Yoshiko Chuma

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Yoshiko Chuma (中馬 芳子, Chūma Yoshiko, born in Osaka, Japan) is a dancer, a choreographer and the director of the Bessie Award winning performance art group The School of Hard Knocks.[1][2] Described in 2007 by Bloomberg as "a fixture on New York's downtown scene for over a quarter-century", her work spans from early "absurdist gaiety" to more recent serious reflection, which nevertheless represents the "maverick imagination and crazy-quilt multimedia work" for which the artist is known.[3] Dance commentators have found her work difficult to classify; in a 2006 profile, Dance Magazine speculated that "One might call her a postmodern choreographer, a movement designer, or a visual artist whose primary medium is human beings--dancers, musicians, pedestrians".[4] Chuma favors abstract art and discourages efforts to interpret her work, telling Bloomberg that "What I do is ambiguous. I don't have a statement. If I had a statement, I'd be a writer".[3] In 2007, Chuma received a Bessie Award honoring her sustained achievements as a choreographer.[5]


Chuma arrived in the United States from her native Japan in 1977, settling in Manhattan and subsequently becoming a leader in modern American dance.[2][4] In 2007, The New York Times remarked on her involvement "in one of the great populist moments in New York dance" when, in 1988, she staged an audience-participatory performance art swim-dance in the Astoria pools in Queens.[6] Her avant-garde pieces have included the seven-hour-long "Sundown", an exploration of cubism mounted at Issue Project Space in 2006.[7]

In addition to directing The School of Hard Knocks, Chuma also directed the Daghdha Dance Company of Ireland, commuting internationally between 2000 and 2004.[4]


Chuma cites American television as a major part of her childhood, and critics have detected influence in her "raucous dance/music/theater spectacles on American pop themes".[8] She has also been inspired by Japanese cinema.[4] Specific art influences include the school of minimalism and the opera Einstein on the Beach.[4] After meeting notable beat poet Allen Ginsberg, she incorporated into her dances his philosophy on spontaneity, encapsulated in his phrase "First thought, best thought."[4][9] Chuma also credits artist Alex Katz and composer Alvin Curran as among her diverse inspirations.[4]

The School of Hard Knocks[edit]

The School of Hard Knocks, more fully titled "Yoshiko Chuma & The School of Hard Knocks,"[4] was founded in 1982 and is located in New York City.[8] The name was inspired by Chuma's interest in American idioms during her early days in the United States.[4] In 1984, the group received a Bessie Award for its Collective Work.[5]


  1. ^ Dunning, Jennifer. (March 25, 1979) "Miss Chuma and Dennis Dance". The New York Times. article preview. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  2. ^ a b Kriegsman, Alan M. (October 11, 1987) The week of giant steps The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  3. ^ a b Tobias, Tobi. (January 15, 2007) Chuma's crazy-quilt choreography returns to Chelsea: N.Y. Dance Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith, Amanda. (December 1, 2006) The magic pilgrim: intuition, humor, and a unique perspective inspire Yoshiko Chuma's work. Dance Magazine. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  5. ^ a b Danspace Project. Past recipients Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  6. ^ Dunning, Jennifer. (August 25, 2007) Spirited reminders of a time long gone The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  7. ^ Kourlas, Gia. (July 29, 2006) For Dance, a Cubism of a different sort. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  8. ^ a b Temin, Christine. (October 20, 1985) "Yoshiko Chuma Dance 'From Zero to 20'" The Boston Globe. Excerpt Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  9. ^ Deresiewicz, William. (April 8, 2001). First Thought, Best Thought The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05.

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