Art Koshi is a pianist and composer from Honolulu, HI, who has been accompanying ballet and modern dance classes since 1997. Art works as a dance accompanist for Cornish College of the Arts, Dance Fremont, University of Washington, Seattle Theatre Group’s AileyCamp, All That Dance and Evergreen City Ballet. In addition to the piano, Art plays percussion, guitar, and bass. He has composed soundtracks for indie movies and recorded pieces for modern dance concerts. Art has also played for improvisational theater groups such as Jet City Improv and On the Spot, with whom he has performed at Improvaganza in Honolulu, the Chicago Improv Festival, the Austin’s Out of Bounds Festival, the Phoenix Improv Festival, and the Seattle Improv Festival.
One thing I love about my job is the musical connection I can make with the dancers. It’s very much the same way that a musician connects with another musician during a jam session. When I was learning to do this job, back in high school, my father (who also taught me everything I know about dance accompaniment) showed me that this was very much a higher form of music, due to the unique demands a dance class brings. It’s oftentimes much more abstract than just matching up the tempo, rhythm & accents. Sometimes it “just works” in ways that you can’t always explain.
I used to play bass in local punk shows back in Honolulu. I’ve found that the driving force of that music I used to play, actually compliments what I do in the classroom. Our job is so often just to keep things going, and the importance of momentum in the dance studio has actually been one of my more important realizations.
My personal work includes recordings for dance pieces and indie films. Currently, I’m putting together some music for a grad student at UW. It’s more of an abstract soundtrack with sounds of nature mixed with synthetic sounds from my computer.
This lockdown has been a tough one. Dance accompaniment is my main job, and I feel like so much of what I do is about connecting with people on somewhat of an abstract level. Bringing the element of a one to three-second delay changes the whole feel and kind of disconnects me from the experience. The best solution I’ve found is to look for the unique aspects of playing from home. For example, the ability to get a clear view of the teacher’s demonstrations by pinning their Zoom frame, the luxury of being able to try out a piece while muted and in tempo before anyone hears what you’re about to play, or the fact that I can run multiple sounds (besides a piano) through my keyboard into the virtual classroom. These, as well as the perks of having your kitchen one room away, soften the blow of this strange new world we’re living in.