Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sachiyo Ito & Co. Brings Classical Dance to Japanese Festival

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sachiyo Ito & Co. Brings Classical Dance to Japanese Festival

Article excerpt

The Japanese Festival isn't all drummers, vendors, origami and anime. This year, it will also feature Sachiyo Ito & Company, a troupe specializing in Japanese classical dance, in five performances over three days.

Ito, born in Tokyo and based in New York, came to this country in 1972. She has worked as an artist, choreographer and teacher ever since, bringing a greater understanding of Asian dance forms to Western audiences for more than 40 years, performing everywhere from New York's Lincoln Center to Alaska and, over the years, at the Japanese Festival.

Ito and five of her colleagues will perform three 19th century Kabuki dances, one Okinawan court dance (closer in style to Chinese than to classical Japanese) and two pieces that Ito choreographed in the Japanese classical style.

Kabuki theater was actually invented by a woman, Izumo no Okuni, a remarkable talent and great beauty, in 1603. She founded an all- female troupe and quickly gained competition from other groups. As has so often been the case with theater over the centuries, though, Kabuki soon became associated with immorality. In 1629, the ruling military government, the Tokugawa shogunate, banned women's participation in what had very quickly become a popular art form.

"It was sensational theater, like a dance revue with a short skit," Ito says. "The dance has been the essence of dancing and the essence of Kabuki since the early 17th century. More and more dances have been created. Even the acting, even the fighting, is a dance in Kabuki. The dance developed together with the drama. It is storytelling, gestures to help tell a story."

The oldest dance still preserved dates from the late 1600s.

After the 1920s, Ito says, "Women began to perform (Kabuki) publicly, professionally, in the concert halls. Much of our repertoire comes from 19th century Kabuki dances, but there are many (newer) dances that choreographers, both men and women, have created based on Kabuki styles. Today we even use western music sometimes, such as Beethoven. …

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