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About Naoko

Baltimore City

Naoko Maeshiba's picture
I have been creating solo, duo, and ensemble performances in traditional and non-traditional venues since 1998. Body is my instrument and my medium. My approach is interdisciplinary in terms of the source, the process, and the form. The seed of creation germinates from various elements such as sound, light, a piece of text, a painting, a map, an object, a piece of clothing, and a scientific phenomenon. I build precisely structured short and full-length pieces from scratch as well as collaborate with... more

Naoko Maeshiba's portfolio


It is always a joy to create postcard images for the performances. In collaboration with the designers or by myself, I discover another way of embodying the world of the piece. In this section, I'd like to share how we came up with the image for each performance.

Contributing designers are:

Rie Fukui (Paraffin 2010, Kawatokawa, Remains of Shadow)
Sydney Pink (Paraffin 2009)
Tzveta Kasabova (What we see why we see 2012)
Taylor Kurtz (Twilight Station 2015)
Tatsuya Aoyagi (Communitas 2002-3)
Andy Hayleck (Plasmic Patterns 2013)

  • Communitas (2002)

    This was the postcard for my first ensemble piece. I wanted to feature all the performers in the image, so we used one of the photos taken from a performance and modified it to reflect the atmosphere and mood of the piece. This is the final scene where all the characters appeared and approached the central character who had gone thorough a journey.
  • Twilight Station (2014)

    Taylor Kurtz's childlike drawing resonated with me when thinking about this piece. The organic feel reflected our approach to the piece well.
  • What we see why we see (2013)

    Tzveta and I made tiny cards instead of regular postcards. (Can you see?) The image is the surface of an old glass window (circa. 1950) at my parents' house in Japan. We loved the texture and its translucent nature. They stopped making this type of glass surface many years ago.
  • Plasmic Pattens (2013)

    Andy Hayleck carefully chose two contrasting colors of yarn threads to make this image. Stage environment was designed by these yarn threads and thick plexiglass pieces. The idea to use them as the central material in the performance came early in our nine-month process. 'We started with sculpting environments. We didn't want to talk about performance. We read newspapers. We talked. Slowly, things came out of those talks. We wanted to explore this space; we arrived at a point where we wanted to play with vertical and horizontal dimensions of space.
  • Trace (2005)

    We used a photo from the actual performance and manipulated the image to make it a bit like a comic book. I am carrying a container full of smashed coke cans, one of which has rice in it.
  • Dream Island (2015)

    One day the performers and I took an outdoor trip and took many photos with various obscure objects and landscape as the back drop. The color of this painted board and lines drawn on it somehow really matched the sense of this piece. A 'homemade' feel of the image was important for me. During this photo shoot, we made many new discoveries about the piece.
  • Kawatokawa (2012)

    Design by Rie Fukui. This piece was so different from any of my previous work. I wanted to infuse light, cheerful, and haphazard energy into the image. Childlike. A riddle. The designer brought me a surprise with the 3-D feel to this 2-D image by sinking the letters into the the water.
  • Remains of Shadow (2005-2007)

    This image was used for our performance at Capital Fringe Festival. Here, we layered a Japanese flag, two characters, and the eyes of a blue-eyed doll that is overseeing them from behind.
  • Paraffin (2009)

    Sydney Pink, who had studied art in Japan, volunteered to create a design for the premiere production of "Paraffin". I tried to explain the piece which got us nowhere. After a couple of futile attempts, he decided to come to see the rehearsal and participate in my workshop to 'experience' what I was trying to convey. The lines around the central figure gave such rich texture which evoked many associations.
  • Paraffin (2010)

    With Rie Fukui, a Japanese graphic designer, we created this image for the second rendition of "Paraffin" in 2010. This time, I wanted to focus on the 'ephemeral' feeling of the piece. We decided to layer multiple images with different textures including an insect's wings.


Places outside of the theatre space are unregulated. I could disappear or appear in the landscape anytime. How can I exist in a place without dominating it or isolating myself from it? Can my body be a part of the landscape? Can it become an environment within the environment? How can I form a relationship with the place? I plan to continue and deeper this study in the near future.



