Marika Niko, MFA in Dance ’23: Meshroom

This is part of a series commemorating this year’s cohort of Duke’s MFA in Dance. Learn more about the program and its 2023 graduates here.


In her research project Meshroom: Choreographing Communities, Marika Niko addressed one of the central questions arising in the field of social choreography today: How is the organization of the dancing body entangled with the patterns and organization of our customs and institutions at large?

Stemming from Japan and arriving with wide-ranging international influences, Marika initially focused her research on the Japanese postwar dance form of Butoh, an established embodied form of resistance to the hegemonic order intrinsic to the socialized body. However, through a series of stochastic and somewhat serendipitous processes, Marika found herself (co-)founder, and soon in charge of Meshroom, a performance gathering at The Ark, Duke’s truly legendary dance building.

Through careful and thoughtful choreographic and curatorial considerations, Meshroom grew into a regular site for artists and the wider Duke and Durham communities to share a dancefloor that resists the authoritarian modes of bodily and social organization. As Marika unpacked the principles of Butoh and translated them into beautiful governing principles of Meshroom, it became apparent that these events followed a deeply considered yet unfamiliar internal logic.

A social choreographic frame that provided the seeds for a novel poetics of communing and artistic presentation emerged, potentially freed from the immediate restraint of the market, narrow expectations and entrenched modalities of presenting dance and the arts. Meshroom is an equally beautiful and radical intervention in the status quo of presenting dance in the Western world. Its social warmth radiates everyone who encounters it. It instills hope that the “cold winds of civilizations” can be resisted, transformed and renewed — or as Marika
demands in her Meshroom manifesto: Activate the sensibilities to care.

—Michael Kliën

Professor of the Practice of Dance

Artists during the performance of the

Thesis Project

Meshroom is a performance environment that forms an intellectual/intentional community around an open dancefloor. It is a space for transcending narrow languages, ungrounding from fixed realities and co-creating temporary worlds in movement. Meshroom is shaped by the movement, dreams, hopes and queerness of everyone in the room: It is a weaving of wild minds and soft bodies. All visitors are welcome to move, rest, witness, think, melt and dance with live music and occasional performances.

Meshroom was initially conceptualized with the aim to build a communal environment that centers the body in how people think and move in response to how dance played a minor role in the overall expectation of knowledge production within this research institution.

Drawing upon social choreography and Butoh, the work imagines a choreographic format that unpatterns habituated behaviors and enables an alternative mode of social organization. Over the course of a year (March 2022 to February 2023), six Meshroom events were hosted at The Ark on East Campus.

During the two-hour events, the night fluidly oscillated between an open explorative space where all visitors could choose their mode of participation – move, think, meditate, rest, read, etc. – and occasional performances where visitors witnessed a performance offering by movement artists in the community.

About Marika Niko

Marika Niko is a choreographer, mover and thinker from Japan. After being a nomad for most of her life ‒ Thailand, U.K., the Netherlands, U.A.E., Japan ‒ she is currently based in the United States. She graduated from New York University Abu Dhabi with a B.A. in Theater and from Duke University with an M.F.A. in Dance: Embodied interdisciplinary Praxis.

They choreograph immersive, multi-sensorial, embodied gatherings and experiences for audiences to explore different ways of relating relationships to space, to time, to other humans and to other non-humans. Their recent works include nudation (2022, site-specific dance, U.S.), Caress (2021, audio-choreography, online), and memory is a partial victory over death (2019, site-specific dance, U.A.E.).


Why Duke University?

“I wanted to find a dance program that will allow me to stay fluid in my research—moving in between research and practice, interweaving dance with other academic disciplines—and I thought Duke’s program structure would support me in that.”

Visitors taking part in Meshroom eventsVisitors taking part in Meshroom eventsVisitors taking part in Meshroom eventsVisitors taking part in Meshroom eventsVisitors taking part in Meshroom events