Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Talking Duet: Two Women Artists Seeking Mutual Understanding

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

Two artists/dancers/activists. A Japanese woman living in the US. A Vietnamese French woman living in France. They meet and ask: Why did you come to America? What did you learn in Japan? What concerns you? Parenting? Caring for aging parents? The attacks in Paris? Fukushima?  

They start to answer by dancing. As candidly as possible, sometimes with words, sometimes without. Separated and sometimes together. Eiko talks on stage for the first time in her career.

In 2013 Vietnamese French contemporary choreographer Emmanuelle Huynh reached out to Eiko Otake. Otake is a Japanese butoh-style dancer who has worked in the US in partnership with her husband, Takashi Otake (they are called “Eiko and Koma”) for forty years. Otake had just begun performing solo work, as well as collaborations with other artists. Together, the two developed a structured improvisation called Talking Duet. As the title implies, talking is a central element of the work. 


Huynh and Otake are interested in understanding each other, as artists and women. This paper explores the intersections and disjunctions they find across their different kinesthetic trainings and aesthetics, as well as their Asian identities, and experiences as women. I examine Talking Duet for its combination of verbal and corporeal methods, and misunderstandings and losses in translation. More importantly, I shine a light on the hope and love across Asian women’s lives that Talking Duet evokes.

SanSan Kwan

University of California, United States

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