Site #1 - Bridge that separates old town from new town
Site #2 - Under the small bridge over a river in the center of the city
Site #3 - Theatre Jo at CESTA (Cultural Exchange Station in Tabor), Tabor, Czech Republic

This is a three-part performance project, examining how the sensation of movements in the body can be transmitted from one location to another. First two were done in specific sites near CESTA (Cultural Exchange Station) in Tabor where I was conducting an artist residency. First site was under the bridge which severs the old town and the new town. The second site was in the river in the center of the old town. The last part was presented in the theatre inside CESTA, drawing the traces left in my body through the previous two studies. I continued to carry the magic mirrors from "Face of Another (2010)" and "Modernity Stripped Bare (2011)". My deep curiosity about 'self' was starting to emerge through this project.


Site - Exterior of Hirschhorn Museum of Smithsonian Institute, DC

A site-specific performance in conjunction with the museum’s exhibit, “Gyroscope." This solo section was incorporated in an ensemble piece with ten performers and one live musician who worked with the exhibits inside and outside of the museum. The wind, surrounding audience, the sound of the fountain, and splashing water, all gave me great stimuli to work with. I clearly remember the moment I laid my whole body on the ledge of the fountain which was about six inches wide.


Site - A selected landscape in Hakushu, Japan

I returned to this place where I started my artistic journey in 1993. I wanted to see how my body and mind remembered this place. Each of the invited dancers selected a specific site for her work. I chose this site because I was drawn to the beautiful backdrop of nature which contrasted with the dry field in front that had nothing growing at the time. The performance lasted 70 minutes. This piece was performed as a part of Dance Hakushu Festival, a multidisciplinary performance festival that has brought all kinds of artists from far away and close since 1988.


Site - Exterior of Martin Luther King Library

This performance happened twice on the same day - 1pm and 5pm. The passing time

THE HOLE (2002)

Site - Interior of the building of Center for the Arts @ Towson University

I fell in love with a student's art exhibit called "Biodegradable" that was installed n the jI fell in love with a student's art installation called "Biodegradable" that was built in the juncture of the staircases extending to the basement. I wondered what the journey would be like to descend into this long tunnel made of plastic bags and trash. Gabriel Walked accompanied me on this journey with his Shakuhachi.


Having a partner-in-crime is a thrilling, assuring, and nerving experience. I step into an unfamiliar territory where I might lose my ground any time. It's scary and joyful to see how my body responds to the new stimuli.


IMPROBABLE ENCOUNTER (2006) @ Klub Kaliska, Lodz, Poland

Darius Makaruk (musician) and I first started with a long-distance communication, discussing the structure of the piece, its central theme, and the feel and progression of the performance. We worked separately until we finally got together at the site of performance in Poland. Improbable Encounter was a structured improvisation of about an hour’s length. This was the first time I did a full evening length’s dance piece in which I was the only dancer. Darius brought in another musician, Wlodzimierz Kiniorski, a legendary figure in Lodz, Poland. Klub Kaliska, a music venue in Lodz, was packed with curious audience. I started to work more in solo and duo pieces after returning from this experience.

ABSENCE (2007) @ M25, Warsaw, Poland

Darius Makaruk and I took a similar format of collaboration as the previous piece. This time, I brought another dancer to work in the piece. With two dancers, I was able to bring 'relationships' into the context. "Absence" was constructed more like a play with abstracted narrative.

STRIPPED BARE (2010) @ Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park

This piece happened in conjunction of the group exhibit and conference, "Modernity stripped bare: Undressing the Nude in Contemporary Japanese Photography".With a Japanese electronic musician, Yoko K. drawing inspiration from a Japanese photographer Riichi Yamaguchi's work. As a part of the process I interviewed Riichi to find out his approach to photographing nude bodies. This interview appeared in the exhibition catalog. Yoko and I worked in the gallery day after day, contemplating what we, two Japanese women, could bring out of these intense nude photographs. The title of the piece changed from "Shining Fish: Modernity Stripped Bare" to "Stripped Bare" to reflect the simple and raw nature of the photography.

