“Caught on the 7”: Michiyo Tanaka

The Queens Art Express is the expression of a fistful of passionate people who, rather than allow the recession to bring their creative energies to a screeching halt, have chosen to link their unique art events along the 7 train as tightly-knit talkative artist community and proudly launch this exciting event. These are the folks that we “Caught on the 7″.

Michiyo Tanaka is Artistic Director/Choreographer of Mad About Dance

Michiyo Tanaka, Artistic Director/Choreographer of MAD About Dance

Michiyo, what is your subway stop for Queens Art Express?
I live on 9th St. between 33rd and 34th Ave. by Noguchi’s Museum and Costco’s. I get off on Vernon – Jackson on the “7” train and take the Q103 or Queensborough on the “7” and take the “N” or the “W” to Broadway A station.

Your work takes you all over the city–do you have any favorite subway performers?
A group called, “I and I Drumlink”, they are usually on the Lexington and 59th platform, incredible percussionists. I also like the do-op guys on the 4 train. When I hear good musicians I like to pick up their CD’s.

When you’re not choreographing, running a dance company, teaching, or feeding your 8 cats how do you relax in Queens?
I like the visual arts; in Long Island City, artists have these open houses where they give you like a treasure map and you have to go searching for balloons. The balloons out front of the buildings tell you where the art is.

Your dance company “MAD About Dance” is performing as part of 100th anniversary of the Q-boro bridge at Queens Art Express, when did you first get the Modern Dance bug?
Oh Mr. Ricardo. Well when I was 7 I dreamed of being in the Nutcracker, but one day I overheard my ballet teacher, Mr Ricardo, telling my father that I was hopeless and that ballet was a waste. It was horrible and I was heartbroken. I discovered modern dance much later while studying visual arts at Fullerton College. Choreographing was like painting with people.

As an animal lover have you ever created pieces with animals in mind?
I wrote a musical where one of the characters is walking around with a goldfish in a bowl. I ended up with a prop goldfish and “Mermaid” became my fish for the next ten years. My friends are always talking about this fish. First “Mermaid” grew out of the 10 gallon tank to a 20 gallon tank and by the time the fish died we had a 40 gallon tank and “Mermaid” was 14 inches.

Your dance company has a regular gig at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center-what do you like about this space in Long Island City?
Originally I went to Steven Hitt (Managing Director at LPAC) to ask how much his spaces would cost to rent, he told me “you couldn’t afford it Michiyo, but we can produce you.” But really, aside from the Little Theatre being a warm and homey space, the LaGuardia crew, both administrative and technical are fabulous. They are professional but a lot of fun. I look forward to just hanging out with the technicial crew in the sound/lighting booth. It is rare when you find a place that has everything going for them—I am always waiting for the ball to drop, but my experience at LaGuardia has been terrific.

It sounds like you are synthesizing different art forms– what comes first the music or the choreography?
I like to have music composed for me after I start on my choreography. It is more of collaboration than commissioning someone to set the music to my work. It is a long and tedious process but I am very lucky to have Katsuya Kuwashima as the composer for our company. I feel that when I set my choreography to an already made music, it’s as if I bought the frame before I painted my painting.

In the past you have incorporated live sculpture on stage with modern dance what should audiences expect from you at LaGuardia and Queens Art Express?
I am currently working on a new piece, “Nesting” which incorporates ceramic eggs made by Flo Kaczarowski and myself. The “Nests” will be created by the Dancers onstage with audience participation. I hope to premiere this at LaGuardia in the Fall.

For Queens Art Express, We will be performing “Karasu” (Crow), our signature piece, performed by 10 dancers and 2 musicians.

–Michiyo Tanaka is Artistic Director/Choreographer of MAD About Dance performing at Bridging the Arts: The 100th Anniversary of the Queensborough Bridge, June 6th at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center as part of the Queens Art Express.

MAD About Dance has performed extensively in the New York area including Nikolais/Louis Choreospace, Merce Cunningham Studio, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center Summer Festival, “Celebrate Brooklyn,” Riverside Dance Festival, the Japan Society, and opened for the American jazz performer, Mel Torme to name a few. MAD AboutDance has toured Japan a dozen times since 1983, performing in various cities appearing on television as well as teaching master classes.

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