MOE SAKAN # 2

MOE SAKAN # 2

– 9.7 minute read –

Back in summer 2014 Moe (Swing Dancer) was my second Sunday Session. At this time the project was still forming. Back then I was simply choosing subjects from my social circles, and then matching them up with a location; and of course this all happened on a Sunday. After the session I would write a simple biography and publish this alongside the portraits. Now each session takes a different form. I want to make a wider portrait of my subjects, so I ask them to choose a location and a local cafe or place to meet and have a chat before we make the photos; this helps me tell the story of the day. So, looking at Moe’s session I wanted to bring her session into this format. I wanted to hear her story. I find that, with this project, the text illustrates the pictures. As you read I hope you can see more and, in turn, feel part of that moment.

The Sunday Session welcomes, for the second time, Moe Sakan!

I’m travelling up to Nottingham today so I arrange to meet Moe at The Betjeman Arms in St. Pancras Station. As I wait I manage to squeeze in an American pancake with maple syrup and bacon. Nice. Moe arrives in a flurry of smiles and hellos. We order two beers and get to talking about our photo-session two summers ago. 

It was sunny, then raining, so we jumped into the Hackney PictureHouse for a quick drink. Moe’s hair was curled up and her clothes were vintage style. We then arrived at a spot I liked close to London Fields, and of course the rain came down again. We start to look at the first image… we captured a great picture dancing in the rain, and a mother and daughter umbrella in hand passing by. Just as the little girl was almost out of frame she looked round to see what was going on. Moe says that this is her favourite. I say that for me too it’s one of my best because there is a classic juxtaposition. A styled girl dancing in the rain contrasting with a local in an everyday situation. The image is a mixture of control and chance and we were fortunate to capture this.

 

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I ask Moe if she is familiar with the area of London Fields. She says that she is a North London girl from around the area of Ali Pali (Alexandra Palace). So again this early session was at odds to my newer sessions where the subject would in fact choose their own location. However she knows Dalston and the Hoxton area because of her time managing a club there. She says that if she had had to choose the location then Ali Pali would have been her choice. There are great views and beautiful greens. And Hornsey Town Hall is a grand Art Deco Building.

Back to now. I ask Moe to give me some backstory to how she got to where she is now. “I originally came from Osaka, born and raised until I was nineteen. Then I moved to London to study performing arts and musical theatre. Quite a long time I have to say.” Moe roars with laughter. Myself and Moe are probably about the same age. “Quite a long time for me as well I have to say. I have a lot of friends who are thirty-nine and some of us were sitting round the table the other day, not quite believing that our forties are close by. We must have had a good time because we’re all broke!” “ Hey Yolo Yolo! ” Moe says. I laughed pretending I knew what she meant. Now I do of course :-)! 

 

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She studied at the Urdang Academy in London. She says that in Japan it’s impossible to be able to do dance in a music school like this. She loved all the classes. Back in 2013 I remember being invited to a swing social by a friend who used to dance a lot. I remember seeing Moe dancing and being amazed at her energy and creativity on the floor. There was a music change and Moe was looking for a new partner to dance with. She called to the crowd “Who wants to dance?” I felt too much of a beginner to dance with her, but when I tell this to Moe now, she says that once you master some principle steps, one being the rock-step, then you are able to dance with anyone. Moe also teaches Swing, and knows that when you break swing down, then it’s about how your body moves through the dance and the steps will follow. Moe adds that swing dancing is from the street, the steps are simple. But these days the steps can be made too academic and formal. 

So Moe was studying at Urdang. She enrolled in a three year course, but half-way through the course she damaged her hip during a class. She had to stop the professional training for at least six months. She was twenty years old now and realised her dreams of being a professional dancer were perhaps at an end; she was stuck alone in London and recalls having a breakdown. Her ligament was stretched and she couldn’t continue her studies. She got back on her feet and decided to get into Swing. A style of dancing that she had already learnt back in Osaka when she was seventeen. Swing is far less physical then, say, ballet, so this was a way forward for her. At this time in the late nineties London’s 100 Club Simon Selmon was running regular Swing Events, he knew Moe and asked her if she would like to be his partner for some SwingDance showcase gigs and that’s how she got into being a pro swing dancer. At the 100 Club Moe met her husband, who she was married to for eight years. She made lifelong friends there. 

 

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We talk about the styling of a dance. Moe says it’s really about one’s personality shining through. I recall my lessons and remember dancing very well with some girls, and not so well with others. I remember sometimes feeling a resistance and other times a fluidity. I ask Moe to expand on this. “It’s more like some women don’t want to be a heavy follow, or when there is no anticipation.” Put simply, Moe says “It’s like two people walking down the street holding hands. If one is doing something completely opposite than the other, then the walk will be super heavy.” 

In her twenties Moe became friends with the key characters in London’s Underground Vintage Scene, including the lovely couple DJ El Nino & Lady Kamikaze who ran legendary clubs Lady Luck and Black Cotton. They gave her a place to stay and encouraged her to push her dancing as a professional and as an artist. Following this she met fellow dancers; Ryan Francois, Remy Koname and Vincenzo Fesi and Jenny Thomas who encouraged her to be strong and independent. 

Moe says that she considers herself very lucky to have met these people. Currently Moe competes in International Swing Events, teaches and still enjoys a good social dance in a Vintage style.

This Session is kindly edited by Sara Pasquino.

 

If you fancy learning Swing. Then click here for Moe’s classes.

Also if you live in Amsterdam I will showing some large exhibition prints from Saturday 26th November at Cafe Cook. We will be having a few drinks at Cafe Cook this Saturday from 5pm if you care to join us. Snacks and postcards will be available.

Thank for reading and please sign up for new sessions coming soon!