Issue 014 Mirai Moriyama & Inbal Pinto
Living in a Miracle
Based on a short story written by Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s during the COVID-19 lockdown, OUTSIDE is a short film currently being shown online. The film was made during a particular time when mobility was restricted internationally, leaving creators with little but to rely on online tools. The two notable creators involved in this Israeli-Japanese filmic adaptation are Inbal Pinto and Mirai Moriyama. Pinto has staged and choreographed a number of works by her own Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company and others, both in Japan and domestically, and Moriyama is an actor-dancer who has a long creative relationship with Pinto.
The film narrates a situation that takes place after a 120-day isolation, depicting the interaction between a woman who refuses to go outside and a man inside her television, who is played by Moriyama. Conveying a sense of loss and drifting with a certain eeriness, the plot is one that can be empathised with universally, as we all experience physical and emotional transitions over the past few months.
Through an online conversation with Pinto and Moriyama, the two shared their thoughts on their experience of creating in the midst of a shift to a new world, how they coped with the pandemic as artists, and their hopes for the future.
A miracle full of energy created by human connection
---How did you first get involved in this project?
Mirai I first heard about this project at the beginning of May, from Inbal and Mr. Arieh Rosen (Culture and Science Affairs Attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Japan). Inbal and I first met at The Cat That Lived a Million Times, a Japanese play in 2013, which led to my year as an envoy of cultural exchange with Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company. Later on, WALLFLOWER, the dance piece we worked on together, was staged at the Tokyo Modern Art Museum. We both went back and forth between Israel and Japan, and we searched for the opportunity to work together again somehow, then this project happened.
---Moran Miller, who has danced at Pinto’s company, and musician Umitaro Abe, who has composed music for both The Cat That Lived a Million Times and WALLFLOWER, were also involved in OUTSIDE.
Mirai Moran joined the company after I left, but we both worked together on the Japanese performance of WALLFLOWER. I was also at the two productions which Umitaro joined as you’ve mentioned. He has also made music for SAL, a duet performance by myself and Ella Rothschild who was the assistant choreographer for The Cat That Lived a Million Times. The venue for that was Spiral, which we also used this time to shoot OUTSIDE... everyone is connected somehow.
---So there were pre-existing relationships within the crew of OUTSIDE. Though, this time the situation is very different, affecting all the work done in real life in studios and theaters. How did you prepare for the shoot?
Mirai (In the film) the woman inside the house (Moran) and the man inside the television, who appears to be a government official, interact and begin to have a much more personal conversation. The idea of the “box”, an enclosed space being the television, and the costumes were already there from the start. In the film I speak more than I dance, so Etgar and Pinto gave me a lot of directions on the nuanced way they wanted me to speak. We had about two or three of these sessions before shooting.
We experimented with my movements inside the box with a prototype before the shoot, but we didn’t have actual choreography until the day of the shoot when we had the real box.
Photo: Noam Levinger
---How was the shoot? Did the relationship between the director and performer change?
Mirai We shot while receiving directions from Etgar and Pinto through online video, so it was quite a lengthy process. I wanted to convey the subtle nuances directly to them, but this is hard with video calls. But Inbal and I have a long artistic relationship, so her intuition, what she visually expects from one’s body, or the nuances of her words were instinctual to me.
---You two share a mutual understanding from having worked together in the past.
Mirai Inbal has worked in Japan several times, although she does not understand the language precisely, she is familiar with the Japanese mentality, expressions, and the way people speak. I sense she is able to comprehend my acting even when it is all in Japanese. Dance, unlike drama in which most of the communication is done through words, is a world where you can communicate and apprehend what is happening without the use of words. You know there is this kind of physicality that arises just from a person’s existence. No matter how beautiful the form of the movement is, choreographers observe the humanity and emotions behind it. Not limited to choreographers, I think splendid artists dialogue on those levels, and Inbal is one of those people.
---How did the Japanese film crew get together?
