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Yoshiko Chuma

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Title: Yoshiko Chuma  
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Subject: Ralph Lee, Colin Dunne, Bessie Awards, Sasha Waltz, Nina Winthrop
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Yoshiko Chuma

Yoshiko Chuma (中馬 芳子 Chūma Yoshiko?, born in Osaka, Japan) is a dancer, a choreographer and the director of the Bessie Award winning performance art group The School of Hard Knocks.[1][2] Described in 2007 by Bloomberg as "a fixture on New York's downtown scene for over a quarter- century", her work spans from early "absurdist gaiety" to more recent serious reflection, which nevertheless represents the "maverick imagination and crazy-quilt multimedia work" for which the artist is known.[3] Dance commentators have found her work difficult to classify; in a 2006 profile, Dance Magazine speculated that "One might call her a postmodern choreographer, a movement designer, or a visual artist whose primary medium is human beings--dancers, musicians, pedestrians".[4] Chuma favors abstract art and discourages efforts to interpret her work, telling Bloomberg that "What I do is ambiguous. I don't have a statement. If I had a statement, I'd be a writer".[3] In 2007, Chuma received a Bessie Award honoring her sustained achievements as a choreographer.[5]


Chuma arrived in the United States from her native Japan in 1977, settling in Manhattan and subsequently becoming a leader in modern American dance.[2][4] In 2007, The New York Times remarked on her involvement "in one of the great populist moments in New York dance" when, in 1988, she staged an audience-participatory performance art swim-dance in the Astoria pools in Queens.[6] Her avant-garde pieces have included the seven-hour long "Sundown", an exploration of cubism mounted at Issue Project Space in 2006.[7]

In addition to directing The School of Hard Knocks, Chuma also directed the Daghdha Dance Company of Ireland, commuting internationally between 2000 and 2004.[4]


Chuma cites American television as a major part of her childhood, and critics have detected influence in her "raucous dance/music/theater spectacles on American pop themes".[8] She has also been inspired by Japanese cinema.[4] Specific art influences include the school of minimalism and the opera Einstein on the Beach.[4] After meeting notable beat poet Allen Ginsberg, she incorporated into her dances his philosophy on spontaneity, encapsulated in his phrase "First thought, best thought."[4][9] Chuma also credits artist Alex Katz and composer Alvin Curran as among her diverse inspirations.[4]

The School of Hard Knocks

The School of Hard Knocks, more fully titled "Yoshiko Chuma & The School of Hard Knocks,"[4] was founded in 1982 and is located in New York.[8] The name was inspired by Chuma's interest in American idioms during her early days in the United States.[4] In 1984, the group received a Bessie Award for its Collective Work.[5]


Further reading and listening

  • (1987) review, The New York Times.
  • Daghdha Dance Company review (2001), Dance Magazine
  • (2003), Irish Times
  • Village Voice
  • (2007) review, The New York Times.
  • (2009) review, The New York Times
  • Village Voice
  • (2008) review, The New York Times
  • [1]The New York Times.
  • (recorded interview with Yoshiko Chuma), Kadmus Arts
  • (2010) review The New York Times
  • (2010) review Japan Times

External links

  • Official website
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