Interview with Cay Izumi
The art project Tokyo Dolores was founded by dancer and artistic director CAY Izumi, who equipped it with a cute (“kawaii”) and cool appearance like the inner surface of a secret garden.
The evolution of its conceptual performances include tying Japanese pop culture to acrobatics and aerial dancing, incorporating visual representation and original fashion, and conveying Japanese culture and spirit.
Tokyo Dolores performed in New York in 2010, then scored a great success on Italy’s beautiful stage performances in 2011. Scheduled performances in 2012 include Italy, France, USA, Shanghai and elsewhere, and they have attracted much future attention at home and abroad.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you became a dancer?
In order to expand my breadth of expression, I tried various genres of dance as a child. I also gained experience from theatre and as a film actor. I am interested in Japanese fashion and culture on a mental level, and I have modeled for Japanese Gothic-Lolita fashion magazines like KERA.
I chose the road of dance as a means to incorporate the experience of theatre and film and to express my spirituality and fashion sense.
How did you come up with the idea for Tokyo Dolores?
Though Japanese fashion and culture today arose from a mental state unique to Japan, I felt as though it outwardly acknowledged only cuteness and fun, without including spirituality. I wanted to convey to others that a Japanese girl’s spirit is more complicated and much deeper than this, and to do so I launched Tokyo Dolores.
Who are the other members of your team and how did you meet?
The leader CAY, cute character ALOE, eccentric Nancy and mysterious girl Jill constitute our members. Each brings a special talent besides dancing, like modeling and design.
Though meetings primarily occur from member referrals, TOKYO DOLORES members are not selected just because they want to express their dancing in a strictly philosophical sense.
Your shows involve pole dancing but also costumes, video and music. Who designs and created the elements for your shows?
Ideas for my shows and things like costume design come mainly from my feelings within the streets of Tokyo, which are overlaid with fables and fairy-tales.
Each time, based on the concept, I make a TOKYO DOLORES world with high-quality video artists, designers, and musicians. Though there are many creatives who want to participate in TOKYO DOLORES as an art project, the underlying idea and detail is made from Tokyo Dolores itself.
Tell us about some of your shows like “Eline, the Mermaid” and “Dear My Red Hunter/Akazukin”
“Eline, the Mermaid” is a show whose motif comes from the fairytale “The Little Mermaid”. It’s a showcase depicting this new world seen from the point of view of a girl in the water, and there are many messages within it. For one, like this little girl, there are all these different concepts of the “world”. There’s a feeling that “perhaps this is how the world is” is the customary answer now. As well, there’s a feeling that individuals’ ways of thinking are narrowed by this.
The story begins with the girl protagonist getting plunged into the water by her friends. But these actions weren’t difficult for her, because her friends’ understanding of the world was that it would make her happy to join them in the water. As a result, this heroic girl might have become happy, just like her friends thought. Or maybe it wouldn’t work out that way. But I think it’s a good thing for “Eline”’s message to include a variety of answers.
Another important point is the acceptance of darkness. In the story, the girl protagonist finally reaches the world of death, and it’s like she’s never seen until now, a difficult, painful world like wicked, wriggling insects. At first she doesn’t accept death, but once in the world of death, no matter how she struggled to run away, of course escape was impossible. However, by accepting death, with her eyes fixed on that world, her soul is finally absorbed into darkness, and she is permitted into the next world.
“Dear My Red Hunter/Akazukin” is a showcase featuring a philosophy on society that came from a motif of the fairytale “Akazukin” (in English, “Little Red Riding Hood”). In the story, the “Wolf” is portrayed as now living away from human presence, though it coexisted with humans since ancient times. Its presence signals its role in accepting the negative side of humans. By consuming human beings’ negative parts since ages ago, it rapidly grows larger and becomes a distorted form of itself.
Though human beings accepted the existence of darkness and coexisted with it, they are frightened by the wolf’s rapid change. Thus, the humans reject the wolf into that faraway darkness and lead their lives in an entirely separate direction. As a result, only exterior beauty and pseudo-righteousness prevail, while the reality existing within darkness is ignored completely. Human beings cease pursing real things, contenting themselves to repeat indifferently the same things over and over.
