Saya Hishikawa - Interview En L'air

Jesse Obremski is the kind of dancer whose movement style mirrors his personality. His movements are very calm and fluid, yet there’s something very grounded about them at the same time. There’s nothing extra about any of his movement. It’s very straight to the point. That also pertains to his choreographic style and his performance style.

I’ve known him for a few years now. We attended the same performing arts high school and he is a friend of my younger brother. I’ve seen him grow over the years as a dancer and as an artist, and, to be honest, I was surprised to hear that he was doing so much at only 22 years of age! His resume is already quite impressive. From dancing in Kazuko Hirabayashi’s memorial celebration at The Symphony Space a couple of months back to being a company member in multiple different dance companies in New York. Jesse is definitely a dancer to watch because I know for sure he will accomplish great things in the future.

I did a photo shoot that I thought reflected his personality and style and don’t forget to check out the interview I did with him below!

Here are some of his upcoming performances, so please go watch him perform if you have the opportunity:
– January 6th-11th @ The Intrepid in NYC with the Limón Dance Company
– January 20th-21st @ Center for Performance Research in NYC with Smashworks Dance Collective
– February 17th-18th @ the Miller Center in Reading, PA with the Limón Dance Company
– March 23rd-25th in Los Angelos, CA with Limón Dance Company
– March 31st-April 2nd performance with Smashworks, location TBD
– May 2nd-7th @ The Joyce Theater in NYC with Limón Dance Company

Saya Hishikawa - Interview En L'air

Let’s start with the most basic question. When did you start dancing?

My first dance teacher was my elementary school teacher in the 4th & 5th grade. I took tap first when I was in 4th grade and in 5th grade I took tap and modern (Horton technique). Before graduating elementary school, my teacher suggested that I audition for The Ailey School, for their Bounding Boys program with Tracy Inman. I auditioned there and attended the school for 10 years.

What made you want to dance?

I went to go see The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and I specifically remember watching Revelations; seeing the various emotions and qualities. Because of that experience, I asked my mom I want to dance; to experience that and know what that is.

I loved watching Matthew Rushing and Clifton Brown. It kinda feels surreal now that I know them and I see them in a more casual setting rather than a performance setting.

How did your parents react to you wanting to dance? Were they supportive?

My parents are both artists. My dad was a photographer and my mom was a singing artist in Japan. She’s currently doing costumes for theaters around Lincoln Center. They were totally supportive of me being an artist because they are artists.

Saya Hishikawa - Interview En L'air

You’re a graduate from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. What made you want to go there?

I was training at The Ailey School and I was there quite a lot during middle school. I wanted to continue dancing and I was starting to think, “where can I dance more?”. I was looking into performing arts high schools and, as I got more information about high schools, I realized that LaGuardia High School was the place to be. The atmosphere is visceral, inspiring… I knew I wanted to be there. I auditioned for the voice and dance department, but I didn’t get into the voice department so, as you know, I went there for dance. During my senior year, I was in a show choir with the voice department because I wanted to. The voice teacher said “why didn’t we take you?” and I said, I dont know! I always fooled myself after that that I got into both voice and dance.

What about Juilliard?

It was a surreal experience. I was always thinking about going to Fordham University because of my experience at The Ailey School. It was a second home to me and so I wanted to continue that. I never thought about Juilliard. I was inspired to audition because my classmate/friend was auditioning. I never thought that I would be able to get into that school. It was my last college audition, so I thought “I’m just gonna enjoy it”. I took the audition as if it were a master class. That kinda helped me. It took away my nervousness and showed that I enjoy dancing.

Juilliard has an acceptance of either 24 or 26… 12 or 13 men and 12 or 13 women. I worked with their office of administration and assisted the dance audition.

So tell us… what are you doing now?

Upon graduation, I was extremely excited to be entering the dance world, that I was probably putting myself out there too much. I would get exhausted working for 6 part time companies. I’ve worked with Ruddur Dance, Diversity of Dance Inc, and Zest Collective. I’m currently dancing with Smashworks Dance Collective, doing project-based works with Buglisi Dance Theatre and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and I’m primarily working as a company member at Limón Dance Company.

There was three weeks where I was freelancing, scheduling and working around these companies. At that time, I learned that communication is key. So I was able to do it successfully, but I also learned that I wasn’t able to continue it and have a life. I was struggling between artistic pursuits and having a social life.

With being a part of so many dance companies, how do you maintain your body? Is there something you learned after becoming a professional dancer?

I find it super important to always be taking care of my body. It’s my only real instrument. If you get a new knee, that knee is no longer a part of you. It’s not human. It’s artificial. At Juilliard, there was a lot of classes that helped me understand the body and how to care for it. We worked with 2 connoisseurs of body conditioning: Patty and Gibby. They really love taking care of the dancer’s body. The class is affectionately called “Patty and Gibby”. It’s kind of a warm up/workout series and it takes about 15-20 minutes. During the summers when school was out of session, I would do the series and challenge myself. Now I do that series before every performance and I’ve been doing that for years. I also find that anatomy classes are extremely important. It helps me understand the body and if something is aching, for example, I know how to properly fix it.

As a dancer, how do you keep yourself inspired?

There have been moments where I would question myself, but I know, I know, and I know that I love dance. Whether it’s teaching, writing, dancing, taking pictures, etc. What inspires me is really the people. With the Limón work, it’s so much about the human experience and cultivating a community. I know the costume designer so well, the past artistic directors, the staff… and I would like to get to know them more. The community inspires me. We’re all in it together to showcase Limón’s work. I get inspired by everyone that participates in the work, not only the dancers. The dancers who have been there for 5 or more years have so much inspiration and wisdom, and I love talking to them.