APERTURE (2012) - @ Tank, New York

I had always loved the tactile sensation in Andy Hayleck's music and proposed to work with him. We started with what was in the performance space - a piano. Over a period of three months, we concocted a physical poetry with colliding elements of silence and sound, body and space, and the visible and the invisible. This piece became the foundation of the piece we later created called "Plasmic Patterns".

THE PEEL (2004) @ 14 Karat Cabaret, Baltimore

This is an earlier, memorable work with Audrey Chen (cello, voice). We decided to literally 'peel off' a skin made of glue put on the body during the performance. We tried to see how this experience affected my dance and her voice.

Moving through the PASSAGES - The Voyage (2004)

My earlier works placed weight on the idea of going through passages - traveling through time and space to appear on the other side having been transformed. Also, these two pieces were performed by the members of Naoko Maeshiba Performance Collective.


COMMUNITAS (2002) - full-length

Concept, direction, choreography, environment/object design, and performance

Inspired by Victor Turner's concept of 'Communitas', the piece taps into the uncertainty of our beings through the issues that vex today's world, such as unbalanced resources, youth violence, and aging.

In the landscape of destruction, people wander about searching for a connection: with people, places, and the past. Through images of death and birth in nature, the piece illuminates the human figures which long for love, hope, and beauty, asking the ultimate question: "where are we going?"

Funded by the D.C. Commissions on Arts and Humanities.

Lighting design by Scott Rothenseld
Sound Design by Lukas Zarwell
Song Composition by Sarah Sathya


THE VOYAGE (2004) - full-length

Concept, direction, choreography, environment/object design, and performance

The piece consists of five stories about the voyage captured at the points of departures and arrivals. Intricate human relationships, our conflicted existence. The journey between life and death is vividly depicted through layers of images in the evocative visual poetry.

Costume design by Meredith Wallace
Lighting Design by Mark Fink
Music Composition by Jason Sloan
Sound Design by Gabriel Walker

June 2004 @ Baltimore Theatre Project

Entering the LIMINAL: DISPLACEMENT, LOSS, YEARNING - Trace (2004) -

The word ‘liminal’ feels light, mysterious, and indispensable. It evokes the beginning of a process and also something on the edge anticipating a big shift. These two pieces attempt to capture this potent moment.

TRACE (2004) - full-length

Concept, choreography, direction, environment design, sound design, and performance

This Kennedy Center commissioned piece allowed me to work with a videographer, Chas Marsh, Audrey Chen as a musician, and Jacki Milad's drawing as animation. With these added visual/auditory elements, I experimented expanding the mise-en-sene into the 3D realm.

"Trace" examines the state of displacement through the trace within one's body and mind as well as in the society. Six individual segments treat various states of collision such as the the nature vs. the technology, the disposable culture vs. the longing for the spirituality, and tradition vs. freedom. Trace is multi-disciplinary in its nature, combining movements with live voice and cello by Audrey Chen, the video images by Chas Marsh, and the animation by Jackie Milad and Dan Breen. Costume by Jenifer Alonzo, Lighting design by Cathy Eliot.

Material - white scrim, cheese cloth masks, newspaper

Lighting design by Cathy Eliott
Costume design by Jenifer Alonzo
Video design by Chas Marsh
Animation Design by Jackie Milad, Dan Breen

Commissioned by Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project
Received 'Excellence in Sound Design' by Metro DC Dance Award, nominated for 'Outstanding Overall Production', 'Outstanding New Work', and 'Outstanding Individual Performance'.

May 2004 @ Kennedy Center Millennium Stage


TWILIGHT STATION (2014) - full-length

Concept, direction, choreography, environment/costume/object design

Twilight station was commissioned by Quest International visual theatre. I worked with three performers. One of them was deaf, another bilingual (sign and English), and the other was an English speaker. We used the first month to train physically and vocally together and explored the shared language among the four of us. Through personal exploration, performers gradually formed three different stories. Twilight Station follows the journey of three people who meet in an obscure station, a juncture of arrivals and departures. Traveling through the multi-layered time and space in their pursuit of missing self, they encounter with each other repeatedly in different dimensions where their past lives, dreams, and illusions get revealed and intertwined. The piece was structured in three parts: Part I - still life/present, Part II - portrait/dream, and Part III - landscape/collective unconscious.

