Masumi Saito was born in a rural part of Japan. She started to dance at the age of 3. In 2005 she decided to move to the UK. With training in many diverse dance forms, she started her solo performances shortly after graduating from the London Contemporary Dance School and has carved a unique path owing to her expressionistic and cathartic dance style. She has devised performances for stage, film and photographic projects, presenting work on a number of alternative and internationally acclaimed platforms.
VOTA: Why have you decided to leave Japan and move to the UK? You have been performing your “unique expressionistic and cathartic dance style” for a while now. Do you think the British audience has a better understanding of the dance you perform?
MS: I grew up in a rural part of Japan and I never lived outside of my home town. Nothing was challenging and exciting there anymore. When I became 18 I had a huge urge to get out from Japan and see the world to find out what’s out there. I do not remember why I chose the UK but I’m happy that I followed my instinct. After 8 years I’m still here and I’m not bored at all. I wouldn’t say that the British audience particularly have a better understanding of my performance. People respond differently to my performance in every country.
VOTA: How would you define your dance style?
MS: I’m not certainly sure what my dance style is. I’m still finding out who I am each day and at every performance. I now call myself a movement artist rather than a dancer. That way its more broad and I think it gives more freedom for the audience to decide who I am.
VOTA: What type of technical training did you do before becoming a dancer/ performer?
MS: I took weekly modern dance class from the age of 3 to 18. I started hiphop and urban style dance when I was 15. Then when I moved to the UK I discovered contemporary dance. I went to The London Contemporary Dance School for 1 year. It was an intensive training scheme in 2007.
VOTA: How much time are you willing to spend to practice dance?
MS: I don’t take class or go to a studio to practice anymore. To me its more important to spend time going to see something and to experience stuff. That is the most beneficial practice.
VOTA: What got you into dancing and what inspires you to keep on dancing?
MS: I have been dancing since I was three. My mom let me try everything such as calligraphy, painting, swimming and piano. But weekly dance class was the only one I kept going. Dancing and physically expressing myself has been part of my life since I was very little so I can’t say what really inspires me to keep on dancing. Dance is a part of me. I suppose I keep on dancing because I enjoy it and I love myself dancing.
VOTA: You have recently performed in a play entitled ‘Sunstroke’ produced by Belka Production. How was it for you to perform on stage?
MS: It was very different to what I normally do. I never worked with a scripted show with actors and I’ve never done 30 shows in row. It was a great challenge and experience for me in many ways. I learnt a lot and I think I matured a lot as performer thanks to this production.
VOTA: Was there ever a time you doubted yourself as a dancer?
MS: Always, if I look at dancing as my career. But I wouldn’t doubt myself dancing. This is me and I wouldn’t even know who I’d be if I wasn’t dancing.
VOTA: Do you think that the way professional dancing is portrayed in the media, like in dance movies, TV shows etc, is a fair representation of what it’s actually like?
MS: The way dancing is portrayed in the media is only a tiny aspect of dancing. Yes, dancing is great entertainment so I understand how the dance is used for commercial purposes. But personally that’s not the dance I like or try to achieve. It is just a different way to look at it.
VOTA: What advice would you give to someone who thinks of becoming a professional dancer?
MS: I wouldn’t really say I’m a professional dancer so I’m not sure how much advice I can give to someone. But I would say just enjoy being who you are. If you can think you are the most beautiful creature on the planet at the moment when you are dancing, then you are already a dancer.
VOTA: Any new projects in the pipeline?
MS: I will be performing my friend’s piece at the 25th Resolution! Dance Festival in February 2014. And also there is a project of my own which I’ve been working on. It is very much a personal project so there is no set date or place. But I’m really excited about it.
VOTA: Thank you Masumi for chatting to View of the Arts. And we wish you all the best.
Interviewed by Maggie Gogler