Saya Hishikawa - Interview En L'air

You’re half Japanese, but did you ever run into obstacles being an Asian-American male dancer?

It depends with the dance world. In concert dance, I don’t really feel it. But in the commercial world, like Broadway, things are a bit more typecast. Like for example, I get a lot of e-mails and messages saying that Saigon is having an audition. It’s an Asian show and I’m an Asian dancer.

As I was graduating from Juilliard, I was able to get into an amazing community called the Asian American Arts Alliance. It’s a community made up of basically Asian-Americans. They support Asian-American artists, whether you’re a dancer, writer, painter, etc. Takehiro Ueyama (artistic director of TAKE Dance) was awarded an award last year and I was awarded that award this year. George Takei was also someone who has been awarded. They recognize Asian artists in the city. Like this, I find different communities to be a part of.

How did attending LaGuardia High School or The Juilliard School help you become the dancer that you are today?

I definitely found a turning point in my mind and body connection specifically between my 2nd and 3rd year at LaGuardia. At the time, I was dancing a lot! I had dance classes at The Ailey School right after my dance and academic classes at LaGuardia. During that time, I had a mind/body connection. Understanding rotation, alignment, muscles, body, joints…everything started to click.

I can’t just pinpoint one thing from each of the institution, but at Juilliard, it was definitely a continuation of that mind/body connection, but also having the knowledge of it. What was also really important was the language of dance; speaking about dance… the various ballet styles, modern techniques…speaking through the anatomy kind of scope, learning about how to make a production and what you need to do as a producer within dance. If you’re a lighting designer, which I do as well, I’ve learned how to talk to choreographers and aid them.

One individual that created another burning fire in my artistic pursuit was the associate artistic director at Juilliard, Risa Steinberg. In the summer after my 3rd year, I took her teaching mythology class which was held at Gibney Dance. At the time, it was a huge spark in my life for me to know that I wanted to teach dance: to communicate the language and offer my love for dance. Dance teachers have such a huge responsibility over a dancer’s body. A dancer goes to an open class and says “This is my instrument that I use to dance and move. Please be my teacher.” That’s such a huge responsibility among dance teachers. I find that responsibility something that I want to learn now. So when I teach in an institution, which I hope I do someday, I don’t need to be nervous about it. I can have confidence in my ability to take care of a dancer’s body while still challenging them.

Any specific style that you want to teach?

So far I’ve taught ballet, Graham technique, Horton technique, floor work, contemporary, and improvisation. I have a wide variety of styles that I teach because of the knowledge I’ve accumulated in Juilliard. Primarily being in the Limón Dance Company and speaking it for 4 years at Juilliard, I would love to teach Limón technique. The technique is so human, it applies to literally everything we do. It’s a discovery that takes a lifetime. That’s why I love Limón. I want to find a way that the Limón dance principles can be used for contemporary dancers. Some people say that Alexandra Wells’ ballet class is for contemporary dancers. I wanna find how Limón technique or any modern techniques can be applicable for contemporary dancers. I don’t want modern dance to be a prehistoric form and I don’t want people to lose interests in it because it’s not new

Can you say you have a certain style of movement?

I find that everyone has a specific style and as you dance with people, you get to to know their style. I find that my style definitely has Limón principles in it, so the technique kinda comes naturally. In a nutshell, it’s a combination of contemporary and Limón. Right now, I’m choreographing a new work. My first work outside of Juilliard and working with the dancers have been really great! I’ve learned that I have my go-to’s and I’m trying to get out of that.

Do you ever have plans on being a choreographer?

Yes. I enjoy choreographing, discovering and finding something new with the dancers. I love collaborating with the dancers. But if I had to list it from the most important to least in my mind, it would be teaching, dancing, then choreographing. Choreographing is not so much of a drive for me. When you’re teaching, you’re pretty much choreographing. It’s always a discovery when you’re teaching because each dancer learns dance differently. It’s interesting.

Saya Hishikawa - Interview En L'air

What is one of your biggest achievements in your dance career so far?

It’s difficult to rank my experiences. Each technique informs the other and I find that each experience leads to another.

Is there an artist(s) that you absolutely loved working with?

Lar Lubovitch. I have so much love for that man! I was first introduced to him during the winter intensive in 2012-2013. At the tail end of my 2nd yr, I was in his piece Concerto Six Twenty-Two for Juilliard’s Spring Repertory Concert. After that I was asked to perform at The Joyce Theater, then apprenticeship, then company membership. He’s definitely a huge inspiration for me.

Risa Steinberg. If I haven’t mentioned her name enough already.

Milton Myers…. Incredible teacher! I find that in his class, he never says negative things. He never says “no,” or “that’s not it.” He’s always supportive and says things like “that’s a great direction,” “let’s try this.” I want to put that into my teaching.

Where do you see yourself in about 10 yrs?

That’s a really big question that I’ve always thought about. I dreamed about staying with the Limón company for 10 or more years and to really truly understand the technique. And hopefully be able to continue the legacy and teach it.

I’ve also thought Broadway; to go back into singing.

I would love to teach high school and/or college/institution level. They are at the age where they know they want to be dancers. They have the drive within themselves and strive for that information.

Check out his website at
And watch a video of him dancing here:

Saya Hishikawa - Interview En L'air

Video Clip: Choreographed by Jesse Obremski in 2015 at Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts for the weekly Resident Choreographers Concert. Video of it performed by Jesse at The Juilliard School’s Choreographic Honors Concert in 2016.