Meet the Blind Choreographer Envisioning a New World of Dance
Jul 25, 2018
By Victoria Dombroski | Posted July 24, 2018
Mana Hashimoto is a New York City-based contemporary dancer and choreographer whose career has spanned from her native Tokyo to many stages worldwide. She also happens to be blind. After losing her eyesight due to optic nerve atrophy, she was determined to keep dancing despite the unexpected obstacle. Since then, she has dedicated her life to merging blindness and dance, and to create artistic works through the use of her remaining senses.
How did losing your eyesight change your trajectory as a dancer?
I trained as a classic ballet dancer and it’s very common that when you take class, you have to check in the mirror to see how you look. It becomes a sort of obsession and trap, consciously or unconsciously. I think it was a relief that I no longer had to see myself in the mirror, but instead be in the moment and be with myself and accept who I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Were there certain things you learned about yourself as a dancer after losing your sight?
I learned how to accept who I am, [to] be free, and to observe myself internally. It changed my perspective of what beauty is. Visual information can be overwhelming and we are shown what beauty should be instead of who you should be. There are so many models that play a role [for what is] ideal. Right now I don’t have these intense intimidations so I can totally focus on who I am. Any daily movement as a blind person can be [beautiful].
What advice do you have for blind dancers and dancers with disabilities?
I’m still a work-in-progress as a human being, but if I could advise something: keep enjoying dance. If there are some challenges, you can take them as opportunities to make your dance original. Any challenge is a door we didn’t expect we could open. I think we have tremendous possibility from this unexpected door. Keep dancing and be hopeful.
How do you convey dance to those without sight?
There are many descriptions of “what is dance?” Some people may say it’s movement, a physical expression, but I use dance to represent souls, something spiritual. And in dance, I can be completely free. In my daily life I have many wonderful supports but in order to survive, I have to constantly think, “Where can I get help? What do I need to get through these circumstances?” On the stage, I have independence and liberty.