Shinichi Iova-Koga

Shinichi Iova-Koga’s work is grotesque, beautiful, and funny. As a dancer he is never less than mesmerizing — ephemeral like smoke, limpid like a vernal pool. He has developed a personal form of mixed-media dance theater that integrates contradictory impulses — the ancient and the technological, the chaotic and the formal, nature and nurture. He might be called a dancer at the edge.

Rita Feliciano, SF Bay Guardian
Shinichi Iova-Koga laughing.
“These are the Ones We Fell Among” with guest director Ann Carlson (photo by Robbie Sweeny)

Shinichi serves as the Artistic Director of the physical theater and dance company inkBoat, founded by Shinichi in 1998.  He has toured in North America, Europe, South Korea and Japan, often collaborating with local artists in museums, theaters, studios and site-specific locations. 

Shinichi’s training began with Judo at age 8 with his father, Yuzo Koga, a 6-time USA Judo champion. In 1991, he entered Tadashi Suzuki’s method of training for Actors, experiencing the meeting of traditional and avant-garde Japanese performing arts. The same year, he studied Butoh first with Akeno Ashikawa and then with Hiroko Tamano, joining Harupin-Ha in 1993.

In 1996, he joined the German based Butoh company TEN PEN CHii with Yumiko Yoshioka

Shinichi founded inkBoat in 1998, a performance company that includes artists of many different artistic and cultural backgrounds. inkBoat and Shinichi have been honored by awards and grants, including 5 Bay Area “Izzie” awards and grants from NEA, MAP fund, New England Foundation for the Arts, Creative Work Fund, and Gerbode Foundation.

Shinichi co-choreographed a series of performances called Crazy Cloud with Ko Murobushi from 2008 to 2012. 

Ko Murobushi and Shinichi in research at MANCC for Crazy Cloud

Another notable collaborator is Ann Carlson, who worked with inkBoat from 2019 – 2021.

Since 2015, Shinichi’s career as an international performer has merged with his Daoist Internal Arts study. Qi Gong, Dao Yin, Yang Sheng Gong and Nei Gong are part of his daily practice. He is credentialed to teach through Lotus Nei Gong International and is a San Feng Pai lineage holder with Wudang West. Additionally, he has developed his approach to relationships between bodies through Aikido (with Jan Nevelius, Jorma Lily and Cornelius Jaeger-Herzog).

Ruth Zaporah is his continuing mentor. Her method of improvisational skill building is called Action Theater. Significant past mentors are Ralph Lemon, who opened up ideas about “anti-dance” and Anna Halprin, who encouraged community building through the art-making process.

Shinichi teaches annually at ImpulsTanz in Vienna and Dance on Land in California. He has served as a full time core faculty member of the MFA Dance program at Mills College in Oakland, California, from 2009 to 2017. He has taught Composition in the Arts for MFA students at UC Davis in 2014 and 2022. He currently runs independent workshops and online courses. 

He is  the editor of the book95 Rituals,” a tribute to Anna Halprin, and a contributing writer to “The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance.” He is featured in the book “Butoh America.”

Additionally, he has co-created numerous performances with music groups Rova Saxophone Quartet and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.  As a guest Director, he has created stage works with AXIS Dance Company and ODC Dance Company.  As a dancer, he has been a member of the Russian Dance Theater company Do Theatre (2003-2005) and Larry Reed’s Shadowlight Theater (1993-1997).

Dana, Wanjiru Kamuyu and Shinichi in “95 Rituals” (photo by Pak Han)

“humor, introspection, playfulness and memory with fearless gestures and thoughtfully crafted drama”

Mary Ellen Hunt, SF Chronicle review of “95 Rituals”


Under Shinichi’s direction, inkBoat has has been recognized numerous times by the Isadora Duncan Awards Committee, receiving 12 nominations and 5 Izzie awards: “Special Achievement Award” for the 2015 performance of “95 Rituals;” “Outstanding Achievement in Visual Design” for the 2011 performance “Line Between;” “Outstanding Achievement in Company Performance” for the 2008 production of “c(H)ord;” “Outstanding Achievement in Company Performance” for 2004’s “Ame to Ame;” “Outstanding Achievement in Visual Design” for 2003’s “Heavens’ Radio.”  Shinichi was named one of the “25 to watch” in 2008 by Dance Magazine and awarded a “Goldie” award by the SF Bay Guardian in 2007.  

Funders include National Endowment for the Arts (2009, 2010, 2015), California Arts Council (1999, 2000, 2001, 2019), San Francisco Arts Commission (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015), Zellerbach Family Fund (numerous times from 1997-2015), Creative Work Fund (2005, 2014), James Irvine Foundation (2002, 2006, 2015), Rainin Foundation (2011, 2015), New Music USA (2015), Bernard Osher Foundation (2015), MAP Fund “Creative Exploration Fund Grant” (2013), US/Japan Friendship Commission (2012), The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Andrew, W. Mellon Foundation’s MAP fund (2002, 2006, 2010), Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation (2011), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2011), CCI (2008, 2011),, The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2009), National Performance Network Creation Fund (2010), National Performance Network Forth Fund (2010), New England Foundation for the Arts, NDP (2009), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2002, 2008), Japan Foundation (2007), CASH grant (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2019), Meet the Composer (2001), American Composers Forum (1999) and Barkley Fund (1997).
He has been an Artist in Residence at ODC Theater, SF from 2009-2012, Headlands Center for the Arts in 2008, Wattis Artist in Residence at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2002, Schloss Bröllin, Germany in 2001, Fabrik Potsdam, Germany in 2001 and La Friche, Marseille, France in 1998. 

Shinichi in “Catena” by Dilate Ensemble (photo by Robbie Sweeny)

“expertly mines the dark vein of absurdist humor that infiltrates Butoh”

Allen Ulrich, SF Chronicle

Shinichi currently splits his time between San Francisco and Luzern, Switzerland.