Archive for raves and rants

Dancewears principal designer, on stage and off | The Japan Times Online

Every artist must find that elusive balance, satisfying the audience without sacrificing oneself.  Not that I can call myself an artist (yet) but slinging emails and trading wordplay with editors has taught me a little of what an artist must face.  Witness my latest effort in Japan Times, published today — here is my original lede (opening) with my concluding paragraph of the entire article immediately following it:

Yumiko Takeshima’s childhood memories are swathed in silk. Dying fabrics in the kitchen sink with her father or fingering ornate, gold-shot material in Kyoto with her mother, Takeshima, as the fourth generation of a kimono making family, found the threads of her creativity within her own heritage. But her heart spun with dance. Today her life weaves together both strands of her artistry, as a professional dancer, and founder of a popular line of hand-made, custom designed dancewear. YUMIKO boasts a global online store and boutiques in New York City and Tokyo. Her career onstage continues to thrive, as a Principal for Semperoper Ballet in Germany.

Takeshima remains too busy to think much about the boost, although she admits, “I feel very lucky to have such support from dancers themselves.” Last week she wrapped up performances of “La Bayadere” on stage; her newest design, “The Alicia” premiered recently in the boutiques, a v-neck leotard with inspiration from the kimono itself; she started a new coloring scheme, ‘dip-dyes’ following her father’s work with gradients at the kitchen sink, and she just finished designing wings for another production with Dawson, this summer’s “timelapse/(Mnemosyne)” in Holland. Her future spins on one certainty: Takeshima’s life will remain a whirl of interlocking threads, design, and creativity – like her heritage itself.

Nice, interlocking symmetry, I thought, a rather clever way to link together fashion and dance–  but immediately NIXED by my editor, as ‘too creative for the Arts page’.

Now, I trust and like this editor, and I realize there is a definite style to each section of the newspaper, and the responsibility of the editor is to keep faithful to that style. (blahblahblah!)  I have only written two other pieces for the Arts Page, so I need to be a nodding, earnest student and listen solemnly and  learn.  BUT, but, but ,but……

Please now read the entire article, with my editor’s changes.  She moved up all my factual bits and pieces, adding in the creative parts later.

Dancewears principal designer, on stage and off | The Japan Times Online.
I am still proud of the piece, and I still want it to bear my name.  But, and the main but, really, is simply this:

Somehow, in some essential way, anyone could have written this piece now.  It is not mine any more.  (Perhaps that’s the point  — the article is about Yumiko Takeshima, after all, not Kris Kosaka. )

Now that I have indulgently, selfishly taken the entire post for mememememeME – please remember Yumiko san and her fabulous talent and her leotards and costumes. If you dance or do yoga or fitness — order one!  They are truly gorgeous on the skin.

She was a most gracious interviewee, even after just finishing  a run of performances with a travel-induced cold.  Thank you, Yumiko san.  Thank  you, artists everywhere, for putting up the fight but still satisfying your customers. Us, the audience.

Dancewears principal designer, on stage and off | The Japan Times Online.


Soul of your sole: Japonista!

These shoes reflect why I love Japan: the blend of ancient and modern, traditional and hip, funky and unfailingly polite.

After they shipped them, the company sent me an email with pictures of my package (presuming I did not read Japanese, and thus helping me know what to look out for in the mail, a great thoughtfulness that belies their youthful image).  They also included in my package Japanese okashi or sweets AND tabi socks to wear with my new tabi shoes (of course, I live in Japan, so I already have loads, but still — thoughtful, thoughtful!) ; the packaging itself is wonderful, but anyone who knows Japan knows how obsessive they are about wrapping things nicely.

AND, finally — MY SHOES — BLISS!  I read about JAPONISTA  a long while back and luckily remembered the company name when my walking shoes walked themselves holey on Monday. Japonista Sole tabi shoes are a bit pricey (11,000 yen or 120 dollars, same as good walking shoes here)  but they are comfortable and easy to walk in —  plus, dig their motto: soul of your sole.  (Feeds my soul, anyway.)

Or, as Ichiro Suzuki says, If your feet are healthy, you are healthy.  I could substitute in happy as well.  I am happy today.  Off for a walk in the lovely spring sunshine now. With my new shoes, baby.  Buy Japan! Go JAPONISTA.  (I am already thinking I really need a black pair, too, you know, just for a bit of variation……)


Maurice Béjart: Ballet for Life! Rave–

I am lucky enough to have tickets for Dances in the Mirror/ Bolero this weekend.  Here is a piece on Maurice Bejart I compiled for the lovely ladies at The Ballet Bag.


Rave for a dance master and fascinating human. Maurice Bejart!


Maurice Béjart: Ballet for Life.

Sonnet song for a ballet master –10/15 imagined.

Sonnets seethe, don’t they — beneath the controlled lines, iambic mutations and syllabic marches, sonnets roil as chaos contained in 14 lines.  Shakespeare, of course, reigns as the master, but many others delight me/depress me with the power of their feeling — Edna St. Vincent Millay’s are favorites, and whom I (pathetically) try to imitate here.

