GENIUS IN MOVEMENT: CLOSE-UP WITH BRETT ISHIDA

GENIUS IN MOVEMENT: CLOSE-UP WITH BRETT ISHIDA

Recently, in this exclusive interview, we caught up with superstar choreographer and founder of ISHIDA, Brett Ishida, on her point of view toward contemporary dance. The upcoming performances in her latest work, Faraway, so close, happen in Austin August 13–14 at Dell Fine Arts Center at St. Andrew’s and in Houston August 19–21 at MATCH Midtown Arts & Theater Center. At IshidaDance.org

By Lance Avery Morgan       Photography courtesy of ISHIDA

LANCE AVERY MORGAN: What is the significance of contemporary dance as the world begins to recover from the pandemic–what are the healing aspects it can offer to your audience? 

BRETT ISHIDA: Over two thousand years ago in ancient Greece, citizens attended Greek tragedy; it was one’s civic duty. These plays informed society of its moral code. The performances were cathartic and the personal narratives portrayed connected to audiences emotionally, creating space to hold the spectrum of human experience, from joy and lightness to the dark, difficult aspects of the human condition. Through performance, individuals and society at large were able to reflect on, grapple with, and ultimately grow in the face of innate human experiences from desire, jealousy, and loneliness to belonging, hope, fragility, and mortality. 

In the wake of COVID-19, attending live performances gives each of us a renewed chance to process the trauma of the pandemic in community, just as they did in ancient Greece. ISHIDA’s contemporary narratives mirror the ethos of the communal civic duty of Greek tragedy. My work invites existential questions and emotional connection, allowing audiences to extract personal meaning because there is a narrative thread expressed through the movement that is relatable and universal. 

Brett Ishida

LAM: Being universal begs the question, why do you think contemporary ballet continues to be a favorite performing art for audiences across the world? 

BI: I think there is an alluring visual and physical aesthetic to ballet that’s mesmerizing, and I draw on this classical foundation for my work. I combine the beauty of the human form from traditional ballet with theatrical, grounded, fluid movement that expresses the everyday being. I don’t want audiences to say after watching one of my pieces, “I don’t get it,” so I create unique poetic narratives to help audiences attach emotionally to my work and empathize with the characters/dancers on stage. As an audience member, you don’t need to “get” it because you feel it: you are swept up and reflected back in the visual story.

LAM: Speaking of reflections, how different is contemporary dance–and its audiences – across the world vs. to here in the U.S? 

BI: Much of contemporary dance, particularly in the U.S., seeks to represent a certain culture or address social issues. Although ISHIDA Dance is not without social messages and context, my poetic narratives are first and foremost universal and yet personal, asking each of us to connect to existential questions of Being. Ultimately, my work is different in several ways, which taken as a whole, suggests ISHIDA is unique to U.S. dance companies today. I am working hard to find dancers that express themselves through contemporary movement, yet retain the beauty of the human form that many of us love about classical ballet. 

I am relentless in my pursuit of a visual aesthetic which encompasses dramaturgy, lighting, stage design, and sound and music. My work seeks to fill the creative space between fairy tales in traditional ballet and themed dances of the often highly abstract world of contemporary dance. Although ISHIDA pursues some of the patterns and interesting movements seen in contemporary dance, my work is always driven by a unique narrative. I’m working from an original storyboard/script within a modern context to connect to audience’s emotions and psyche. 

LAM: Regarding emotions and psyche, how has your Japanese heritage informed your subject matters and work?

BI: I grew up a in rural community, primarily white and Hispanic, with very few Asians. I was hyper as a child and my mom says I was always dancing spontaneously, so she put me in tap, tumbling, and ballet classes. I immediately was smitten with ballet and knew I wanted to be a professional ballerina when I grew up. I didn’t look like other children and even at a young age, I was already passionate about something (dance) that most children weren’t that focused on. I didn’t have many friends as a youngster in this context, so growing up, I felt isolated and alone. To escape these feelings, I’d create my own stories through dance in my bedroom and at my grandparents’ modest citrus farm between trees on the dirt roads. 

Dancing in the landscape from which I came provided solace, but that landscape, and the family who has inhabited it for generations, also shaped and informed me and the stories I tell. As a choreographer and artistic director, I hope to create space for that creative interplay for each of ISHIDA’s dancers. As a female artist of color, I cultivate a safe, collaborative environment in which participants’ culture and history is treated as an asset to be shared.

