I’ve collaborated with many dancers and performers over the past fifteen years or so, creating projected imagery and other visual elements to integrate with live performances. Among all of them, my collaboration with dancer Mana Hashimoto has been unique.
Mana, who trained as a musician at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston, lost her sight completely as a young adult. Since that time she has pursued an international career as a solo dance artist, while raising a daughter as a single mother. Despite all her challenges, Mana has a beatific smile and a funny laugh. Her performances are personal journeys, often involving interactions with hard and awkward objects. She also leads workshops on “Dance without Sight”, guiding her students to explore their own environment and to observe the movement of others through touch and the other non-visual senses.
I’ve collaborated with Mana on several performances. Mana has a strong visual imagination and always has visual ideas for her pieces. With other collaborators, I show them things and see what they think, working towards realizing their ideas. With Mana I have to describe everything to her, trying to convey to her the total visual effect of the images I am providing in combination with her movement and presence on stage.
Mana’s newest piece, called Journey, is being presented at CRS in Manhattan tonight through Sunday (May 1-3). It incorporates video that Mana shot during her travels last winter in Finland and Poland on a performance tour. I edited the video and worked on integrating it with the performance. (Marijke Eliasberg is presenting a separate piece in this program, a complex choreography that rearranges thirteen dancers into ever-changing combinations.)
Of course, Mana could not see what she was filming. She had to show the video to others and have them describe the content. But the images she provided are lovely, and it was amazing how easily they fell into place in the performance, and how well they go with the music and the movement. A sighted person tends to frame the video around focal points of attention, but Mana’s video becomes an environment and lets her performance be the focal point.
I am, even more than usual, a visually oriented person, and my consciousness tends to rest right behind the eyes. But there is much to be learned from closing the eyes. Working with an artist who cannot see makes me see, and feel, in new ways.