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Japanese choreographer Yoshiko Chuma is jet-lagged after returning from Macedonia to her home in Manhattan. It’s one of the hottest days in July, and she is taking the opportunity to get some necessary rest before resuming rehearsals for her latest project: a marathon seven-hour-long, site-specific work at the Gowanus Canal called "Sundown."

Chuma and her troupe, The School of Hard Knocks, will perform "Sundown" at the Issue Project Room and along the banks of the canal on July 28 and 29.

"I don’t really think of it as a big concept or idea," said Chuma. "I just wanted to do a seven-hour piece that would pass before and after the sun is going down."

She conceived "Sundown" as a piece for seven dancers, seven musicians and four seven-foot cubes.

Brooklyn dancers Ursula Eagly, Steven Recker, Saori Tsukuda, Christopher Williams, Ryuji Yamaguchi and guest artist Jean Butler will join forces with costume designer Gabriel Berry, lighting designer Pat Dignan, producer Bonnie Sue Stein and other key collaborators to bring the piece to life.

Chuma invited several artists from other artistic disciplines to work with her dance company on "Sundown." She enlisted her longtime collaborator, Ralph Lee, to design the four cubes to serve as frames for the metaphorical canvas in which she is painting the choreography for "Sundown."

She met Lee in the mid-1990s and she has collaborated with him on earlier projects ("7x7x7x7x7" at City Center and "Inside/Out" at PS 122). In "Sundown," she will use the cubes to frame spaces familiar to her audience, so that they can see the space from a new point of view.

"The cubes will move, they will stay in place, then they will frame the landscape," said Chuma. "It’s a combination based on science."

Perspectives will change as the cubes and dancers move and remain stationary during various stages of the performance.

"The cubes are moving and the figures are moving, and they are both rotating," said Chuma. "It’s all a combination of the cubes moving. One cube will move, then two or three and then all four will move in a type of [choreography] connected with science. It’s almost like a camera eye. It’s a really fun process to discover what is moving and what is not moving."

A year ago, Chuma met young trombonist Christopher McIntyre, who has composed the music to be performed live by his seven-piece trombone ensemble.

"I had never worked with a trombone player before," said Chuma. "I just thought it would be interesting." She first worked with seven dancers and McIntyre’s ensemble in last year’s 50-minute performance of another work as part of "Art on the Beach Revisited" on the Hudson River Esplanade.

"They are different pieces," she said, "but they both use cubes."

McIntyre’s 7x7 Trombone Band also includes Joe Fiedler, Jacob Garchik, Curtis Hasselbring, Richard Marriott, Steve Swell and Peter Zummo.

Filmmaker and sound designer Jacob Burckhardt created film footage to be projected onto the cubes’ screens, and he culled music from his library to play through a 16-channel, multi-speaker system by sound installation designer Stephan Moore.

"All these relationships with the other artists help make the performance," said Chuma. "It’s an inspiration and communicat­ion."

Chuma first visited the Brooklyn site a year ago and became fascinated with the music presented at the small Issue Project Room and with the challenges that its limited space and the Gowanus Canal’s terrain pose to dancers.

"I didn’t want to perform in a traditional theater space," said Chuma. "Issue Project has been very active in working with musicians. I wanted to introduce Issue Project to audiences who might know dance in New York."

Yoshiko Chuma and The School of Hard Knocks present "Sundown" at the Gowanus Canal and Issue Project Room (400 Carroll St. between Bond and Nevins streets in Gowanus) from 3 pm to 10 pm on July 28 and 29. Admission is $15, $10 seniors/students. For reservations, call (718) 330-0313 or visit the Web site at For more information, visit

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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