Akazukin is uncomfortable in such a world, questioning where her true self is and why the world is so empty. Troubled, she flees. While running away, she sees the ritual of death in accepting darkness, personified by the wolf. Akazukin is impressed by the beauty of this ritual, such that she’d never witnessed before, and wishes to be eaten by the wolf to accept its darkness. After the wolf consumes her, Akazukin experiences the darkness within its belly. Though it is a painful, difficult, terrible place, the true nature of human beings is there as well.
But the outside world is in an uproar over Akazukin’s disappearance, and they kill the wolf and rescue her from its belly. However, as Akazukin has experienced the darkness, all that wasn’t visible to her before now is, and the outside world looks entirely different. Within the hollow humans she discovers tiny darknesses. In speaking to these darknesses, all of a sudden they break into the existing world. From this moment, Akazukin goes on to make the real world.
Fashion is also a large part of your shows. What styles of fashion do you like?
I’m not good at categorizing it, but concerning style I like quirky, eye-catching things. Not what is just stylish or cute. I find it very attractive if the clothes themselves have a story and philosophy, and if the stylist shows a thought process or meaning to their work.
Where do you usually perform?
Places where art and philosophy are easy to express, such as theatres and churches.
Until now, we have had many performances in clubs and at shows or theatres. After the events at Lucca Comics and Games in Italy, in a venue like the church where art and philosophy easily translated into a performance, big events overseas have been increasing.
Of course, we do a lot of live shows as well where the sense of distance between fans is close.
You also direct and choreograph all the shows. Is that correct? That seems like a lot to do!
I don’t think it’s too much. It’s not just an individual effort, but the involvement of many people. I create shows with lots of members along with the staff.
I think collaborating with various people really hones the production into something awesome.
What was your trip to New York like and how did the audiences enjoy your performances?
Reactions to the NY performances were different than in Japan, but the trip was as much a challenge of how far we could go on our own.
Of course, we received different reactions in NY than in Japan, and I heard many opinions on the shows. In addition, the NY responses were direct, and the fans were as well. Royalties were high, and there was a sense of respecting the art, so in working together to make these productions, the span beyond the performances was really huge. I believe that, if feelings and opinions changed toward fashion and Japanese culture, then it was a good experience.
You also traveled to Italy. How was that experience?
Responses to our show in Italy were really great. During the show, it was a challenge to display an originality of fashion, worldview, and Japanese culture. Supported by an excellent staff, I was able to exchange opinions with a lot of fans and succeeded in building many new communities. I think the show was a big success. I got to enjoy a new way of expressing fashion and culture from everyone in Italy.
This year, there is a performance at Italy’s Far East Film and Napoli COMICON. I want to see more fans from Lucca, Italy and the various cities around there.
Dancing can be very physically demanding? What do you do to stay in shape?
Things like “best performances” means constantly living inside your head.
I study the movement of the human body, of animals, and study insect movements toward performances. Concerning fitness, dance expression is a completely different type of training.
Is there anyone that inspires you?
Absolutely, there are many things that inspire me. For instance…historical Japanese tales, animals, spiritual things… plus Harajuku’s cute fashion. I often watch videos from all over the world on Youtube.
Besides these, my dreams when I’m sleeping. (laughs)
What do you hope to be doing in the future and what do you hope Tokyo Dolores can expand to?
With Tokyo Dolores, I want to defend the “Tokyo Dolores” philosophy, while at the same time collaborating with various artists and having these interactions. I want to continue spreading a new representation and exchanging various interpretations of Japanese culture.
I think making Tokyo Dolores like a virtual nation is a good thing. From that, I want our YUMMYS fans to be confident and lead a creative and fun existence.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I enjoy watching different animals move around. (laughs) I know it doesn’t sound that interesting, but I do it all the time. It always makes me laugh.
I’m always looking at fashion, too.
Where can we find out more about you and Tokyo Dolores?
Of course, the whole world can see our performances! We are all interested in different cultures and want to challenge ourselves to more and more new things. Please join the Tokyo Dolores community.
We interact on social media like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, and as information comes in we update our website.
This year’s plan: the Napoli Comicon, Far East Film (Italy), plus a Japan tour and other events.