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The Deathly Art of Japanese Ballet

Muse to Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, KaoRi expresses death through her unique solo performances

Best known as muse to the legendary Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki's, KaoRi is both a dancer and performer. Having learned different dances from all around the world, she is now based in Tokyo, Japan. A few months ago she wrote her own ballet, collaborating with Japanese creators such as musician Kazuki Arima and fashion designers Yoshikazu Yamagata and Yuima Nakazato. KaoRi talks about the creation process of her first performance at Shinsekai Theatre.

Dazed Digital: What inspired you to write a ballet?

KaoRi: I performed a ballet lesson at my friend's theatre, and people offered me a solo ballet performance straight after. I watched my friend Leos Carax's film Holy Motors to get inspiration.

DD: You've performed on many different stages, but did you have any difficulty with a more cabaret-like atmosphere? Is it very different?

KaoRi: The video of the performance is different from the stage itself, so you might not be able to see what it looked like in real-life. I quite enjoyed the close proximity between the stage and audience. My stage is usually photoshoot sets, not theatres. I'm in magazines and photography books and people know that I'm a dancer, but they haven't seen me dance in the flesh. It was great to be able to dance in front of people for real.

DD: Talk us through the creation process.

KaoRi: By mixing different things such as fashion, music and film, I wanted to make a stage, not as a single art, but more as a mix of mediums. I asked the musician Kazuki Arima - a member of Japanese band Otogivanashi - to perform at the last minute. He came back to Tokyo from Osaka where he had been touring. I love his music and the nostalgia that he creates. I really appreciated everyone's efforts in helping. It made that night a dream.

DD: The performance was a mixture of different kinds of dances. What type of dancer are you and what were you trying to express through your performce that night?

KaoRi: I decided to pursue dancing as a career when I was 18, because someone very important in my life died. A living body had suddenly become just a flesh and ashes. No words could describes my shock. It will take a very long time to overcome, but I want to express that emotion through my dancing. I think there are lots of important elements to being a professional dancer. I don't feel anything when I'm dancing or being photographed. But I understand things afterwards.

D&C: How did you feel about the set and costumes?

KaoRi: The lack of preparation time and imperfect quality of the event created a unique atmosphere.

DD: Tell us how Yoshikazu Yamagata created those stage sets and costumes...

KaoRi: I didn't actually know what he was making until the night of the performance. He brought me super stiff customized leotards with details on, and I was really surprised! He changed things right before the performance, but it wasn't stressful. He transformed that fear into excitement, which is the way he lives and creates. I'm pretty sure that he wants to surprise people!

DD: How about Yuima Nakazato?

KaoRi: He responded well each time I send him requests, so I was quite well prepared. He is simply a great designer who understands what I require and how to present your body well. The last garment is very well made. I often take off costumes when I dance as they distract me, but Yuima's costume was different. It was very comfortable and I felt sexier wearing it than when I took it off at the end.

DD: What's your next plan?

KaoRi: I'm always impressed by my students at ballet classes, so I'd like to organize a school dance performance. Besides that, I want to create a piece with children and also want to focus on solo choreography. 

DD: What is your dream performance?

KaoRi: I want to dance my own versions of Ravel's Bolero and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.