LAM: On the subject of assets, how did studying the Greek classics support your career and what you’ve created? 

BI: Studying literature at UCLA, Attic Greek (the Greek dialect of the ancient region of Attica), Greek philosophy which utilizes various poetic structures, and ancient Greek tragedy which is written in iambic trimeter, has had a direct and significant influence on ISHIDA Dance. I structure my narratives using conceits of Ancient Greek language and culture, which then influences the choreographic process. I harness fundamental narrative devices seen in ancient Greek tragedy which were also noted by Shakespeare and many other great playwrights. The communal experience of Greek tragedy in its social and historical context united the moral code of its citizens and encouraged thinking about Otherness. The intent of my work has the same motivation—to play with the tension between the collective and the individual experience. How do they define and inform one another and what can we learn from each?

LAM: Brett, can you describe your creative process in developing the choreography for your latest project?

BI: Before I get into a studio, I engage in a rigorous writing process. I start by creating poetic fragments. From there, I develop a structure for the work similar to that of a play. With this framework, I start to create movement that stems from the context of the plot, the character development and his/her/their motives for being. It is a collaborative process in that the dancers bring their individuality and personal experience to the work. One of my dancers said that my creative process was like going to therapy. My work encourages self-awareness and a heightened awareness of the presence and experience of others, too. My hope is that the process of creating and watching dance prompts introspection in each of the artists with whom I work and each of the audience members who will ultimately see that work. By creating basic structures that leave room for the process of further creation, expression, and interpretation, I hope to foster curiosity in both artist and spectator and afford the opportunity for deep meditation on Being and the possibilities for becoming more other-centric.

LAM: What is it like to collaborate with guest choreographers like Bret Easterling and Kristian Lever? 

BI: I not only choreograph, but I also curate all programming for ISHIDA Dance. I do extensive research before inviting a choreographer to create with the company. The guest choreographers I choose are extremely talented choreographic voices and devoted artists who have had extensive dance careers with renown international companies from all over the world. Bret is a former member of Batsheva, creating and performing works by Ohad Naharin, and now sets his work with universities and professional companies. Kristian is a former dancer with Hamburg Ballet and an award-winning choreographer. He has created works with dancers from the Dutch contemporary dance company Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) and Royal Danish Ballet. They both are creating important contemporary work in the field of dance engaging and connecting to audiences in a tangible, meaningful way. And yet, their work is not typically presented in Texas. These pieces will be world premieres. It is a pleasure to know and work with each of them.

LAM: Why are you excited about bringing Faraway, So Close in Houston and Austin soon? 

BI: I am excited to bring this program to Houston and Austin because it is a program that explores hardships and suffering and yet celebrates our fragility and the beauty of Being in time. 

Faraway, so close is a title indebted to a Wim Wenders’ film that is really an existential poem about love and mortality. The story follows an angel that is drawn to this lonely mortal woman on Earth because the things she feels, he feels, too, and he falls in love with her from afar. Though they don’t connect on the same plane of being—she can’t see him and he can see her, but he can’t touch her skin—we sense that, perhaps, she feels his presence or the presence of something Other. There’s suffering, longing, and tenderness; the angel seems to truly understand her loneliness.

This film is also a nod to the film geniuses of Wenders’ time. For me, I’m also indebted to the poets and choreographers I’ve worked with. This program, in a way, is a nod to them and to a memory of a dear friend who was consumed by depression and loneliness and took his life. He remains so close in memory, and like the angel, I continue to love him from afar. 

THE SMART SET

THE SMART SET

While vacationing, why not curl up with a good book and a view of somewhere that soothes your soul? When you do…at the beach, at home, or anywhere there is a quiet space, enjoy these recommendations from our bibliophile, Lance Avery Morgan.

CHARLOTTE MOSS FLOWERS

LIVING ART

By Massimiliano Capella and Alvar González-Palacios

This tome tells the story of the collection of Paolo Zani, a renowned entrepreneur, and great art enthusiast. Over three decades, Zani collected over 800 works at his home in Italy (Cellatica in Brescia), which was designed and remodeled over time in order to accommodate them.

$35. At RizzoliUSA.com. 

THE MONACLE BOOK OF ITALY

By Tyler Brûlé, Nolan Giles, Joe Pickard, and Andrew Tuck

A celebration of all things Italian, this volume is overflowing with insights and fully illustrated with specially commissioned photography to paint a uniquely gorgeous portrait of such a dynamic nation.

