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Interview: Liz Kinoshita about You Can’t Take It With You


Liz Kinoshita is breathing new life into musical. The Brussel based Canadian choreographer and performer brings her new performance You Can’t Take It With You to SPRING, together with Bryana Fritz, Clinton Stringer and Justin F. Kennedy. A Capella, socially engaged, and with lots of dance, this performance tackles the ecological problem of the ever-growing mountain of waste.

How did you start out as a choreographer?

“For a few years when I was very young I lived in the Netherlands, in Amstelveen. Because my parents didn’t speak Dutch when we arrived, they would sometimes put on old movies instead of the local television. So I watched many old musicals. I was really into those, and would make up my own as a kid. I had the idea that this was something I could continue with… As a teenager I went more into dancing, ballet, hip-hop, modern and contemporary. We moved back to Canada in the meanwhile. Then I moved back to Rotterdam in 2002 to go to the Rotterdamse Dansacademie. A couple of years after that I moved to Brussels to go to PARTS. I’ve been in Brussels for more than ten years now.”

Kinoshita is inspired by her relationship to necessity vs. waste and the weight it bears upon us, physically, mentally and emotionally. In You Can’t Take It With You she investigates what we need to survive, and what we need to discard in order to sustain ourselves and our environments.

What was the starting point to create You Can’t Take It With You?

“In 2013, I started with my research on ‘mechanisms of the musical’. When I was making up scores for generating lyrics, I realized it’s much more engaging for the performers and myself and probably for other people, when there is something at stake in the lyrics, when it’s not just cat-hat, dog-log sorts of rhymes. Where there is something maybe even a little bit emotional. After this research, we made VOLCANO (2014). Then, we wanted to keep working and performing together, and there were other things going on in our lives that we wanted to pay attention to besides the thematic matter we worked with in VOLCANO, so this point about what you can or cannot take with you, what’s wasteful and what’s absolutely necessary, came up again as a backstage musical type of subject; it’s still very much our own story of how we deal with waste or necessity. The theme of the performance is not only content relayed through lyrics, but how things weigh us down or relieve us, how that is physically inspiring, what it does to a feeling, to a body, is part of the dance.”

Why have you chosen to present the issue of waste and why through a musical?

“Performance is a channel where we can share an experience together in a room, and share a focus in a way. We don’t need or want to educate people necessarily, about waste. It’s a subject that we may not pay enough attention to regularly, but it’s not because we don’t know better… I think the information is there. At least in Western Europe it’s present. It’s more a question of convenience at some point. If we could find that extra amount of energy to commit to new behavior and habits, as individuals and on a major scale, we might be able to improve our situations. We wanted to make a performance that offers a kind of blast of energy, so people may give more attention, more energy, or focus to the things we are singing and dancing about. We’re sharing information, a reflection or conclusion even, but our words rhyme at the end of (almost) each line of our lyrics; we share a little bit differently, and hope the performance enters people’s consciousness a bit differently that way. Hopefully not in a ‘ugh, don’t lecture me’ type of way, but more as ‘something that I’m humming as I’m going out and stays with me’.”

How do you cope with waste in your personal life?

“I do my darnedest to avoid having excess packaging, I have a reusable water bottle that I bring with me. I have (composting) worms underneath this desk right now while I’m talking to you! For sure there are a couple of initiatives I’m happy to live by, and it doesn’t cost me a lot of energy. The tricky part is getting into the routine of it. When I was in my early 20s I didn’t throw anything away. It was really like borderline hoarders. So I think it’s also an intimate thing that I’ve experienced a strong relationship with garbage, but then I found the agency to change that situation, or I grew up.” (laughs)

During the performance, the topic of weight and what we keep or throw away will translate to how the performers direct the weight of their bodies within a close proximity to audience members.

What influence would you like to have on the audience?

“When we played in Stockholm someone said our performance was an ‘energy bomb’ that there was something energizing about the time we spent together, and I was happy to hear that. For me it’s a life’s work to find out how I can compose performance to get an optimal focus, energy, feeling and experience to be as generous and fulfilling as possible. It’s fascinating to me to see what different timing or weightiness can do to an audience. Parts of the performance are improvised and parts are set. This way we can keep tapping into what’s going on in the room each unique night. We really reflect on what we are hearing there and work to bring it to the present collective awareness. That for me is a very exciting thing about live performance.”

What are you most proud of so far?

“I’m happy when we hear that the performance resonates with people. I love working on dance and music and hope the work we put into our skills helps the audience to invest with us, to trust us and go with the experience. We’ve been thinking about how we can be less weighed down by things, or how we can live with less… As the title suggests, you can’t take ‘it’ with you, so could we consider valuing experiences over objects…”

What other passions do you have next to theatre?

“Something outside of theatre I’ve done is WWOOFing, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. You go to someone’s farm and they feed you and give you a place to stay. In return you help them on the farm and you learn about sustainable living. That’s something I really like doing.”

• You Can’t Take It With You can be seen in Theater Kikker on Friday 18 May and Saturday 19 May. Click here for tickets.

Photo: ©Kennis Hawkins


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