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  • Writer's pictureMegumi Eda

How I met with Yoshiko Chuma

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

I came across one colorful but not really fashionable photo on Facebook... it somehow caught my eye because it took me back to a nostalgic place..: maybe it was the unpretentious smiles on their faces. It was Yoshiko Chuma among her local friends in Palestine standing in the middle of an exotic Middle Eastern market. I have never been to Palestine but I probably felt a connection with that picture. I wrote to her spontaneously - just one sentence: "Why are you there?” That was our beginning.

I don’t remember if she answered my question, but I received a message right after: “I am Yoshiko Chuma. I have seen your dancing before. I want to talk with you. Can you tell me your number?”. She told me after if I hadn’t written that comment we wouldn’t be working together now. She liked it simply because I was curious.

Then we talked on the phone on the same day during my commute from Mana Contemporary Art to Journal Square station in NJ after work. Then over time we would meet in the cafes and we just talked. She explained a lot of things.. like how her work is not always about getting sweaty, "Fine!” I might have to be a technician “Fine!” I might not be appearing on stage as much as I expected “Fine!” if I have questions I can’t get always answers or there is not even an answer to the question “Fine!” I cannot expect to get paid a lot “ummm Fine!” etc.. I was open to everything and I started sinking into Yoshiko’s world. I would watch the YouTube videos (politics, history, art documentary, even Japanese reality shows etc..) that I was sent by Yoshiko and check and read biographies that Yoshiko mentioned-a lot of names one after another: Rudy, Edwin, Claire, Fukiko, Matazo, Simone, Kyoko, Steve, Sasha, Meg, Ralf, William...they would just flow out of her mouth more and more... it wasn't easy to keep up. “Megumi chan, you know nothing “ she always says. “Yes I know nothing” I always say.

One time I expressed that I love films and I know how to do basic editing because my husband taught me. Yoshiko said “Why don’t you try?” I brought a camera into the rehearsals and performances and started filming /documenting and making films which became my thing.

After spending some time with her, she opened me up on how to look at things and art. Even when doing ballet technique, how you think can make a big difference and it’s a different way from academic ballet teaching. And for Yoshiko, ballet, dance, theater, music, poems, architecture, politics, cities, people: it’s all one thing.

She has an ability to bring people together and make connections with people - that's how she established herself I feel.

We often talk on the phone after midnight when she knows I am free. It's after my kids have gone to bed and also after my little nap with them. I get up and start working around midnight and she calls me.

This is not a typical way of working but her power pushes me. In the traditional dance world I am a veteran and almost retired, but around Yoshiko I am still a baby. She is a very heavy personality but I will stick with her for a long time.

*************** This is the latest film I made when Yoshiko and 2 other lovely artists Lori E Seid , Dona Ann McAdams were honored by Movement Research at the Movement Research 2018 Gala on April 30th. I was walking around the party with a camera.

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