Mirai I was asked by Inbal if there were any staff who could actualise our ideas within this limited time, so I contacted people who I have always worked with. My connection to Kyuukakuushio (a creative unit by Moriyama and dancer/choreographer Tomohiko Tsuji dating back to 2010) whose online streaming projects I participated in during the lockdown, were a particularly big help. Specifically Takashi Kawachi (stage technician), Sou Matsuzawa (director of photography) who had been based in Israel before, and Raku Nakahara for post-recording. Spiral (run by Wacoal Art Center) was in charge of production management. Every sector of the performing arts had been dealing with challenges, so everyone was “starving”, contributing to an overall ephemeral motivation for this project. The biggest miracle of all was that throughout an unstable communication process, despite the time constraints, people gathered to create something with tremendous energy and polished quality. It was literally two weeks – It could not have happened without people’s connections, without our bonds. I was very moved by it all. Like the old saying goes, misfortune turned into fortune.
Photo: Noam Levinger
The chance hidden in a paradigm shift
---The state of emergency in Japan, lacking any legal restraints, may not have been very severe compared to other country’s lockdowns. Through the creation of this film, did you feel any difference of awareness to self-isolation from non-Japanese crew members?
Mirai I didn’t notice anything in particular. Of course, the relationship between the Israeli army and its citizens is not something we can imagine in our own daily lives, like the pressure applied upon them, like how they could be thrown down onto the ground by the army if they go outside without a proper permit. In OUTSIDE, there is a line that reads “You have a vague memory of a skinny kid just sprouting a mustache throwing a stone at you”. This is an event the man reminds the woman about, of her own life before the four month lockdown. When I was in Israel, I was spat on by an Arabic kid from the top of a building. I wondered if I was the target of a classic prank, or of some kind of discrimination toward Asians, either way I just happened to be in a certain place at a certain time. After I read Etgar’s writing, I realized it was just one of those day-to-day incidents carrying disparity and opposition, which any normal Israeli would experience.
This kind of detail may not apply to some people, but in a broader view, I thought the overall story is universal enough to be shared with anyone in the world. Just like this remote communication we are experiencing right now,the process of people getting close or distant is something universal.
---There were numerous online experiments done in Japan. How did you feel about them after experiencing the creation of OUTSIDE?
Mirai Hmm, I can’t have an overhead view of this situation just yet. The moment some kind of content is shared via the Internet, it becomes open to everyone globally, but considering the creation itself, we are in a situation where we need to create locally and domestically. After driving towards globalization, Japanese train stations became so similar to each other after development, and now you can could go to the same fast fashion stores in any city in any country of the world. People improved the system of connecting to each other from afar, but as a consequence, we ended up hardly making any actual sense of it. But the creations happening during this pandemic period may hold the chance to stimulate consciousness.
---True, it is hard to make conclusions about something in the midst of a paradigm shift. What exactly is this “chance”?
Mirai Creation happening during this time in the world is likely to be made through limited physicality and time, holding harmony of energy, roughness, and technique. I think there is some kind of incompleteness while pursuing quality, so I wonder how it is perceived.
What happens when people with abundant careers and techniques keep experimenting? Some new creations may remain as new media with the new generation. This hypothesis makes the way we look at current creations differently. It may be a specific piece or the act itself –we never have a clue about what will be created in the future and what will change our values, but it makes me feel excited.
-This particular time lets us see the balance of familiar and unfamiliar in a different way.
Mirai At first I was resistant to remote communication, but eventually you get used to it. When you meet someone in real life later on, it makes you surprised like, “Oh you’re 3D!” (laughs). It made me appreciate the things that do take place in real life. Maybe one day when we create something through real life communication, I may be more strongly moved by it.
---Those kinds of emotions may change the way creation and media relate to each other.
Mirai One thing I always thought, even while participating in other online streaming project during the lockdown, was that I did not want it to end up as a cut-out movie archive of a stage performance. I did not want viewers to think “I wish I could go to the theater and see it live instead”. When a work is shown through film, it should be seen because it is film, not as a substitutional medium. This is what I felt during this period of time. I hope OUTSIDE will create possibilities for a new form of expression.
---It is said that we are entering a time of coexistence with COVID-19, possibly allowing more people to question and experiment art forms. Do you think your creative approach will change in the future?
