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Boom Bap (Auto)Biography

Makoto Hirano is a familiar face on the Philly dance/performance scene, having performed with the Nichole Canuso Dance Company, Pig Iron Theater Company and Philadelphia Theatre Company. Tonight and tomorrow night, he puts his own personal experience on the dance floor in Boom Bap Tourism, a free (yes, folks, FREE) performance at the Painted Bride Arts Center. Inspired by Gene Kelly, Richard Pryor, underground MCs, country music singer-songwriters, Bertolt Brecht and his stellar production team, Makoto dances his way through his life as a Japanese-American former B-Boy/ illegal firearms-dealer/gangbanger/U.S. Marine.

I asked Makoto a few questions about dance as a medium for autobiography, working with collaborators on a personal tale and what’s he’s up to next. Check out his answers- and a trailer for BBT- below. – Karina K.

What does dancing as a method or style let you do that traditional oral storytelling can’t offer?
Visual literacy. I’m stealing this term from NY performance artist George Sanchez. That’s what he said about Boom Bap Tourism. And I agree. It’s all designed to be pretty easily pieced together by the viewer, and for them to be able to find entry points by smatterings and sprinklings of gesture, posture, and specific imagery. The dancing (as well as much of the sound and scenic design) is carefully crafted so one can (if one chooses) engage with the material and begin to read multiple narratives/statements. It’s very far from being straight-forward. I want the work to stimulate multiple facets of the viewers brain. To be able to make remote associations in realtime, and to be able to “see” dance in a clear way. Legibility is the name of the game…

What types of dance inspire you?
Salsa, meringue, hip hop, house, contact improv, tango, a bunch more. But the social dance version of these. Not the staged kind. I love watching people dance together. Especially at weddings. Very few things in the world bring me more joy than sitting and watching people of all ages dancing to music. My cheeks usually get sore from smiling so much. Dance on stage is a hit or miss.

You describe the show as “loosely autobiographical.” What has it been like working with collaborators on an autobiographical (even loosely) show? How do they influence your shaping of your own experience?
In the previous iterations, I’ve concerned myself with staying truthful and making something Honest (capital H). Now I’m interested in much more. Though the material was all generated through biographing, I decided recently that it was all up for grabs so we can create a good story. So I brought on multiple people to help me see through all the truthful stuff and almost let it go. I got to a point in making this piece that I could no longer tell the difference between what was good material and what I was holding onto because it was real. So they’ve been my eyes and ears, sometimes mouth and feet too. Funny thing is, we sort of set out to make a fiction out of autobiography and ended up deciding the truth was much more interesting than anything we could make up. So the term “loosely” is no longer accurate…

What are you working on next?
Something veerrry different. A Human Research Subject Dance Experiment (don’t have a clever title yet). It’s gonna be my big break into science and sociology. For real. I want to create something where the data collected from the experiment is the show. I’ll be starting this project in the Spring through LAB (Live Arts Brewery) Fellow Program.

Boom Bap Tourism opens today at the Painted Bride.
January 20: 10:30am, 7:00pm
January 21: 1:30pm, 7:00pm

The Painted Bride Arts Center
230 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 925-9914

Ticket Information:
Tickets are FREE. Advance reservations are available at

BBT Trailer from Makoto Hirano on Vimeo.

Upcoming Events
  • StorySlam: Promotions (tickets on sale NOW)
  • Date: March 26, 2019
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Venue: The Playground at the Adrienne
  • Location: 2030 Sansom Street
  • StorySlam: Laws of Nature (tickets on sale 4/8/19)
  • Date: April 30, 2019
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Venue: The Playground at the Adrienne
  • Location: 2030 Sansom Street