Material - screen door sheet, metal curtain rods, cheese cloth, red sand

Lighting design by Sarah Thunderman
Music by Andy Hayleck

March 2014 @ Baltimore Theatre Project (Quest International Visual Theatre Festival)

Sense of BELONGING - Remains of Shadow (2005-2007)

These two pieces explored my relationship with Japan and America. My place in this country, what it means to be here, history, personal memories.

This was the first time I consciously and overtly examined my Japanese heritage. I wanted to explore my relationship with Japan and America and how the relationship between two countries has influenced me in my life. History, personal memories, and unresolved conflicts became the driving force of these pieces.


REMAINS OF SHADOW (2005-2007) - full-length

Conception, direction, choreography, environment/costume/object design, performance

The piece consisted of two parts. First part being the journey of a blue-eyed doll that was sent from America to Japan during WWI as a token of friendship. The second part was about the experience of going through various stages 49 days after death.

Material - translucent cloth, plastic

Lighting design by Sabrina Hamilton (Ko Festival)
Projection design by Chas Marsh

Premiere - Spring 2005 @ Ko Festival of Performance, Amherst, MA, Tour - 2006 Questfest, 2006 Capital Fringe Festval, 2007 Theatre of Yugen


KAWATOKAWA (Skin/River 2012) - full-length

Concept, direction, choreography, environment/object/costume design, and performance

An autobio extravaganza, drawing from my research about “space, body, and language” in Tokyo and Czech Republic.

This full evening piece was a departure from my usual mode of performance. The piece consisted of 12 vignettes based on the memories and the landscapes of my childhood and what could have happened to me if I had lived in Japan. I'm trying to figure out what my Japanese-ness and where I belong. The quick shift from one vignette to another required a comedian/clown’s immediacy and Kabuki actor’s finesse.

Dramaturgy by Juanita Rockwell
Lighting design by Kel Millionaire

May 2012 @ Baltimore Theatre Project

  • Kawatokawa (2012)@ Baltimore Theatre Project, MD

    The stage environment was created with three chairs, one table, and various objects that have appeared in my previous productions. In a sense, it was like going through an inventory of Naoko both in personal life and artistic creation. "The audience is clearly touched as the piece rises toward its final paroxysm, even if the precise cause of that chiseled touch remains veiled."- Baltimore Theatre Journal
  • Remains of Shadow (2005-2007)@ Questfest, MD

    "...performed with compelling emotion-plausibly and poignantly conveying confusion, anguish, and displacement.” – The Washington Post
  • Kawatokawa (2012)@ Baltimore Theatre Project, MD

    Cockroaches are prevalent in Japanese summer. I made a cockroach dance honoring the longevity of this grotesque creature. "Moving from one prop or boldly colored piece of clothing to another, Maeshiba skillfully expresses the passions proper to each stage of transition…Humor and pathos alternate as the life of the often-baffled protagonist unfolds." - Baltimore Theatre Journal
  • Remains of Shadow (2005-2007)@Capital Fringe Festival, DC

    “In one stunning sequence Maeshiba…delicately crossed toward an offstage light…a subtle tilt of Maeshiba’s head, and her straw hat fell to the ground, evoking the sudden transportation of thousands of souls into their next journey on 6 August 1945.” - Theatre Journal
  • Kawatokawa (2012)@ Baltimore Theatre Project, MD

    My face is obliterated by a a face written by Japanese characters. What is written on the other side is the Article 9 of Japanese constitution called 'peace constitution' which outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. It went into effect during the American post-war occupation of Japan. There has been a debate whether to alter its constitution by removing Article 9,
  • Conventions detail

    The gloomy light added an atmosphere of weariness to the shoes as they serpentined along the floor.
  • Kawatokawa (2012)@ Baltimore Theatre Project, MD

    "Especially striking is the emotive range of Maeshiba's choreography and peformance...the basic emtoions of fear, curiosity, and rejection float off the stage with carefully calibrated movements." - Baltimore Theatre Journal
  • Remains of Shadow (2005-2007) @ Ko Festival of Performance at Amherst, MA