Below, my own most recent sonnet.  Forgive my ineptitude, Edna, and take only as my homage to a wondrous poetic form.  My rave for the sonnet.

Sonnet on 10/ 15

If you should ask me, one day, eyes cast down

if we might meet – I’ll let my eyes fall too

and trap the unsaid reasons that may sound

for no, to let my stumbled yes pass through.

You will pretend you can not hear my heart

skip twice, applauding thunder at your words.

Nodding, trading smiles we’ll move apart,

disguising our anticipation towards

what time, what place, what moment –overdue —

where we shall meet. Do not assume I want

your body pressed to mine; although I do,

I know how quickly bravo fades, hope taunts

then disappears in shadows, as we go

alone, onto the empty stage of souls.

Autumnal Equinox in me

Autumn took the overnight express this year, slamming out summer with its arrival one unexpectedly chilly night across Japan, leaving the previous day’s sweltering temperatures a distant memory.  I love autumn, especially considering I never experienced one until I was 26 years old.  Autumn in Florida means a slight chill when you get out of the water, short sleeves instead of halter tops.  My first glimpse of a Japanese ginko tree remains etched across my mind’s eye, and I eagerly wait for the end of Autumn to view these majestical golden trees, preening in their Fall coats.

For some reason, this autumn that I will pass 40 years, I wonder when I will enter the true autumn of my days.  I still feel summertime most days, fresh skies and unlimited horizons, but I sometimes long for the dignified crown of gold and brown hued elegance.  A lot is happening lately in my every day that signifies dreams and hopes, cloudy aspirations and lofty fantasies more at home in youthful hearts.  While part of me yearns for the idealistically stately serenity of mid-life, I have begun to suspect life does not weather with the predictability of seasons.  Occasionally I even feel the Spring-like discovery of a child, mostly through the eyes of my own children, and I hope ultimately to keep every season inside me.

Here’s to a bit of summer in the soul, as my body inches towards the midway point of existence.

Rave for Bruce

It was just so typically high-school, so gratingly girl.  I used to hesitate to tell people I liked/loved/obsessed over Bruce Springsteen, and only my sister could really understand my level of devotion — because she shared it. Yet, even now, 25 years after I first discovered him, his music feels like a letter written straight to me, and he has always showcased an America I could not see myself, with my sheltered sunshine life — but I felt it, in his songs.  He is the premier American Storyteller, and I am grateful for the emotion he always brings with his words.

Even though all his fans feel this way, I still adore the Boss, and I have shamelessly indoctrinated Shun and Kana, with videos and music, dancing and air guitar sessions.  Hope to see this documentary some time, from Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Bruce Springsteen News:

Dear Ms. Caterpillar

Dear Ms. Caterpillar:

I don’t mean to disturb your concentrated chewing, and I really don’t want to startle you – your perch upon that branch is not quite stable.

I only wondered how you do it – secrete the magic threads to reform your life into a creature capable of flight?  The secret would be safe with me. Your single-minded concentration is amazing; leaf by leaf you patiently work towards your own transformation.

My neighbor thinks you will be a moth, and is saddened that your yellow loveliness will soon stain to brown and drab, sentencing you to a life surrounded by darkness. I don’t care. I like you, and I know you will transform into something wondrous, even if you leave your bright beauty inside your cocoon.  You will reach the stars, even if it turns out to be the glitter of a streetlight —  I rave at your daring mechanical drive —

If I could only trade my cheery facade for the chance to fly –

Best of luck, Ms. Caterpillar. I wish you well.  I’ll see you somewhere in this galaxy.

Revisiting an old rant on behalf on Master Shakespeare

Sometime in the past fifteen years, a Creative Writing 101 technique moved with insidious deliberation across the face of modern fiction, a yawn now crippling the 21st century novel.

Call it ‘ The Shakespeare Syndrome’, and no book represents this phenomenon better than the recent NY Times Bestseller, Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The trend started many years ago in some cramped classroom, no doubt: I see eyes bouncing with word-saturated fervor suspended above a questioning goatee. “And what can I write, sir, if I have nothing to say?”

The answer, for everyone from the originator, James Joyce (Odysseus) to Jane Smiley ( King Lear), to Matt Haig ( Henry IV Part One, and Hamlet, again), to Oprah’s summer darling, David Wroblewski, (plus 583, 234 not yet published, MFA graduates) is pusillanimously simple: “Take a famous story for your plot — say, Hamlet — and work on your style, boy.”

And stylistically acrobatic they are, these pasted-up mockeries of originality. Mr. Wroblewski’s words somersault and glide across the page, showcasing his craft and deliberation nicely, rather like my leather-bound version of the Bard’s tragedy offsets the pine finish of my bookshelf. But genius? Creativity? Art? None of the above, sad to say, and I let the pages of this book swim from my fingers and splash at my feet, so dampened and dismayed I felt for the future of fiction.