$65. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

DESIGNING INTERIORS
THE BEAUTY BRIEF

VALENTINO: COLLEZIONE MILANO

By Bernardine Evaristo and Liz Johnson Artur

Take an inside look at 2020’s identity, diversity, and inclusivity at a time when COVID dictated its rules but did not persuade art. Three different visions created a unique moment: the Valentino Collezione Milano fashion show.

$85. At RizzoliUSA.com.

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: PARIS REVISITED

By Ann de Mondenard, Agnès Sire and Peter Galassi

Cartier-Bresson, hailed as the eye of the 20th century, was one of the world’s most acclaimed photographers. Paris was his home, on and off, for most of his life, and the photographs he took of the city and its people are some of his most recognizable and beloved images…with 160 photos taken from a career lasting more than fifty years.

$60. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

INVITING INTERIORS
FASHION IN THE 90S

THE MYSTERIES OF CINEMA

By Peter Conrad

This book’s focus on film’s otherworldly, hypnotic and magical qualities is perfect for both movie fans to discover new films and directors and students of cinema who will see familiar classics with fresh insight.

$39.95. At  ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

CHRISTOPHER DRESSER: DESIGN PIONEER

By Max Donnelly

Dresser, a man who was, and continues to be, one of the most influential British designers of all time is still widely regarded as Britain’s first independent industrial designer. More than a century later, Dresser’s works, showcased in this splendidly illustrated volume, still look remarkably modern.

$21.95. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

MID-CENTURY TRIM WHITE BORDER
ISLAND WHIMSY

YAYOI KUSAMA: COSMIC NATURE

By Mika Yoshitake

Kusama is known for working in a broad range of media–including painting, performance, sculpture, and installations. In recent decades, she has risen to worldwide fame through the explosive popularity of her mesmerizing infinity mirror rooms and vibrant sculptural installations.

$40. At RizzoliUSA.com.

MAKING POTS: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO WHEEL-THROWN CERAMICS

By Stefan Andersson

Taking a look at the rich history of pot-making along the way, this book serves as a step-by-step guide to the basic techniques of the craft, offering a wealth of tips on glazing and firing. This illustrated handbook guides both beginners and more experienced potters through the fascinating process of one of humanity’s oldest crafts.

$25. At RizzoliUSA.com

STAMPS STAMPS
SHELF LIVES

SHELF LIVES

Summer reading is something we all look forward to this time of year…at home, on the beach, or anywhere there is a quiet space. May we suggest these to pique your interests, according to our bibliophile, Lance Avery Morgan?

CHARLOTTE MOSS FLOWERS

HOTEL DU CAP-EDEN-ROC: A TIMELESS LEGEND ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA

By Alexandra Campbell

The secluded resort, located between Nice and Cannes, has always been a favorite haven on the French Riviera for A-list celebrities and private Jet Set family holidays. The hotel’s storied history is full of romance, humor, mystery, and legend.

$85. At RizzoliUSA.com.

SCARVES

By Nicky Albrechtsen and Fola Solanke

Indispensable accessories and sought-after collectors’ items, scarves were an important innovation in twentieth-century fashion. From Art-Deco through 1950s Hollywood, the Swinging Sixties, and beyond, scarves have been represented in every major decorative arts movement and personal style.

$40. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

DESIGNING INTERIORS
THE BEAUTY BRIEF

NATY ABASCAL: THE ETERNAL MUSE

By Suzy Menkes, Mario Testino, Christian Lacroix, Valentino Garavani, and Vicente Gallart

This delightfully chronicles the styles and stories of the boundary-breaking Spanish socialite, model, and muse of couturiers such as Valentino and Oscar de la Renta and former duchess of Feria…demonstrating the making of a fashion icon.

$50. At RizzoliUSA.com.

A ROOM OF HER OWN

By Robyn Lea

Go inside the homes and lives of creative women who are making a difference in the world. Their lives are a canvas for their artistry, and it can be fully seen in their homes and studios, on their tables, and in their wardrobes.

$45. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

INVITING INTERIORS
FASHION IN THE 90S

THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN

By James Sherwood

Now in a compact edition, this lavish publication celebrates the gentleman’s search for the perfect sartorial detail or ideal accessory. It features and inspires with six historical chapters, from the Regency period to the present.

$39.95. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

COME FLY WITH ME: FLYING IN STYLE

By Jodi Peckman

From Frank Sinatra dressed to the nines in the golden age of Pan Am to celebrities snapped in luxury leisurewear in the lounges of today, airports have always afforded the most glamorous glimpses into that most enviable aspect of celebrity life—jet-setting in style, as seen here.

