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  • Makeda Davis

Cross My Heart and Hope - An Interview with Denise Fujiwara

Interview by Makeda Davis

Photo credits : From left to right: Denise Fujiwara, William Yong, and Sylvie Bouchard from the filming of “Cross My Heart and Hope”. Photograph by Makeda Davis. This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. Using the language and physicality of dance, Cross My Heart and Hope is an intensely moving and emotive piece that dances between the world of fiction and non-fiction; taking from history and playing with it creatively to create a piece that pulls at the heartstrings of the audience with the fluidity of each movement. Collaborating with choreographer and dancer Denise Fujiwara, this piece is performed by our artistic director, Sylvie Bouchard. I was fortunate enough to steal a bit of Denise’s time and ask her questions about herself, and about the process behind Cross My Heart and Hope. Could you introduce yourself? Denise Fujiwara. I choreograph, I perform, and I teach dance. What got you into dance and choreography, and has it always been a part of your life? As a child, I was a serious athlete; I was a gymnast, but the thing that I liked most about gymnastics was the dance part. I got very badly injured and then I switched to dance. So was [dance] easier on you instead of gymnastics? Yeah, it wasn’t as dangerous. How has the Toronto dance scene and collaborating with other dancers influenced your work? Dance is a social enterprise. It’s a collaborative art form, and that’s an aspect of it that is really important. I’ve been really lucky to work with really amazing people, not only from Toronto, but from different parts of the world. I worked with a dance master from Tokyo named Natsu Nakajima, and that was a life-changing experience for me. What was the inspiration behind Cross My Heart and Hope? Sylvie asked me if I could create a solo for her because she was developing some new repertoire. She wanted to do something that referenced her life – her upbringing – so we had lots of talks about her childhood and some of the very difficult things from it. It was a great responsibility to take that information and find a way to make it into a dance. This piece is part fiction and part truth. It’s like creative non-fiction, that’s a genre of writing I really like. It’s non-fiction but you add a creative spin to it. Yeah, and I suppose there’s a genre called historical fiction. We draw from Sylvie’s personal history, but it’s a fictional creation. It’s very sensitive subject matter. What do you hope the audience takes away from Cross My Heart and Hope? We hope that someone watching it is drawn into the story, into the journey and to go with the ambiguities of it. Just capturing the nuances of [Cross My Heart and Hope]?Yeah, because memory is not always accurate, so in a way it’s a trip into memory. Everybody’s memory of an incident will vary, so this is this young girl’s memory. I suppose it’s an adult reflecting on her childhood memories. I like that, thank you!


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