Wroblewski chisels memorable, authentic characters, and then presses them onto a world manufactured towards devastation. Yes, cleverness is there: he makes highly intelligent, specially breeded ‘companion dogs’ the crux of the kingdom, his Hamlet is a mute, highly sympathetic lad, yes, his Claudius and (ger) Trudy reveal complexities of love and hatred that the original can not show. But genius would be finding a true home for Edgar Sawtelle and his story. Whittling away at words in a prefabricated frame– what beauty or redemption, moral or remonstration can be found if the end is assured by reading the back cover? For Edgar Sawtelle remains devastatingly true to its origins: the ending swells with almost laughable tragedy, as each character fulfills an assigned role to die, littering the pages with death and destruction nearly identical to Shakespeare’s original.

A drop or two of humanity is welcome in my reading, but I am not allergic to tragedy, provided it evolves from the characters, not some pre-ordained path from God Shakespeare. Of course, every writer borrows from every writer before, but what Mr. Wroblewski seems to ignore: at some point in every artistic endeavor, the muse overtakes and human intervention means little. That is genius, and cannot be replicated nor manufactured in a Creative Writing Factory.

Some artists can borrow to their own advantage, most notably Shakespeare himself, or James Joyce. But no one places Wroblewski, despite his commercial success or critical applause, on a Shakespearen or Joycean level of style. Style cannot resuscitate mediocrity; no matter where this stifling trend began, I hope angels soon fly it to its rest.

Posted to an online forum in 2008

Writer Gives Up Monogamy

Forget chocolate or champagne: I gave up monogamy for Lent. I live in the perfect country for this Quasi Religious Experience as Japan specializes in such transmogrifications. I fully expect to start a nationwide trend. Japan nimbly reworked Buddhism, adapted Christianity to suit Shinto sensibility, and even morphed Christmas into a couples holiday featuring strawberry poundcake and Kentucky Fried Chicken – undoubtedly, monogamy and Lent will suit Japanese sensibility to a T.

Heaven knows, my Japanese husband and I need some way to adhere to Japanese sensibility. Japanese value group dynamics, but my husband and I stand sadly outside the group of Sexless Marriage, the group of Convenience Couples, and the group of Deviant Japanese Sexual Practices – my husband nor I neither collect used underwear nor frequent hostess bars. We’ve exhausted all avenues, trying to fit in as a typical Japanese couple.

At the same time, I’m recalculating the benefits of monogamy. What price can I put on faithfulness, devotion, endurance, fortitude? Immeasurable, to be sure, and that’s where I run into trouble. Today’s society knows the value and the price of everything. Even intangibles must be carefully accounted for, and when I measure up monogamy against, say, a romantic motorbike trundle to the countryside with my daughter’s Handsome Piano Sensei, how can monogamy with my husband of 11 years compute? Although I have not yet negotiated the specifics of this proposed merger with Handsome Piano Sensei, I am sure he will recognize the advantages of this transitory Foreign acquisition. Japanese seem consistently eager to engage in some transaction with a Western Foreigner.

Transactions rule the day in modern society, and as a species, an abundance of evidence supports diversity of transactions, from evolutionary to biological to anecdotal to emotional – spending a lifetime with one, single person presents measureless hardship. Facing your own growth with the handicap of another’s sometimes discordant growth, hurdling ennui, grappling the demons of time and age – nearly impossible alone, but with someone else, reminding you along the way of what you once were and what you can no longer be— it’s enough to make anyone convert completely to Catholicism, instead of taking the sections most expedient and profitable, like most of us.

To ensure no one misunderstands my calculations, let me declare my intent to practice Limited Monogamy on more than one partner. How fiscally unsound to trade one exclusive merger for another. I am currently considering, in addition to said Handsome Piano Sensei, my Package Delivery Man or Stranger on the Train. I admit a preference towards Stranger; there are all sorts of potential risks involved with someone who knows my address. Better to find a willing Stranger, as the investment becomes nearly risk-free, provided we protect our expenditures, and is sure to reap maximum transitory benefits on both sides.

Advisors, be assured: my Limited Monogamy is only for Lent. It is not emotionally nor financially viable to trade in my mostly happy life to start over with another partner. Three children have been added to the equation of matrimony, and even if I accepted the Rationality that my husband and I could raise them just as efficiently while maintaining separate households, the amount of energy required to enact this situation is surely greater than the energy required to continue as is, in mostly content domesticity. No, the answer surely lies with an irresponsible but meaningless fling, a statement to myself and the world that I do recognize the fundamentally value-less and priceless choice of monogamy.

In this day and age, monogamy equates with social standing; the wealthy or famous can and mostly do choose to invest their time and passion in multiple ventures. Show me a wealthy or famous couple still together after years of monogamy and I give you the last indicator of true wealth on the planet – a person who invests in honest affection. Such persons are rare indeed, but surely fail to recognize the considerable value of their own holdings. My own foray into Limited Monogamy neatly represents my efforts to diversify my portfolio, assert my social savvy, and navigate the aging process with a bit of insurance. With so many choosing to forsake monogamy, the risk to myself, if I practice alone, rises exponentially.

All in all, Limited Monogamy, especially when practiced in accordance to accepted, religious pretensions of sacrifice, can only elevate my personal stock. With a keen eye towards our Futures investment, my husband will surely welcome any such appreciation in my value.