This week we got the chance to interview one of our guest artists for our winter premiere of Tales From the Floating World, a landmark contemporary ballet premiere inspired by the haunting and powerful music of Portland Taiko and live koto player Mitsuki Dazai.
As a sneak peak for our audience, Mitsuki recently played at our Open Barre this past Wednesday night at the Oregon Wine Lab. Everyone loved her beautiful melodies that accompanied the ballet performance.
Ballet Fantastique wanted everyone to have a chance to get to know Mitsuki and learn a little bit more about her art, so we asked her a few questions:
BFan: For those of us who are not familiar with Koto, how would you explain it?
Mitsuki: Koto is one of the traditional musical instruments of Japan. It is a string instrument with 13 strings on top of the hollow paulownia wood body and bridges in between. This instrument was brought originally from China over a thousand years ago.
BFan: How did you get involved with it?
Mitsuki: I studied western classical music first. I loved singing and learned mainly Italian/German songs from Bach to Donizetti, and went to a college of music in Tokyo. Soon I realized though…. I was not grown in the culture yet, you must express it dramatically. It was very difficult.
I also took ethnomusicology class and studied music from many different countries. It immediately caught my mind. Soon after I picked up an LP record of koto music and just fell in love with the beautiful/sensitivity/powerful and unique sounds of koto.
BFan: For you, what is the best part of playing?
Mitsuki: In one aspect, music allows me to keep growing, meeting new people and expand my world. In another aspect, I feel like I make “just a sheet music on papers” wake up and come ALIVE! It is like an adventure to the new world to start the new piece. It is also just fun to play both physically and mentally. I may be addicted to playing this instrument as many professionals feeling the same thing.
BFan: How did koto music merge in with Eugene, Oregon?
Mitsuki: Simply, I met a man who is from this area. (I actually live in Creswell). Most of my performances/lessons are in the Portland area and I commute 2-3 times (or even more)/month. Then my husband and I got serious about moving up in the Portland area and started looking for a house, but every time we came back, it felt like we were “coming home” and realized that we love living here.
BFan: How long do you usually prepare for a show?
Mitsuki: It is depending on the length of the program and what kind of music, but in general I need 3 months.
BFan: What kinds of things can we expect to see at the premiere in February?
Mitsuki: I have been playing as a soloist for over 10 years here in Oregon and have always wanted to collaborate with other artists, especially, thinking it would be very interesting and exciting to collaborate with visual artists (video, photo, dance, ballet, etc). Music may sound different with them and vice versa.
It is a great honor for me to join this show and I hope the audience will enjoy the beautiful ballet show with unique textures of Japanese music.
If you want to know more about Mitsuki Dazai and her koto playing, click here!