$29.95. At RizzoliUSA.com.

MID-CENTURY TRIM WHITE BORDER
ISLAND WHIMSY

A CENTURY OF COLOR IN DESIGN
By David Harrison

From the Bauhaus to Memphis and beyond, this tome explores the origins and rationale behind the design and use of color in the most iconic furniture and objects of the 20th century.

$34.95. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

LITTLE TARTS

By Meike Schaling

Discovering the joy of homemade tarts has never been more effortless. Even the most rudimentary of bakers can learn the skills to create beautiful tarts in an endless variety of colors and flavors, all with just one core recipe.

$19.95. At RizzoliUSA.com.

STAMPS STAMPS
TOP SHELF

TOP SHELF

Spring is the perfect time to refresh your libre collection. May we suggest these to grace your shelves and tabletops for hours of entertainment, according to our bibliophile, Lance Avery Morgan?

CHARLOTTE MOSS FLOWERS

CHARLOTTE MOSS FLOWERS

By Charlotte Moss

An inviting cluster of blooms on a guest room’s bedside table is always welcome. Designer Charlotte Moss encourages readers to bring the garden indoors—with ideas for arranging flowers, selecting containers, and placing blossoms around the house.

$50. At RizzoliUSA.com.

DESIGNING PARADISE

By Juan Montoya and Jorge S. Arango

We love a magical blend of both interior design inspiration and armchair travel fantasy. This celebrates the work of one of the most acclaimed and prolific interior designers today. Luxuriate in open-air pavilions, on sweeping terraces, and savor sumptuous interiors that sparkle with Montoya’s signature style.

$65. At RizzoliUSA.com.

DESIGNING INTERIORS
THE BEAUTY BRIEF

THE BEAUTY BRIEF

By Katie Service

In Katie Service’s Insider’s Guide to Skincare, she shares her informed skincare choices on topics ranging from recyclables and vegan and cruelty-free products to “dupes” and toxic ingredients. A must-have for all beauty enthusiasts looking for safe, effective, and sustainably sourced products.

$29.95. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

INVITING INTERIORS

By Melanie Turner

If you like pretty design work with a modern edge, look no further. Inspired by both fashion and nature, this Atlanta designer creates understated yet elegant rooms, perfect for entertaining.

$50. At RizzoliUSA.com

INVITING INTERIORS
FASHION IN THE 90S

REINVENTION AND RESTLESSNESS: FASHION IN THE 90S

By Colleen Hill

Even though it’s been twenty years since the pivotal fashion decade ended, it remains an essential reference now with its approach to Minimalism, Deconstruction, and the rejuvenation of established couture houses.

$50. At RizzoliUSA.com.

MASTER OF THE MIDCENTURY: The Architecture of William F. Cody
By Catherine Cody, Jo Lauria, and Don Choi

Midcentury Palm Springs design? Yes, please. One of the most prolific, diverse, and iconic architects, often recognized as the father of Desert Modern, is profiled along with glorious images.

At MonicelliPress.com.

MID-CENTURY TRIM WHITE BORDER
ISLAND WHIMSY

ISLAND WHIMSY
By Celerie KemblE

Entirely dedicated to Playa Grande, the property Kemble designed in the Dominican Republic, this tome reflects a rare opportunity to create a sense of place from the raw jungle and pristine coastline, from design to conception.

$55. At RizzoliUSA.com.

STAMPS & STAMPS

By Diane Dorrans

With pristine attention to detail, the Stamps & Stamps design firm in Southern California shows how to create a mood with floral patterns, brimming bookshelves, and overstuffed armchairs. By layering your favorite objects and vintage treasures, one can create their own private sanctuary.

$50. At RizzoliUSA.com.

STAMPS STAMPS
JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS

JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS

By Kerrie Hess

This embraces the best and most important joys in life—the little pleasures. Loaded with the author’s signature original watercolor illustrations and photo vignettes, coupled with beautifully evocative text, this is the perfect spring pick-me-up.

$35. At RizzoliUSA.com.

A CHRONOLOGY OF FILM

By Ian Hadyn Smith

This embraces the best and most important joys in life—the little pleasures. Loaded with the author’s signature original watercolor illustrations and photo vignettes, coupled with beautifully evocative text, this is the perfect spring pick-me-up.

