Literature & Art


Miyajima Dance Walk:

A Conversation with Joanne G. Yoshida

and Teresa Tumminello Brader

Dance Walk Video by Joanne G. Yoshida

(Please see sidebar for links to the videos referenced in the conversation)

TTB: Joanne, you and I met via our poems in “The Body” issue of The Mom Egg, with you graciously contacting me, which I found serendipitous because you did not know of my connection to Japan due to my son living there.

Your dance walk obviously incorporates the body, but how do you get to that place where it is also spiritual?

JGY: Thank you, Teresa. Yes, it was a serendipitous meeting and great to find out the Japan connection and then later that you had also been to Miyajima. 

The dance that I do is `yoga dance` in the sense of yoga being a union between body and spirit. The dance walks have become a way to connect with the elements of a site and to the energies of the sun, the wind, water, the moon....

I always thought of `spiritual` as something far outside the body, but through yoga dance I am experiencing that connecting to breath, and to the inner organs like the heart and lungs, is a `gateway` to the spirit. 

TTB: Another association for me with Japan is that I received the email acceptance from The Mom Egg sitting in the Narita airport waiting for my flight back home. I went back to The Body issue and reread your poem, which is addressed to the Ocean. What is it about water that opens you up to poetry and dance?

JGY: It is wanting to connect to my own fluid nature that draws me to water and opens me up to dance. Shake Your Soul yoga dance, which is the training I received, is an amazing approach to movement based on the water in the body. Our bodies are comprised largely of water, and through movements based on the various fluids (including synovial fluid, the blood, intercellular) we connect to our flowing nature from the inside out. 

What is it about water? I love your question ... maybe it is a mirror, wanting us to see the beauty of our own inner oceans, innate sensual power, creativity, and flow. 

TTB: I know that I am happy to live in walking distance of a large estuary.

What was your inspiration for going to Miyajima? Did you think of it as a spiritual place before you’d even arrived?

JGY: Can you believe it, the image of going to Miyajima to dance just floated into my mind one day, and from that I decided to go!

I don`t know if I told you, but I had been to Miyajima twenty years ago on my honeymoon! I studied architecture as a graduate student, and one of the things that always attracted me to Japan was its architecture. So, yes, I had thought of Miyajima as a spiritual place, both as a symbol of the spirit of Japan and for the visual power and magic of the site that connected to something in my own spirit. And the site being a sacred place which fills with water also made it the ultimate place to do a yoga dance walk! 

TTB: Not being a morning person, I was in awe of your greeting the sunrise. I’m very happy you did, so that I could see the torii not 'floating' in water, something I didn't experience when I visited Miyajima for just the one afternoon, nor have I seen anything similar in other photos I’ve come across.

Anyway, a torii is a gate, an entrance to a sacred place. Most visitors to Miyajima, I would guess, only encounter the torii from the ferry and then looking at it from along the beach. How did it feel to enter on land that is normally covered with water?

JGY: Thank you, Teresa, for your appreciation of those moments which come from your sensitivity and understanding of the site. I hope readers can get a sense of that through our conversation ... even if they have never visited there...

When we decided to do the video, I felt the `heart` of the dance would have to be at sunrise, before the tide of travelers and before the ocean tide came in. When we went out at 5 AM, I had no idea where to start and looked out and down to the space where the `ocean` usually is. In the face of this moment, thoughts begin to arise such as `who am I` to dance with this sacred site, and how does one even begin to enter into a dance with a world treasure? 

I said to Shintaro, my video collaborator, that I don`t know if I will go down there. He saw my hesitation, and as he patiently waited for me to signal the start, I sensed something in his silent expression that said, umm ... are you crazy? You are being presented with the chance to dance here, you traveled all the way here for this moment, and now you are going to tiptoe around its edges....

I looked for a sign to tell me to enter and noticed there were stairs I could use all the way on the other side of the site. But then the universe stepped in, opened up and removed all obstacles. There was a gentle and natural slope that seemed to roll out beneath my feet like a sandy carpet, inviting me in. I touched my toe into the sand... I hope you and readers will feel it with me as you watch the first part of the video.

