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Ayaka Miwa: words to movement: with Mio Sakamoto & Yui Ugai

Creator, Performer

Ayaka Miwa - Choreographic Marathon 2019


  • To tell a story without words

  • to change theatrical duet to a dance solo

  • keep the spirit of a child when making a work

  • to use voice as expressive element but not text

  • to learn more about how dance artists make their dances

  • to interact and gain confidence with artists in a foreign language and environment

Beginning with:

  • text: short story “The cop and the anthem” by O. Henry

  • material from a theatrical duet based on the story

  • literal dialogue between performers

  • 2 characters: narrator and persona

  • movement material that was exaggerated naturalism


  • find new ways to be inspired


  • to tell the story as pure physical expression, without pantomime and literal actions

  • let go of right-wrong when experimenting

  • don’t decide on structures and movements too early in the creation sessions.

  • working from sensation

  • recall of material that has come from improvisation

  • accept that it is useful to not know what you are doing for a while

  • identify essential aspects of translated feedback


  • Japanese-Canadian artists full-time with Ayaka - interpreters of both words and movements.

  • At every moment differentiate between narrator-persona

  • Transition from theatrical to dance performance: discover characters’ physicality, improvise with known material restricting facial expressions, give specific places on the stage different meanings and move character through those places.

  • Recall and perform a small section of known material (part of the story), then do it longer (e.g. 5 min extends to 15min), pull out the most essential qualities, try to perform the qualities only (without the imposition of a dramatic arch).

  • Try to share story in 5 minutes

  • Allow vocalization to come from the movement.

Role of collaborating artists:

  • The Second (Mio) interpreted Ayaka’s physicality. Ayaka watched. They gave word descriptions (dance perspective) for each section (e.g. jerky, constrained, undulate, revolve) then Ayaka performed with Second watching.


  • Possible to be specific in the unknown.

  • Importance of contrasts

  • Once she experienced embodied performance of story’s themes, she gave up the insistence on dividing the action between 2 different characters and began to dance the experience of the story.

Development and Skill-building:

  • To use free improvisation as a tool.

  • Ability to stick with an improvisation experiment long enough to find lots of unexpected material.

  • Hold on the material that you like.

  • Once the movement is set, forget about the story, explore it as pure movement.

  • Technical learning (self-taught): safe ways to drop suddenly to the ground and rise.

Questions from mentors:

In your goal to make a dance, how important is it that we (audience) know the details of the story that inspired your dance? Your answer will be an important determiner of the form of your finished work.

General observations:

  • It is necessary to accept “not knowing” as part of the creative process.

Discussion points:

  • Timing of vocalization matched timing of the movement. Was it this convergence that suggested narrative?

  • Positive creative process is stepping Inside the Unknown> particularly when aspiring to make work that is new to one’s self. This approach supports> curious, surprised, searching, watchful, and.... Confusion, being lost, bored, disappointed (etc) does not have to be painful nor scary.

  • If creating a dance from a theatrical performance, and creating a non-verbal performance inspired by literary text can be called forms of translation, consider that a good translation delivers the essential information of what is being said in the original language, a great translation delivers both the essentials and the essence of what is being conveyed (through the second language’s energy, force, time, tension, form, action).

To practice:

  • Embodying essential elements: take a short story/poem, divide it into sections, dance a section, look back and decide what in the dance brought out essential dynamics of that section. Leave it.

  • Dance and vocalize freely... often (no stories!)

  • Training the Recall of movement details: improvise for 5 minutes, try to repeat what you did. Increase the length of time as your recall abilities improve. (Don’t video to check accuracy! It is about training sensory memory. It will naturally happen with practice.)

  • Choose a single skill you

What you are doing next:

“At the Choreographic Marathon, I learned that I could use my body to express myself even in countries with different languages, and through my experience there I gained confidence.

In 2020, I will continue that self-challenge in a theater tour in the UK.

I will continue to work on my skills: “How to use the body” and “face my own voice.”

The next time I meet mentors, I promise to be an evolved me!

Thank you so much.”


Key words: essential, essence, evolution, evolve, challenge, delight

Ayaka MIWA (2019)

Actor and director in Japan. Training and performance: Noh Theatre, Japanese traditional dance, western ballet & jazz. Haiyuuza-Theater company Institute of Drama Science (Tokyo,Japan) April 2009 - March 2010 especially Stanislavski System and Alexander Technique. Bungakuza-Theater company Institute of Drama Science (Tokyo,Japan) April 2011 - March 2012 . Music: Senzoku Gakuen College of Music (Kanagawa,Japan) Bachelor of Music and Music Education , April 2005 - March 2009 specialties voice, piano.In 2018 Miwa won 2nd place at Smash Cabaret Tokyo.

Takako Segawa - Ayako Miwa - Choreographic Marathon 2019

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