Circus News

Mapping Contortion in Japan — Part Two, The Future

Having explored early traces of contortionism throughout Japan’s entertainment history in Part One of this series, I will now discuss contemporary developments, as well as the establishment of the first contortion studio in Japan in my interview with Ayumi Moco Osanai, the founder of Contortion Studio NUGARA. Osanai has a background in Judo, a Japanese martial art form, and fell in love with contortion during a high school exchange program in Mongolia. She has since studied contortion in Mongolia at the Mongolian National Circus and opened her own contortion studio in Japan in 2015. Studio NUGARA (derived from the Mongolian word “Uran Nugaralt” for Contortion) is the first and currently only contortion studio in Japan, and practitioners from all corners of the country travel to Tokyo to study contortion.

Mariam Ala-Rashi: Thank you for taking the time and sharing your story with us. I would like to begin with your decision to study Mongolian contortion.  What was your motivation to study this art form? Ayumi Moco Osanai: I went to Mongolia through a student exchange programme for about three weeks during high school when I was around seventeen years old. During that time, I watched a traditional Mongolian performance that showcased Mongolian contortion among other traditional art forms. At this moment I fell in love with contortion. It had a very strong impact on me and I started my contortion training immediately. MA: When did you open the studio and why? What was your mission then and has it changed over the years? AO: I returned to Mongolia after graduating from University where I studied the Mongolian language here in Japan. I...

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Mariam Ala Rashi

Mariam Ala-Rashi is a cultural anthropologist for dance and performance studies with an M.A. from the University of Roehampton in London, UK. As a professional dancer and dance instructor, she has worked internationally and won numerous awards in Europe and Asia. In 2011, she was accepted to the Beijing International Art School and studied contortion full-time for more than 4 years, and continued her contortion studies at the Mongolian National Circus for another 2 years. Simultaneously, she worked as author and researcher carrying out fieldwork in East Asia, focusing on dance and circus arts. Her recent publication is "The Art of Contortionism. An Introduction to and Analysis of Chinese Contortionism in a Historical, Political and Social Context." She currently lives in Japan to continue her anthropological research in dance and performance studies.

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