Mirai Through recent years I have been creating my own work, so I will keep being conscious of what I want to convey in it. When I get involved in the creative process as a pure performer – actually this is what I learned from Pinto – dialogue is essential. A dialogue in creation is not a hierarchical act but the other way around. Sharing what would make the work more interesting, discussing until we figure it out, “If you’re going that way I’m moving this way”—those kinds of conversations are what I have always been doing, and will never change wherever I go.
Maybe things are going to change drastically, maybe not. But I have made a living with my body through it all. For instance, I cannot draw a series of paintings and exhibit them in museums around the world, I can only take my body somewhere to have it presented. That won’t change, or perhaps I should say, can’t change.
---There are many creators worldwide reading/submitting their works to Alexandre Magazine. A message to creators living at this particular moment?
Mirai Let’s meet in real life some day!
Living in a miracle when the world and people are becoming closer
---Tell us how this project started initially.
Inbal It started in early May, when everyone in the world was locked in their homes. At that time I was
supposed to direct at the Israeli Opera, and in Japan the show I created based on Haruki Murakami's
“wind-up bird chronicle” dropped prematurely. There was a sense of uncertainty and vulnerability.
I was looking for new paths to create, that would suit the limitations of the period–Understanding that this crisis may remain with us for some time.
It was about a month and a half into quarantine, when I received the phone call from Arie Rosen,
the cultural attaché at the Israeli embassy in Japan. 'Let's do something' he said, and I
enthusiastically replied 'Let's do', not knowing exactly what (laughs)
---Why did you base the film on Etgar Keret’s OUTSIDE?
Inbal It was Arieh's idea to collaborate with writer Etgar Keret. When I read the story "Outside" I thought it was brilliantly written, which manages to sum up the existence of the period into a short story.
Only recently have I realized that although Etgar's stories touch between reality and imagination,
they are not only a reflection of life, they are also a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the day we announced the screening of the film in Japan, an article appeared in the Asahi
newspaper asking people to leave their houses, what called-" To Go "project. Just like in the story
of the Etgar.
Photo: Lielle Sand
---Minds alike happening globally! How did you proceed the casting after deciding to use Etgar’s story?
Inbal Etgar and I started a dialogue about the story. Many proposals were made that changed according
to the reality that surrounded us. Dancer Moran Miller, with whom I have been working for several
years, joined the meetings. It was important to me that the language of movement from which I
create and the textual world of Etgar merge into one language. Once the script became clear, we
contacted Mirai Moriyama and musician Umitro Abe - Unique artists who have collaborated with me in the past.
---I presume there was limited time as whole, as well as on-set film shooting. How did you prepare beforehand?
Inbal It was a big challenge to finish and release the film during this pandemic period, which left us with very limited time. We could only work on set for one day, so everything was designed in my apartment, to understand a lot of things through imagination - how things work, the movement after, the interaction between Mirai and Moran. We did rehearsals with Mirai through online video, Etgar and I also gave him instructions made separately from Moran. In the sessions we conveyed the playful ideas, intentions and movements of the character and examined by the simplest means the way we communicate through screens, as we do right now ... like this (smiling as she approaches her face closer to the display).
---Like what Mirai does in the film. I bet everyone has experience doing that while having an online video chat. Any other particular ways to share ideas with Mirai?
Inbal I also showed him images I have drawn. It’s one of my “tools” to bring people into my world and let them understand a glimpse of it.
Drawing: Inbal Pinto
Inbal Mirai and I collaborated many times, we shared many ideas and knowledge. It was very comfortable to communicate in that sense. He naturally understands and conveys my style, and my movement aesthetics. When you have a long artistic relationship, communication is beyond language and word. Mirai is a multi-talented artist. Working with him allows for a wide range of expressions.
---Mirai also talked he was deeply moved at the way people collaborated for this project, everything in positive spontaneity. He also emphasized the importance of existing bonds, having mutual understanding.
Inbal We all shared a similar reality. We brought together an amazing creative team in Tokyo and Tel Aviv. We were all in a sense of excitement, of the alternative opportunity to create, during this crisis. It could not have happened in other circumstances.
---What was the difference between working on stage and film?