TTB: Your explanation on your blog of asking the shrine for permission to approach was powerful. I won’t ask you to reiterate it all, but could you tell us a little bit about how that felt?

JGY: Yes, the asking of permission was a `process` that started before I went there.

Once I actually began to move in the space a gust of energy took me all the way in and there was no more hesitation. I was pulled into the very center of that space, and then I was facing the great and powerful torii!

When I began to move towards it, I felt a gravitational pull, back and away from it, in the same direction that the tide would soon be bringing the water in. It was as if I were the water being pulled by the tides, in a `backwards` movement as I still faced the torii but  receded farther and farther from it and towards the shrine. Once I stopped at what must have been the perfect distance from the torii gate, I felt reverence mixed with joy, then the music started and I began to spin...

TTB: How did it come about that the other travelers danced with you? That looked like a lot of fun.

JGY: Yes, it was fun! I will tell you the secret of that scene! Shintaro and I were watching lines of people entering the space... as other figures were dotting the beach here and there. The sun was setting and streams of Japanese students on a school trip were flowing in...

We saw a group of travelers silhouetted against the sun, who were posing for each other and having fun on the stone `bridge`. I thought, what a great scene that would make if we could have the `still` shot move and the people would begin to dance. 

I said, let’s ask them!, and we ran down and just flat out asked them if they would be open to doing a scene with me. Complete improvisation on the spot!

TTB: Watching you spin around, I have a somewhat silly question: Do you ever get dizzy?

JGY: Not really! There is a secret to it which I can reveal in our next collaboration!

The world is incredible when you see the stripes of color going around and around as bands of radiant colors and light, all merged into one. No longer a `shrine` and a `gate`, a `sky` and a `sea` just pure swirling dazzling life!!

TTB: Thank you, Joanne, for sharing this remarkable experience with us.

JGY: Thank you, Teresa, for your openness, insights and inspiration, and thank you to The Mom Egg for this space to meet with each other and The Mom Egg community.

“My Miyajima Dance Walk,” the video series described in this interview, starts here:

Joanne G. Yoshida lives in Oita, Japan, with her husband and daughter. She recently began to teach Shake Your Soul/Kripalu Yoga Dance, through which she is enjoying deepening her connection to her body, her spirit and the world around her.

Teresa Tumminello Brader was born in New Orleans and lives in the area still, not far from Lake Pontchartrain. Her poetry and fiction have appeared most recently in Eighty Six Four Hundred, an Anthology of Time, and in You Don’t Say, an Ink Monkey Press anthology.

  Copyright 2013 The Mom Egg. All rights reserved.


Miyajima Dance Walk Video

Segment Titles and Playlist

1. Red & White: Entering the Site   Songs on this segment: Red & White by Guitar

2.  Hey Ma Durga: Receding, Greeting and Spinning

Songs on this segment: Hey Ma Durga by Donna de Lorry

3. Rebirth: Sunrise by the Pagoda   

Songs on this segment: 

Rebirth (featuring Anoushka)     Midival Punditz   

Beloved (Theivery Corporation Remix)     Anoushka Shankar


4. There is a Door: Dancing close to the Torii & Bicycle scene

Songs on this segment:

Who Needs Forever (Thievery Corporation Mix) by Sabrina Natale

Doo-Wop in Harlem by Prefab Sprout

5.  Behind the Scenes: Dancing with deer

Songs on this segment:

Breathe You In by Govinda

Dance in XTC by Govinda

6.  Organic Beauty: Dancing with travelers

Songs on this segment:

Organic Beauty-Remixed by Govinda

7.Prelude:  Listen to Your Heart

Songs on this segment:

Listen to Your Heart by Alicia Keys

New Day by Alicia Keys

Above, Joanne G. Yoshida

Below, Teresa Tumminello Brader

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