Meet Maiko Yamamoto, director of a dance production inspired by ASMR

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityMaiko Yamamoto is an Artistic Director and member of the Theatre Replacement theatre company in Vancouver, Canada. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with a specialization in Theatre, along with a Masters of Applied Arts in visual arts.

Part of the mission of Maiko and her theatre company is to “build performances that react to contemporary existence.”

This mission was clearly manifested in a recent ASMR-inspired experimental dance work.

The ASMR-inspired show was, “The Sensationalists”. The world premiere was held May 12 – 16, 2015, at The Cultch Historic Theatre in Vancouver.

The show was created by 605 Collective, a Vancouver-based dance company, who commissioned Maiko to direct the work.

These two companies describe their final product as “an immersive performance experience that pushes both companies into new territories, exploring concepts surrounding various sensory phenomena.”

Maiko shares the first time she experienced ASMR, her favorite ASMR video, her goals of the show (which truly embody ASMR), and how the dancers used movements and words to express ASMR.

Below are my questions in bold followed by her replies in italics.

Did directing this show increase your awareness or understanding of ASMR?

Maiko, “I would say that through this show I have become aware of ASMR; what it is and what it feels like, and now I note when I experience it.

At the beginning of our work on the show, we would try to give each other ASMR. The first time I really experienced it was when one of the dancers, Jane, sat in front of me and started tapping a book, and flipping its pages, etc.

A few times the designers and I experienced ASMR when we would be rehearsing the work, or watching the dancers.”

Do you have a favorite ASMR video?

Maiko,There is a video of a woman who describes her grandmother’s jewelry collection that is very calming; very nice. The video is by Ilse TheWaterwhispers and is titled, “ASMR Whispering – Old Jewellery Collection (Show & Tell).”

What was the inspiration to create “The Sensationalists”?

Maiko,605 Commissioned the Theatre Replacement to make a work for/with them. ASMR was something we stumbled upon during our research for the show. We learned about it through an episode of This American Life.

We were looking for some narrative containers to work from. We started with the book The Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata. Sense and sensation provided a strong theme in the book, and we also liked how it related to what dance is and does.

In many ways, experiencing ASMR became a metaphor for experiencing dance.

The title of the show is a double entendre — there’s The Sensationalists, who are a group of people who come together to create experiences for each other that would help them to feel better, and then there are The Sensationalists, who are a group of sensational dancers.”

What were your goals for this show?

Maiko,About half way through the process we decided that the work would be immersive — meaning that for some portion of the show we would place the audience in the same space as the dance, and in very close proximity with it.

After this decision was made, our goals became all about providing the audience with an experience that would invite them into a unique experience with the dance and the performers.

We started to work with ideas of giving the audience our attention in particular ways, and also calling upon the basic human inclination to help or support each other. Mostly, they felt very cared for in a way that I think is pretty rare these days.”

How were the dancers’ movements expressive of ASMR?

Maiko,We made choreography directly based on asking the dancers “What does ASMR feel like?”

I’m not sure if this is completely transparent in the piece — meaning you might never know that the choreography is about how ASMR feels in the body. But you would recognize a dancer feeling something in their bodies and revealing those feelings through their movements.

One audience member said they felt the show changed their biochemistry. I thought that was interesting.”

Spoken words were also incorporated into the performance, were these words also inspired by ASMR?

Maiko,There’s text in the show that I took from recorded interviews with the dancers — again, asking them to tell me what ASMR feels like, this text is all throughout the piece, ie: “It feels like sunlight on the back of your neck; it’s warm and it tingles; it feels like buzzing or humming.”

And this was really effective because these statements could also all be interpreted as what dancing feels like too.”

Did you have any new thoughts, curiosities, or perspectives about ASMR during the creation and performance of this show?

Maiko,I think the curiosity around a community of people coming together to explore ASMR through dance, or music — it might be really useful to some.

As an alternative to watching videos, I wondered if it would be useful to have someone in real physical space acting as the trigger, as is what happens in the show to some extent. For instance, when Jane was tapping and flipping through the book, she was right in front of me; she was looking at me; this quite intensified things.

I just wondered if instead of a video of a person tapping a book, if it could be happening in real time and space, what would that do?”

Has the show received any additional media attention because of its ASMR theme?

Maiko,I think it was always an interesting story point. People who spoke or interviewed us always wanted to know more about it.

Is this the first piece of performance art that you know of that was inspired by ASMR?

Yes, although I’m sure there must be many many more. And I’m quite new to it, so…”

Do you have any ideas or plans for more ASMR-inspired performances? What is next for you?

Maiko,We feel the production was successful and we hope we will have the chance to do it again someday soon. And we think it will; there’s some touring interest.

For the time being this seems to be my only ASMR inspired work, but who knows? It’s certainly fascinating and in many ways makes good sense to talk about ASMR and performance making.

I’ve always been interested in work that feels tangible and that is affecting and moving, and this is something ASMR brought to the piece; a way to articulate how we should feel when we experience an artwork.”

Click HERE to learn more about Maiko and her theatre company.

Click HERE to learn more about her collaborators, the dancers, and the dance performance company.

Click HERE to watch Maiko’s favorite ASMR video.

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This post brought to you by ASMR University.  A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

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