    “Remains of Shadow probed subtle regions of emotion and memory in the liminal spaces between cultures, countries, and histories…while technology enhanced the production, the virtuosity of performers Maeshiba and Aoyagi proved its centerpiece. Their bodies bear traces of rigorous physical training as well as everyday socialization across cultures.” - Theatre Journal
  • Kawatokawa (Skin/river 2012) @ Baltimore Theatre Project (MD) - concept/direction/choreography/object,costume, sound design/performance

    This full evening piece was a departure from my usual mode of performance in that I played a clownish character who established an intimate relationship with the audience. The piece consisted of 12 vignettes drawing from the memories and the landscapes of my childhood, recent accident in Fukushima, figuring out what my Japanese-ness. The quick shift from one vignette to another required a comedian/clown’s immediacy and Kabuki actor’s finesse.
  • Remains of Shadow (2005-2007) Premiere: Ko Festival of Performance, Amherst, (MA), Tour: Questfest (MD), Capital Fringe Festval (DC), Theatre of Yugen (SF) - concept/direction/choreography/environment, costume, object, sound design/performance

    The piece consisted of two parts. First part being the journey of a blue-eyed doll that was sent from America to Japan in 1927 as a token of friendship, which was burned or destroyed during the WWII. The second part was about the experience of going through the buddhist rebirth cycle of 49 days. This footage features the excerpt from the first part.

Intimating INFINITY - Face of Another (2010)

Space, infinity, gravity, mortality, and the edge of my body - these were the words popping up in my mind as I worked with these two pieces. With my shoulder injuries then, I was facing the limitation of my body and trying to figure out how to move by yielding, not by forcing. Working with the space above and around me and manipulating light helped me tremendously in tackling with this challenge and entering into a new realm of experience.



Concept, choreography, direction, environment/costume design, and performance

A sense of displacement and search for eternity in nothingness. Fluctuating on the boundary between reality and illusion, the familiar and the unknown, the past and the present, and life and death, the delicate balance tips and breaks into each other, revealing the origin of loneliness, desire, and fear in her body.

Material: Magic mirror made of plexiglass, white powder, water

April 2010 @ Dance Place, Washington, DC



Choreography,environment design, and performance

Duo with a sound artist, Alberto Gaitan. Exploration of the infinity of the unknown in science/technology.

My character transformed physically and mentally through the use of mini LED lights attached inside of my coat, computer-generated sound bites, falling ping pong balls, and time-based video image slowly unfolding onto my body.

Sound/music by Alberto Gaiman

Material: white ping pong balls, LED lights

June 2009, @ Source Theatre, Washington, DC (Source Theatre Festival Mash-up series)

  • Scent of Sky (2009)@ Source Theatre, Washington, D.C.

    I have worked with the motif of shedding from 2005 to 2012. In this piece, 'shedding' took a whole different meaning. Instead of being born, I was disappearing into the white particles of the screen behind me. The further I moved forward, the more sucked in I was.
  • Face of Another (2010) @ Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    '‘Face of Another’shows how smart and thorough a choreographer Maeshiba is, as it has no linear narrative and yet somehow builds to a riveting climax." - The Washington Post
  • Scent of Sky (2009)@ Source Theatre, Washington, D.C.

    "Her body is so flexible, boneless, and fluid it's as if her limbs are caught in underwater currents…" - DC Theatre Scene
  • Face of Another (2010) @ Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    Another element used in the piece was water. Towards the end of the performance, a girl approaches me and pours water onto my body from a small watering can. The sense of wet material on my skin evoked various emotions and sensations that formed my movements.
  • Scent of Sky (2009)@ Source Theatre, Washington, D.C.

    "Dancer/choreographer Naoko Maeshiba and electronic-media artist, Alberto Gaitan explore a realm of sound and kinetic gesture where words are inadequate." - DC Theatre Scene
  • Face of Another (2010) @ Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    I hang eight magic mirrors (reflective surface made with window film and plexiglass) in the air and placed white powder on the floor. I was curious to see how the powder tracks my footprints as I danced and how the reflections from the magic mirror can be cast in the audience side, blurring the line between the stage and the audience.
  • Scent of Sky (2009)@ Source Theatre, Washington, D.C.

