Evolving experiments

Junichi Fukuda mixes technology, music, and dance in “Emergence”

The Seacoast’s dance scene has had its ups and downs in the last few decades. But a number of local artists are working to revive the region’s dance community. One of those artists is choreographer Junichi Fukuda. A graduate of the Boston Conservatory, Fukuda has performed nationally and internationally with prestigious choreographers like Lar Lubovitch, Jacqulyn Buglisi, and Igal Perry. After travelling the world, Fukuda now hopes to make his mark on Portsmouth. Fukuda will appear in “Emergence,” a collaborative performance with musicians Timothy Fife and Michael Palace, at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth on Friday, Aug. 28. The Sound recently caught up with Fukuda to talk about technology, guerrilla performances, and the perfect day in the studio.

Can you describe your dance background?
When I was growing up in Japan, I was into breakdancing and street dancing. I did not start ballet until just before college. I received my main training at the Boston Conservatory and after graduation while I was dancing with Peridance Contemporary Dance Company in New York City.

Where did dance take you after that? What brought you to the Seacoast?
After a year in New York, I went to San Francisco, working with Smuin Ballet and Oakland Ballet. After a time I returned to New York, where I worked for contemporary dance companies — fitting in a national or an international tour here and there. I moved to the Seacoast because of my wife’s job. She is a doctor and when we were looking for a new place to live, I had a good feeling about the arts community here in Portsmouth.

How did the collaboration with Timothy and Michael come about?
Since I am new to the area, I told Chris Greiner, the (founder) of 3S Artspace, that I’d like to collaborate with a local, electronic musician. I asked him, “Do you know anybody?” Chris came back to me with a name — Timothy Fife. So, I met Tim at Street and we started to talk about what I would like to do with this project. I wanted to incorporate technology, so from there Tim recommended another musician, Michael Palace. That is how the three of us started working together, and we’ve been working together on and off for about a year.


Left to right: Timothy Fife, Junichi Fukuda, and Michael Palace.

What attracted you to incorporating technology into your choreography?
Well, I have always been interested in innovation. Technology is a field where innovation plays a major role, so I wanted to explore that and include technology in my dance work.

What is the concept behind “Emergence”?
The word “emergence” means to evolve or transform. We are three local artists collaborating in a local space creating and producing an evening of performance art. I hope to create something transformational — for myself, for my musicians, and our audience.

“Emergence” uses video-tracking technology to capture your movements and translate them on the spot into sounds that will be part of a live score. How does this technology work?
I think I would like to keep that a secret for a little bit (laughs). If you really want to find out how it works, Michael Palace is the person to ask — but, please don’t ask him yet. He would tell you everything and there wouldn’t be any magic!

You have recently been spotted with your musicians creating guerilla, site-specific dance performances in Market Square and The Red Door. What is the appeal of spontaneous performance?
I don’t know anybody in downtown Portsmouth. Well, OK, I know a few — people in the dance field or, I have a 4-year-old son, so, parents (laughs). These are my two main social circles, but they’re not the only people that live here. When I go out in Portsmouth and do a little bit of dancing … I hope that people get interested. If someone walking by sees me for five seconds, I did my job. By staging guerilla performances, we’re piquing the curiosity of the people about dance and electronic music. These interactions become an introduction for passers-by to see what it is that we do.

“I am at a place right now where I’m trying to let the movement just happen, as opposed to borrowing movement from my past. It’s an interesting place for me to be.” — Junichi Fukuda

You have experience performing many different genres of dance, everything from breakdancing to Baroque. How does this versatile background effect the work that you are making now?
Everything that I experience is a part of my choreography, from the day that I was born to the day that I started dancing. I cannot ignore my experience. That said, I am at a place right now where I’m trying to let the movement just happen, as opposed to borrowing movement from my past. It’s an interesting place for me to be. Sometimes, I feel totally stupid trying something out, but part of choreographing is experimenting. This whole “Emergence” project has huge amounts of improvisation. I’m trying to explore and ultimately be able to own the improvisation, rather than doing something on stage that’s totally planned.

What does a perfect day in the studio look like, for you?
A perfect day in the studio — um, the temperature has to be right (laughs). But, I guess a perfect day would be when everybody’s mind is gearing towards the same goal. I think that would be a perfect day.

Junichi Fukuda performs in “Emergence” with musicians Michael Palace and Timothy Fife on Friday, Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. at 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth. Tickets are $15 and are available at 3sarts.org

Top of page: Local dancer Junichi Fukuda in the studio. photo by Sarah Duclos