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Conspicuous Movement: Mei Yamanaka

We have a deep love of dance here at ARCANISA, especially contemporary dance. On a warm Wednesday in June, we sat on temporary bleachers at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to watch the opening of the Wave Rising Series, a program dedicated to introducing emerging dance-makers. The success of the performances varied, but the piece by Mei Yamanaka, accompanied by Misuzu Hara, took our breath away.

Choreographed by Yamanaka, the dance, entitled Now Now, depicted a fluid but athletic conversation between the dancers. Their bodies tangled between one another’s before engaging in a series of marionette movements where one dancer manipulated the body of the other in a powerfully intimate yet somber physical discussion. We felt their relationship, we felt how they felt, and it was simply moving. After the performances concluded, we looked eagerly for Yamanaka during the reception but we were unsuccessful until, upon leaving the venue, we found her leaning alone against the stones of the building, taking in the city night away from the party. She had performed for us with vulnerability, sincerity, and force and that was the extent to which she wanted to engage with her audience. It was perfection.

Continuing with this elusiveness of sharing from afar, Yamanaka regularly takes to Instagram to post improvisational dances, performed with spontaneity and disregard for surrounding, in public and private spaces around the world. Her generously fluid movements trace the space in front of parks, storage facilities, busy streets and intimate bedrooms alike. The noise of traffic, rain, and her mother’s piano practice narrate her body as she transforms mundane and overlooked sites into stages. Free from any introduction or description, her captions simply catalog the date of the piece in generic month/day form. Yamanaka writes “there are so many layers [to dance]. Body, Brain, Connection, Disconnection, Allowed, Resist, Space, Inside, Outside” and how better to exemplify that complexity than by highlighting it through unassuming and unperturbed environment.

"I often gather inspiration from my daily life and I am always on the lookout to catch interesting scenes. I am exploring how to use space, how to pause, how to use the body, the direction of focus... I believe that even if I can't solve any major problems of the world directly, as I dance and make dance, it helps the world to heal and be better. I believe I can create and send good energy to the earth as a dancer and a choreographer." - Yamanaka

Passersby look on with confusion and captivation as she unapologetically expresses with powerful range and undeniable emotion. We love how her shoes sound against the ground as she turns, how her extensions burst with intention and fearlessness and how she graces the world and our social media feeds with art. We feel utterly invested in her travels now, as we eagerly wait to see where she next choses to host her impromptu performances!


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