    Tiny LED lights placed inside of my coat are casting red shadow on the ground. The piece started with a complete darkness with these lights illuminating only a small part of my body. My character transformed physically and mentally through the use of the lights, computer-generated sound bites, falling ping pong balls, and time-based video image slowly unfolding onto my body.
  • Face of Another (2010) @ Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    "Through a collage of fluid gesture and intentionally unsteady hobbling, Maeshiba takes a journey to make sense of herself and her place in the world." - The Washington Post
  • Face of Another (2010) @ Dance Place, Washington, D.C. - concept/direction/choreography/environment, costume, sound design/performance

    A sense of displacement and search for eternity in nothingness. Fluctuating on the boundary between reality and illusion, the familiar and the unknown, the past and the present, and life and death, the delicate balance tips and breaks into each other, revealing the origin of loneliness, desire, and fear in her body. Time and space stretches horizontally and vertically in this piece. Various time and place visits her as she stands in void.

Contemplating on FUKUSHIMA, TRASH, BODY - Dream Island (2015)

These two pieces used the same material, a huge plastic sheet that stood like a wall. I was obsessed by its texture, history and association, and translucent nature to be able to alter the visual perception. The wall came down and disappeared from the stage with no trace in both pieces. Fukushima, nuclear, and trash had been on my mind since 3.11 happened in Japan four years ago.


DREAM ISLAND (2015) - full-length

Concept, choreography, direction, environment/object design, and performance

In March 2011, I heard a disturbing news that the radioactive material started leaking into the ocean near Fukushima nuclear plant. I had a visceral response to this - all the cells in my body cried out as if my own body got violated. My fond memories about water and ocean started coming back. A great sense of urgency hit me. This urge became the driving force of "Dream Island".

The piece through a three-year process from the conception to the realization. Dramaturgy was built upon the place in Japan called Yumenoshima (Dream Island), which was a Japanese theme park built on a buried landfill. Movement, text, and sound were generated, constructed, and polished through the nine-month rehearsal process. Piece was 85 minutes long consisting of 14 vignettes.

The stage was set up as a thrust configuration with a square on the floor made by a danger zone tape. Audience members were invited to sit around it.
Material: large plastic sheets, dirt

Lighting Design: Rebecca Wolf
Sound Design: Khristian Weeks

Premiere - May 2015 @ Baltimore Theatre Project, Tour - June 2015 @ Joe's Movement Emporium, MD


WHAT WE SEE WHY WE SEE (2012) - full-length

Co-conception, choreography, direction, environment, costume/object design, and performance with Tzveta Kassavoba

Memories and perceptions are strange things. We choose to see and memorize certain things, not others. A Bulgarian choreographer, Tzveta Kassabova, and I experimented with the visual perception. Plastic sheets and bags of different sizes were used as the source material to generate the context and the movements from. Actions happened behind, under, and around them, constraining the visual information audience received.

Material - plastic sheets, plastic bags

Lighting Design: Rebecca Wolf
Music by Pauchi Sasaki

January 2012 @ Dance Place, Washington, DC

  • What we see why we see (2012)@Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    "Her performance today evoked many images for me from my memories, seeing only partly what's going on, the ocean, the dessert, old photos, seeing through a glass darkly, partly there, connections, missed connections, connections in the midst of loneliness."- Nancy Havlik
  • What we see why we see (2012)@Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    "...moments that are revelatory, but fleeting and more occasional than most people would like to admit. I like immensely that you created those moments-where we could see you and you us-clearly in a staged performance where the stage was an environment that seemed to me to represent the shadowy nature of our awareness of the objects and people in our everyday lives." - Dan Eades , "... I suspect that the performance itself is sort of a glass.
  • What we see why we see (2012)@Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