$35. At RizzoliUSA.com.

A CHRONOLOGY OF FILM

COVER TO COVER

COVER TO COVER

The best books for winter? To us, these are the best of the best to have on hand as the winter chills the air, according to our devoted bibliophile, Lance Avery Morgan.

Nicole Hollis Curated Interiors

FLOWER COLOR THEORY

By Darroch and Michael Putnam

Here is the only guide that uses color theory as inspiration for flower arrangements. The book features 175 displays showing the myriads of ways to combine flowers of different hues, all built around color schemes. This fully illustrated guide will inspire readers to create lush, romantic, and effortlessly elegant creations of their own.

$35. At Phaidon.com.

MAKE LIFE BEAUTIFUL

By Shea McGee and Syd McGee

Netflix and Instagram stars Syd and Shea McGee’s new design book offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the couple transformed Shea’s small room of fabric samples and big dream of becoming a designer into one of the most successful and fastest-growing interior design businesses in the country.

$26.99. At Harper-Horizon.com.

CHATEAU LAFITE: THE ALMANAC  By Saskia de Rothschild and Baron Éric de Rothschild
ANATOMY OF STYLE

THE MONOCLE BOOK OF GENTLE LIVING

By Tyler Brûlé and Josh Fehnert 

This guide to slowing down, enjoying more, and being happy with slower living urges us all to find new creative pastimes, to unplug (literally and figuratively), and to take time to breathe as the news cycle has sped up and communities have become increasingly atomized and isolated.

At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

FILM NOIR STYLE

By Kimberly Truhler

Escape to a world long ago of high-style and glamorous films to celebrate some of the genre’s most influential films and stars while examining the historical context of the time. Here’s the story behind the stories of the style of 20 of film noir’s most important feature films.

$45. At GoodKnightBooks.com.

HOUSES cover
DESIGN IN ASIA cover

MID-CENTURY MODERN DESIGN: A COMPLETE SOURCEBOOK

By Dominic Bradbury

The ultimate survey of the mid-century era’s modern design and architecture is now available in a sleek, compact edition. Included within is a cadre of rich examples of sleek contemporary design from furniture, lighting, and ceramics to textiles, graphics, interiors, and architecture.

$50. At ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com.

ON FIRE: THE FIREFIGHTERS OF FRANCE

By Fred Goudon

We all understand the importance of first responders and especially firefighters, in a time of need. Shot in France, this is bound to raise the temperature, of photography aficionados everywhere, of these good men doing good deeds to help those most in need.

$55. At RizzoliUSA.com.

AD The Most Beautiful Rooms
DREAM MAKERS cover

LOS ANGELES TODAY: CITY OF DREAMS: ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN

By Tim Street Porter and Annie Kelley

Tour the city’s rich architectural and design history as well as a neighborhood-by-neighborhood stroll to visit stylish museums, the flourishing arts districts, chic homes, and the L.A. of film and television–all set against the dramatic backdrops of sky and sea.

$65. At RizzoliUSA.com.

CHATEAU LAFITE: THE ALMANAC

By Baron Éric de Rothschild and Saskia de Rothschild

Here’s a look at 150 vintages of Château Lafte, revealing pivotal moments since the family founded the winery in 1868, the grape blends that mark each vintage, along with portraits by master photographers like Robert Doisneau, Richard Avedon, and Paolo Roversi.

$175. At RizzoliUSA.com.

EXPRESSIVE INTERIORS
MODERN IN THE MIDDLE cover

BILL CUNNINGHAM WAS THERE 

By John Kurdewan and Steven Stolman

The legendary New York Times photographer chronicled society and fashion while celebrating the people, the style, and the happenings of Manhattan and beyond. This festive volume focuses on the vibrant and fun-filled events of spring and summer.

$40. At RizzoliUSA.com.

ROMANTICS AND CLASSICS: STYLE IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE

By Jeremy Musson and Hugo Rittson Thomas

See the English countryside’s remarkable houses where owners blend contemporary style with the old, good bones of manor houses and country seats, while redefining the notion of English country and creating interiors that are both chic and intimate.

$60. At RizzoliUSA.com.

CASA TROPICAL cover
BLOSSOM FORTH

BLOSSOM FORTH

With winter about to kick into high gear, we’ve mixed our favorite purses with some of the flowers that inspire us most. The outcome? Everything’s coming up roses, and more, in this season’s most desirous statement bags, according to our fashion forward-thinking Alexandra del Lago