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[DANCE] Maile Okamura of the Mark Morris Dance Company

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  • madchinaman
    From Pointe to Point By Joyce Nishioka, AsianWeek Dance Critic, Sep 05, 2003 http://news.asianweek.com/news/view_article.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 8, 2003
      From Pointe to Point
      By Joyce Nishioka, AsianWeek Dance Critic, Sep 05, 2003
      http://news.asianweek.com/news/view_article.html?
      article_id=20b94a2302f3b9f611c3b83cdc20913a&this_category_id=171

      My interview with Mark Morris dancer Maile Okamura didn't get off to
      an auspicious start. I asked the 29-year-old how to pronounce her
      first name.


      =======

      Maile Okamura was born and raised in San Diego. She was a member of
      Boston Ballet II and Ballet Arizona before moving to New York in
      1996. Since then, she has danced with Neta Pulvermcher, Zvi
      Gotheiner, Gerald Casel, and others. Okamura began working with MMDG
      in 1998 and became an apprentice in 2001.

      ==========

      Okamura: It's Miley

      AsianWeek: Mai Li

      Okamura: Uh, no. Miley. You stressed the first part.

      AW: Oh OK, Ma…Molly

      Okamura: Miley

      AW: Mi … Miley

      Okamura: Miley

      AW: OK, Miley. Sorry.

      That settled, I asked Maile Okamura about her journey toward joining
      the Mark Morris Dance Group. Okamura, who grew up in San Diego,
      started ballet lessons when she was 11. Her decision to pursue dance
      as a career didn't surprise her parents, both professors. Her older
      cousin, Kimberley Okamura, had already led the way, dancing with the
      San Francisco Ballet for more than a decade.

      As a teenager, Maile joined Boston Ballet II and soon after, Ballet
      Arizona, based in Phoenix. She stayed there for three years before
      moving to New York to study modern dance. Since becoming a member of
      the Mark Morris Dance Group, she has danced in 20 of Morris' works,
      including six that were choreographed for her and the current
      company.


      AsianWeek: Was it difficult transitioning from ballet to modern
      dance?

      Maile Okamura: It was a big change because moving to New York, most
      of the people I danced with came from a background of studying
      modern dance in college. I felt really insecure about not having the
      right information in my body, not having a natural and more
      intuitive way of working …

      For a long time, I didn't tell anybody that I had danced in ballet
      companies. I was embarrassed about that. It's like when the
      classical violinist tries to get down and do jazz.


      AW: What was it like when you moved to New York?

      Okamura: I wanted to try everything. It's easy to get yourself into
      an uncomfortable situation in New York because there are so many
      people with so many different ideas. One day I was Irish jigging;
      the next day I was rolling on the floor. That was my goal, to move
      myself, experience different things.


      AW: How did you get involved with Mark Morris?

      Okamura: I auditioned in '98 and was hired to dance in L'Allegro for
      a tour. I really didn't know that much about Mark, but I loved what
      we learned in the audition. It felt familiar to me in a way that
      there was something, not necessarily classical about it but, I
      guess, classic. I understood it …

      With many modern choreographers, it's difficult to understand what
      they're trying to communicate and with Mark's choreography it felt
      very clear. It was another layer that complemented the music and
      lifted the music up. With most of Mark's work, the music will tell
      you everything. It's really right there for you.


      AW: How many dancers auditioned?

      Okamura: Fifty auditioned. They only needed one dancer and I was
      chosen. Back then, the audition was by invitation. Now, there are
      open auditions so anyone can come … which means it's a mob. There
      were 400 people at the last audition for one spot.


      AW: I read that when Mark created his solo "Serenade," he first
      choreographed it on you to see how it looked as opposed to how it
      felt. What was that like?

      Okamura: It was really fun. Mark made up some great steps for
      himself … Most of the dances we learn, they're filtered through
      everyone's personality and that changes how the steps look or what
      they feel like. When it's just Mark doing a solo, you see the
      intention of the step right there in his body. Even if the step
      changes or the count changes, the feeling of the step is always
      right on. It's not overanalyzed. It's exactly what he wanted it to
      be.

      AW: What else did you observe?

      Okamura: Well, I feel like he is easier on himself than he is on us.
      Seriously, though, one thing I learned is that he makes sure he's
      having a good time when he's dancing … His imagination is always
      involved when he's dancing. He's very playful. He's alive in the
      dance.


      AW: Has being Asian Pacific American affected your career path in
      any way?

      Okamura: Well, yeah I was hired because I'm Japanese American.


      AW: That's funny … did you know one of Mark's girlfriends was
      Japanese and they went to obon festival together?

      Okamura: What!!?? Hey, maybe that is why I got hired. That's cool; I
      like that.


      AW: Is there anything else you would like to add?

      Okamura: Uhmmm … I would like Mark to choreograph an obon. No, just
      kidding. That would be pretty cool, though. It could happen. You
      can't do many steps in kimono but we're good with restrictions.


      Reach Joyce Nishoka at jnishioka@....
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