    "Maeshiba's movements are so exact, so precise, it is difficult not to watch her closely. And her intelligence and restrained emotion radiates an awareness that seems charged with meaning." - Dan Eades
  • What we see why we see (2012)@Dance Place, Washington, D.C. - direction/choreography/sound, costume, environment design/performance with Tzveta Kassabova

    Memories and perceptions are strange things. We choose to see and memorize certain things, not others. A Bulgarian choreographer, Tzveta Kassabova, and I experimented with the visual perception. Plastic sheets and bags of different sizes were used as the source material to generate the context and the movements from. Actions happened behind, under, and around them, constraining the visual information audience received. "... two artists have a lot in common.
  • Dream Island (2015) @ Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), Joe's Movement Emporium (DC)

    In the second part of the performance, we asked the audience to roll their programs and see the site through the holes created by their 'telescopes'. It gave them a choice to see a specific part of the stage as well as a fragmentary view of the bodies, shifting the role of the audience from the bystanders to the participants and the witnesses of the incident. "...their bodies become possessed with alien forces, pushing them into spastic contortions and floating states of paralysis. They perform movements there aren't words for. - Baltimore City Paper
  • Dream Island (2015) @ Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), Joe's Movement Emporium (DC)

    "Be sure to not blink when Naoko Maeshiba is on the stage. Her Noh honed movements tie bold and brash with subtle and genuine and won’t let go. Her face is a living mask like that espoused by Jerzy Grotowski. She melds and shapes raw emotion into every eye flick, finger turn, and heel lift." - Theatre Bloom
  • Dream Island (2015) @ Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), Joe's Movement Emporium (DC)

    The dialogue between the shadow and the light through different materials give me a rich pallet of language to work with. The translucent nature of this plastic made it possible to have a wide range of gradations and visibility. "This hypnotic and jarring performance, invites you to shatter your vision of what performance ought to be." - Theatre Bloom "Without consistently coherent dialogue or a clear action-driven plot, the sensory experience alone grounds the performance in a powerful but subtle narrative...
  • Dream Island (2015) @ Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), Joe's Movement Emporium (DC)

    We used the cinematic techniques such as 'cut', 'cross-fade', 'framing', and 'focal shift' in order to make the scene break blurry. This device gave the audience freedom to create and edit their own versions of "Dream Island" as they went along. " obsessional park where dreams are shredded and collaged together in a papier-mãchè sculpture of light, movement, and sound." - Theatre Bloom
  • A review by Maura Callahan of Baltimore City Paper

    "The immense sensory odyssey of 'Dream Island' at Baltimore Theatre Project" - a review by Baltimore City Paper

    PDF icon A review by Maura Callahan of Baltimore City Paper
  • Dream Island (2015) - Premiere @ Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), Tour @ Joe's Movement Emporium, DC - concept/direction/choreography/environment, object, and costume design/performance

    Part carnival, part laboratory, part archeological trip, “Dream Island” is inspired by a Japanese theme park built on a buried landfill called Yumenoshima. This piece digs, examines, and reveals ancient layers of debris by combining movement, text, music, and installation into humorous and dark absurdity. The audience is asked to bare witness as five characters attempt to search, reconstruct, and uncover memories and histories, both tangible and fleeting, personal and collective. "Dream Island" was 85-minute of length, consisting of three parts with thirteen vignettes.

Yearning for THE ETERNAL - Paraffin (2009-2010)

"Paraffin" was probably one of the most complex pieces I've created in terms of both creative process and the final production. Layers in the dramatic structure and multiple sensory tracks made space for the audience to choose and follow the threads they created.

The piece consisted of eleven vignettes with the total time of 75 minutes.


PARAFFIN (2009-2010) - full-length

Concept, choreography, direction, environment/object design, and performance

Growing up in Japan, I have followed all kinds of codes and formulas society has placed on us. Whether they are explicit or implicit, they have definitely formed my body and mind over the years without my being always conscious about their effect. I have also been becoming more and more aware of how compartmentalized our world is and how we make assumptions based on categories and labels. I wanted to examine how our response to this force manifests in everyday life. Several characters were selected who could be considered as the outsiders to the society. Dramaturgically, the piece is housed in the context of the parallel journeys of an insect collector who has disappeared in the dunes and has been forgotten by the society and a creature who was born in a civilized society and gotten abandoned.

