer, and have worked closely with Alain Platel, Angelin Preljocaj, James Thierree, Guy Cassiers… a female dancer working with male choreographers. Does gender play a role in these collaborations?

Kaori Ito: Gender plays a role of course in these collaborations and it is true that I have been a “Muse” for all these choreographers and the result has been very different in each case. Alain has a vision of an animalistic female body. James - a sensual and contorted female body, and Angelin has a vision of a sensual but strong female body. I was, for them, a special female dancer who was not the typical body that they were looking for, and it was each time very special, as if they had each discovered different fantasy in my body.

PLEXUS is part of the London International Mime Festival 2015.

London International Mime Festival
8 - 31 January 2015

Compagnie 111 / Aurélien Bory / Kaori Ito (France/Japan)
UK Premiere
Sadler's Wells
Thu 22 & Fri 23 Jan


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