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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Performance Reviews
Kaye Playhouse

Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company - 150 Years of US/Japan Relations

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2004
Kaye Playhouse
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 772-4448

About the Author:

Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company - 150 Years of US/Japan Relations


Stars & Stripes and Cherry Blossoms

Saeko Ichinohe, Artistic Director
Saeko Ichinohe, Jeff Moen, Choreographers
Yukie Okuyama, S. Horishige, Costume Designers
Jeff Moen, Production Arts Director
Chenault Spence, Lighting Designer
Gayle Jeffery, Stage Manager
Audrey Ross, Publicity

Presented at The Kaye Playhouse
68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues
NY, NY 10021

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2004

Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company is helping to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of US and Japanese relations. She selected for this evening two works that relate to the historical event of Commodore Perry arriving in Japan in 1853. Ms. Ichinohe is the first Japanese choreographer to win a prize for choreography in the US and also creates new works for ballet companies. She was born and raised in Japan, later graduating from Juilliard and remaining in NYC. She consults with the Metropolitan Opera for proper Japanese movement in "Madama Butterfly". (Publicity Notes).

Mr. Tadao Fujimatsu, CEO of The Fujimatsu Corporation, addressed the audience with warmth and humor in a very understandable explanation of Commodore Perry and the initial happenings to open US and Japan relations. He also introduced, in an entertaining manner, "Utamaro".

Stars & Stripes and Cherry Blossoms (1984, Revival): Choreography by Saeko Ichinohe, Music by Nicholas Scarim, Costumes by S. Horishige, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by the Company. Nicholas Scarim's score was commissioned with a grant. It reflects the changes that took place after the arrival of Commodore Perry. This work, divided into Village, Confusion, Relationship, and Freedom, begins with dancers in elegant purple kimonos, performing to music reminiscent of Satie or Glass. Modern Dance and Japanese Dance were fused.

"The Relationship" included giant box-like masks, worn or carried by the dancers, Rie Fukuzawa and Tetsushi Segawa (from Les Ballets Grandiva), as they adorably and expertly flirted and changed moods, with music melting into silence. The red and purple leotards and similar lighting were visually engaging and well coordinated. I noticed, during this piece, that silence is actually used, in Japanese dance, as a significant dimension, with dance continuing or redeveloping in a transitional sense.

Utamaro (New York Premiere): Choreography by Saeko Ichinohe and Jeff Moen, Music by Katsutoshi Nagasawa, Yoshiro Irino, Isao Matsushita, Japanese Traditional, and Akira Nishimura, Costumes by Yukie Okuyama, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by Saeko Ichinohe and the Company. This work was inspired by the woodblock prints of Utamaro (1753-1806), who designed his prints in Ukiyoe (means the floating world). His portraits of courtesans, lovers, working girls, tea-house girls, and mothers and children, were indicative of the lives of people, who lived in the Edo period (1603-1867). (Publicity Notes).

This work, divided into Prologue, Awabi-tori (Woman Diver Catching Abalone), Oiran (Courtesan), Suji Bijin (Kitchen Beauties), and Michiyuki (Lovers' Journey), was absolutely exquisite. With a boat and long oar in the background, a woman "swims" to rapturous tones across the floor in a green, chiffony skirt and leotards. Without doubt, the showstopper of the evening was Saeko Ichinohe's solo dance of the courtesan who sheds hair pins and kimonos, slowly and sensuously, to finally reveal, mid-stage and seated, an elegant leotard with the head of a dragon. As each sash or heavy, lighter, and even lighter Kimono or robe was shed, Ms. Ichinohe ever so slowly glided in regal and sometimes mournful demeanor, her face revealing either passion or pain.

Michiyuki (Lovers' Journey) reflected the star-crossed fate of lovers from different social strata, and their seduction-elopement-suicide scenarios. Ms. Ichinohe dedicated this section to Antony Tudor, who taught Ms. Ichinohe at Juilliard. Yukie Okuyama and Jeff Moen danced with the appropriate fusion of contemporary feeling and traditional movements. There was eroticism and energy, as the solo Japanese stringed instrument played an evocative, yearning sonata. As dancers slid offstage, the silence resumed, but not to be again interrupted.

Kudos to Saeko Ichinohe, the Company of dancers, and Tadao Fujimatsu for an educational and exceptional evening of Japanese dance and music.

Saeko Ichinohe in Utamaro, Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company.
Photo courtesy of Nan Melville

Saeko Ichinohe in Utamaro, Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company.
Photo courtesy of Nan Melville

On April 28, at 6:30 PM, The 7th Cultural Bridge Award Presentation Gala Dinner, honoring Gen Horiuchi, former Principal, NYC Ballet, will be held at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South.
A special guest will be Harold Prince, Director/Producer.
For details call 212.757.2531.

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