In order to explore this theme, I wanted to play with the space both vertically (connection with the spiritual, extraordinary) and horizontally (immediate environment, everyday). Mara Neimanis, a local aerial performer, trained us to be able to work in the air. Performers also went through the physical training with me that allowed them to cultivate precise and subtle physicality.

My inspiration came from two places: books ("The Woman in the Dunes” by Kobo Abe and “Unfashionable Human Body” by Bernard Rudofsky) and material (paraffin paper). I remembered this paper from the book cover of a Japanese publishing company. The tactile feel of this paper, its color and translucent quality stuck on my sense memory. It created murky mysterious mood.

Paraffin paper was used both tangible object and as the physical and visual metaphor in creating characters and scenes and asa motif to weave multiple stories together. A non-verbal, non-linear narrative structure allowed the audience to create their own versions of the stories.

Material - Paraffin paper, ropes

Lighting design by Kel Millionaire, Rebecca Wolf
Costume design by Kathy Abbott
Mask design by Susan Stroupe

Received Best Dance Performance in Citypaper Best of Baltimore 2009.

Premiere - June 2009 @ Baltimore Theatre Project
Tour - March 2010 @Quest International Visual Theatre Festival, Washington DC, April 2010 Dance Place, Washington DC

DANCING ON THE EDGE OF THEATRE, a total artist exploring the BOUNDARIES of: body/environment, traditional/contemporary, east/west, and visible/invisible

I have been on an ongoing search for my dance since 1993: a dance that extends into the past, ignites the present, and illuminates the future. In order to find it, I have been challenging my own boundaries by rigorously examining myself through various modes of creation. I see dance as a continuum, not an isolated product. The act of creating involves many streams of life forces, which in turn creates, re-generates, and re-circulates vital energy that charges and connects with the larger flow of the universe.

Each project involves an extended creative process, usually from six months to two years. This allows us the time to experiment, form, break, construct, deconstruct in the aim to discover a vital physical expression. New inquiries arisen during the process of one project gets deepened and explored in the following project, creating a continuous stream instead of a fixed destination.

In 2008, I started practicing under the umbrella concept of ‘KIBISM’. “Kibi” in Japanese means “delicate inner workings which might not appear on the surface.” It also means “strange beauty.” This is the foundation for all my work. I aspire to offer a theatrical experience that taps into the different states of consciousness and opens multiple channels of communication.


Originally from Kobe, Japan, NAOKO MAESHIBA performs, choreographs, directs, designs, and teaches, all from the body’s point of view. Growing up in rural Japan nurtured her sensitivity to and curiosity about the life cycles of living creatures and the atmosphere of places and people. This environment cultivated her perceptions and sensory awareness.

Her work is rooted in the minimalism of Japanese Noh theatre and post-modern Butoh dance as well as improvisation and surrealism, her work strives to awaken the unconscious and the invisible realm of human experience through the interplay of kinetic, auditory, and sculptural elements.

Maeshiba has been commissioned by Quest International Visutal Theatre, DC Local Dance Commissioning Project, and Dance Place, DC. Maeshiba has received the Individual Artist Fellowship Grant from DC Commissions on Arts and Humanities, Ruby grant (2015), and “B” grant (2011) from Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. She was given individual artist award five times from Maryland State Arts Council in the area of solo dance performance, solo theatre performance, and choreography.

Her works have been presented in both traditional and non-traditional venues in the North America, Europe, and Japan including John. F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts (DC), Hirshhorn Museum at Smithsonian Institute (DC), Theatre of Yugen Noh space (SF), Tank (NY), Joyce Soho (NY), Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst (MA), Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), Questfest (MD), Dialog of Four Cultures Festival (Lodz, Poland), International New Media Festival (Warsaw, Poland), International House of Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan), Theatre Jo (Tabor, Czech Republic), Dance Hakushu (Hakushu, Japan), Dance Place (DC), Warehouse Gallery (DC) and Woolly Mammoth Theatre (DC).

She is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner and the director of the interdisciplinary and experimental MFA in Theatre Arts program at Towson University.

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