Inbal In dance, the process does not end on the eve of the premiere. It continues even after the work takes the stage. I always continue to explore and deepen the work. I remember the day after we finished filming, I woke up with many thoughts about what I want to change and improve from yesterday. Later I realized that the gameplay is different, and many options are also in the editing stages.
---What was your overall discovery through this creation?
Inbal It was a miracle, because we are making the world smaller, making people far apart become close. Look at how we could actually create something while we were locked inside our houses but still find a channel to connect to each other.
Personally, the fascinating leap into the world of film has left me with a strong taste for more.
Keep moving like water within the change of boundaries
---Getting back to the story of OUTSIDE, how do you think it relates to humanity?
Inbal The story is from the point of view of a woman who is locked in her home. It is possible to understand that she is an Israeli woman, but the emotional moves narrated can be reflected in each and every one of us. The almost fictional reality of seclusion and social isolation and their impact on the psyche touches us all.
---Any predictions of what will happen after this period?
Inbal I’m optimistic. I believe that when the world gets back on track, the performing arts will be in bloom. Culture and a direct encounter of an artist-audience are food for the soul. But at the same time, I hope that new angles of expression will be develop, as a result of the situation today.
---Entering a time of coexistence with COVID-19, do you think your creative approach will change?
Inbal I'm like water. I think all artists are...Being fluid and flexible within the change of boundaries. Limitation is a good thing for creative process, it makes me think of new expressions. I found myself with new ideas growing inside me more and more. I would not have worked on a film without it. It was a new platform for choreography and creation, which I learned to reevaluate during this project. A major health and economic crisis is occurring around the world, making it difficult for all of us. But from my point of view as a creator, the limitation is arranging growth. I will find the cracks where art can exist. I'm curious about the new possibilities.
---I really love your idea of being fluid, like water.
Inbal Movement is both a physical and a mental thing. As long as there is thought of moving forward, new possibilities will be created. It should be remembered that this whole project started from a small movement, one single phone call (from Mr.Rosen) that brought people from different countries to collaborate, which ended in a this seven-minute film.
Interview & Translate : Ayae Takise
Photo: Noam Levinger
Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1984. From the age of five, he learned various dance styles, and at the age of fifteen, he was a stage performer. Since then, he has been active as an artist who is not bound by categories such as dance, theater, and video. In 2013, he perfomed in the musical "A Cat Lives 1 million times", which was choreographed and directed by Inbal Pinto, with this chemistry, he stayed in Israel for a year as a cultural envoy of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho), basing in the Inbal Punt & Avshallom Pollak Dance Company, and working European countries as well. After that, he became an artist who is closely related to Israel, such as "WALLFLOWER" (MOT) and "JUDAS, CHRIST WITH SOY" based on the novel of Osamu Dazai with Ella Rothschild.The movie "Underdog" will be released on November 27th.
Photo: Lielle Sand
Choreographer, director, set and costume designer, was born in Israel. She established the Inbal Pinto Dance Company in 1992, and was the artistic director until 2018.
During these years she presented many dance works including Dio-Can, Wrapped, Oyster, Fugue and many others which were successfully received in Israel and abroad. In 2002 she began collaborating with Avshalom Pollak, and aside from creating many dance works, they have choreographed, directed and designed the opera Armide (Gluck) in Wiesbaden and The Cunning Little Vixen (Janacek) in Bregen. Together they created the musicals “the cat who lived a million times” and “Rashomon” in Japan. Pinto received many awards including the prestigious Bessie Award in New York and the Landau Pais Lottery Award for her work in the world of dance. In 2019 She directed and designed a musical play based on Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” in Tokyo.
A contemporary dance art film based on a short story
Mirai MoriyamaｘUmitaro Abe
Inbal Pinto × Etgar Keret.
〜Challenge of International Co-production in “with-Corona”era〜
Release: (Japan) July 20, 2020
(Israel) August 24, 2020
Release on: (Japan) https://www.youtube.com/SAFtheaterchannel
original story and direction: Etgar Keret
choreography and direction: Inbal Pinto
narration, actor, dancer: Mirai Moriyama
dancer: Moran Miller
music: Umitaro Abe