If you watch dance in Houston, then you've seen the grace and elegance that is Shohei Iwahama. The first time we saw the Hope Stone and NobleMotion company member was at the 2010 Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. He performed in Andy Noble's exuberant "KinkyKool Fan Blowing Hard," easily one of the most memorable dance pieces that came out of that season. His fluidity of movement and keen sense of musicality made him a standout in the ensemble cast, and we've been enthusiastically watching ever since.
Born and raised in Japan, dance has been a part of Shohei's life since before he could remember. "My older sisters used to do modern dance, so I grew up seeing them perform," he says. "I also went to the dance studio when I was three or four years old, but I didn't take it seriously back then." It wasn't until he saw one of his junior high classmates perform ballet that he decided to focus on dance. Time in the ballet studio eventually led him to Miyako Kato Dance Academy where his sisters used to study.
After performing with Kato's company, Shohei studied in New York City at The Ailey School under a one-year grant from the Agency of Cultural Affairs of Japan. He continued his training at Sam Houston State University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. Since then, he's made Houston his home and professional playground.
As far as the local dance scene is concerned, it offers him a chance to work with a varied roster of choreographers. "Houston allows us dancers to have many different opportunities and experiences with many different companies at the same time," he explains. Whoever he's working with, he wants his audience to experience the fun he's having on stage. "One of my goals is to be an inspiring artist to others. I have fun dancing, but I want others to have fun as well."
What he does: "I dance, choreograph and teach. I'm a contemporary/modern dancer and choreographer."
Why he likes it: For Shohei, one of the greatest aspects of dance is its freedom from external necessities. Musicians need their instruments and visual artists need their materials. But a dancer can even be free of music. "I like dance because it does not require anything except my body. I can dance anywhere and anytime I want."
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What inspires you: When you move from another country to live and work, when you've graduated from an esteemed dance program and when you're worked with an accomplished roster of choreographers by the age of twenty-five, you learn to take inspiration from the small details of daily life. "I'm inspired by anything I see in the world," he says. If not this, then what: It seems life on the stage would be the inevitable result for Shohei no matter what. "If I wasn't dancing, then I would be playing the cello. I started playing the cello when I was nine years old, but I quit when I was eighteen. I chose dance over cello."
What's Next: "For the 2013-2014 season, I will be performing with Hope Stone Dance Company and NobleMotion Dance. I will also be involved in some projects with Rednerrus Feil Dance Company." Shohei will kick off the season in FrenetiCore's The Rite of Summer on August 29-31.
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