Meet Toshi Konno, our Papillon Artist. Toshi is a Japanese flamenco dancer who is a part of the Singapore based dance troupe, Flamenco Sin Fronteras. He has performed in major productions such as Journey of Time (2015), Elements (2014), THE HOUSE at SOTA Drama Theatre (2013), Soul of Spain at ExxonMobil Concerts, Gala Dinner: Colors of Hope at UCC theatre (2011) and Encore Festival Press Conference at Fullerton Post Bar (2010). He has also performed at various flamenco festivals such as Singapore Flamenco Festival (2013), Flamenco Under The Stars at Vivocity Flamenco Festival (2011) and Flamenco Cantata at Laberinto Flamenco Festival (2010). His enthusiasm for flamenco extends to making annual trips to Seville, Spain to enhance the spirit of the dance form at its birthplace.
How did you get started on Flamenco?
I started Flamenco when I joined the Tokyo University. At that time, I’ve already decided to join the tennis club, but my classmate Maiko kept insisting that I join the Flamenco club. In Japan, we start new semesters in April. By then, she had already joined Flamenco for a while and kept pestering me to join over 3 times. In the end, I joined the Flamenco club in June, which meant she had already been asking me for two months to join her. When I finally gave in, I saw that the dance was very passionate and vibrant. Flamenco is usually performed with the accompaniment of live music. The three elements; guitarist, singer and dancer have to be present. When I finally saw it, I was blown away seeing that the dance was such a lively thing, I was convinced that I should do it. We started off with 27 dancers ended off with 5 dancers at the end of four years. That’s the level of commitment and dedication flamenco requires.
What was your passion before dance?
I am quite familiar with musical things. Since I was young, I was playing the piano, saxophone and watching musicals, thanks to my parents that I have such a musical background. Not only that, I like to do long distance running and tennis as well. I was quite the sportsman as well. Now I have another choice, dance.
How do you think your sports background has helped you in your Flamenco dancing?
In Flamenco dancing, one dance performance could be about 7-8minutes. So we really do need stamina and patience. We use a lot of footwork so we need a lot of foot muscle. Whilst I did not specifically train these muscles, it worked out well benefiting from the muscle memory of my running and tennis playing experience.
How is Flamenco contributing to the art industry in Singapore?
10 years ago, Singapore was not very known in the Arts. It was still developing and the Singapore government started helping the Arts industry. There is more funding for Arts now. This is a good sign for us as well. At this moment, the National Arts Council (NAC) helps us by giving us some funding when we have a large scale performance. In the recent years, funding became more regular with bigger budgets. Even when we have workshops and where we have Spanish artists invited over from Spain, the NAC also helps to cover some fees. I think it is because of the increasing interest in wanting to drive developments in the niche dance forms. When we had the performance at SOTA in Dhoby Ghaut, at that time, of course, to get the funds from NAC we have to submit the application forms on what we are going to do, the themes etc. If you submit only as Flamenco, NAC does not recognise it, because the Flamenco is from Spain. So to make it more relatable to Singaporeans, we presented it as one big musical that is mixed with Asian cultures. For instance, at that time, we had “Flamenco meets Peranakan”. This was one good challenge for us, how to collaborate with different groups and infuse Asian culture with Flameco. I think Singapore always gives a good proposal and challenge for us.
How is Flamenco different in Spain than in Singapore?
I have been going to Seville, Spain every year for the past 7 years. Flamenco itself is not actually that different. It’s the atmosphere of Spain. They celebrate life very seriously. It’s very peaceful, not like a city area. To learn Flamenco is to express your feeling or excitement in an impromptu manner. It encompasses every single moment of life, even sadness, and death. Flamenco is a live dance performance which you can experience almost like another world altogether. With the live music, we may forget our choreography but we will still manage to enjoy the dance in that space no matter what. Even where the rhythm is lost momentarily, we always are able to communicate with the musicians and dancers to quickly come back to the steps, by going with the flow. In Flamenco we use a lot of footwork and in Flamenco, we can make any kind of rhythm. It’s something like tap dancing where we use our body.
Do you have a skincare routine before a dance performance? If so, what are your favourite products from Dr TWL Dermaceuticals?
I don’t really have a skincare routine, but after using the 7-day kit, I feel like my skin is more energised and looks bright. Looking good has an effect on how we feel. When I see the mirror, I feel like I am alive and gives me the extra boost of confidence. The Hyaluronic Acid Serum is my favourite. Its good for people with oily skin because it moisturises with a matte finish.
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