Dancer Yuriko to Discuss Isamu Noguchi, Martha Graham March 12

  • en

Mar 200612

Japanese American National Museum
369 East First Street
Los Angeles, California, 90012
United States


LOS ANGELES—Yuriko, former principal dancer for groundbreaking choreographer Martha Graham, will discuss her relationship with her mentor as well as Graham’s 30-year collaboration with artist Isamu Noguchi in the public program, “Point of Departure: Yuriko in Conversation with Mindy Aloff and Bonnie Rychlak.” Audiences will also have the chance to see excerpts of archival film footage featuring Yuriko in significant dance productions by Graham. “Point of Departure” will take place on Sunday, March 12, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.

This program is part of a series directly related to Japanese American National Museum’s installation of the internationally acclaimed exhibition, Isamu Noguchi – Sculptural Design, organized by the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany, in cooperation with the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, Inc., New York. The exhibition, which includes more than 75 works by Noguchi and reflects the diversity of his six decades of work, was designed and visually conceived by famed theatrical director and designer Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center on Long Island, New York. The exhibition runs through May 14 and is the final stop on a 10-city international tour.

Noguchi, considered one of the great artists of the 20th Century, broke down the boundaries between the fine and applied arts, creating sculpture, furniture, gardens, memorials, fountains, and dance sets. His collaboration with Graham began in 1935 and she often credited Noguchi’s sets as being integral to her dance productions. “Always he has given me something that lived on stage as another character, another dancer,” Graham explained. Set elements of seven Graham productions designed by Noguchi are part of the exhibition currently on display.

Yuriko Amemiya was born in San Jose in 1920, but like Noguchi, she spent much of her youth in Japan. She studied classical Japanese dance before returning to San Jose, only to be removed from the West Coast along with 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry by the U.S. government during World War II. Yuriko and her family were incarcerated in Arizona’s Gila River concentration camp.

After petitioning for an early release, Yuriko received permission to leave Gila River in 1943 under the condition that she not return to the West Coast. She headed for New York because “I wanted to dance.” While inquiring about the teaching schedule at Martha Graham’s dance company, she encountered the accomplished choreographer alone. “She wanted to see me move,” Yuriko recalled, “and I said, ‘I’m not in training; I just came out of the camp.’ “

Despite being invited to attend class the next day, Yuriko declined to show up. “In Japan,” she explained, “if you don’t know the technique, you don’t take it from the master first. You take it from an underling.” Yuriko studied under another instructor for four months until her abilities drew Graham’s attention again. This time, she joined Graham’s class and three years later became part of the permanent company, dancing in the legendary Appalachian Spring.

This was the beginning of a 50-year association with Graham. Yuriko eventually founded the Martha Graham Dance Ensemble and was instrumental in the restaging of Graham’s productions. More recently, as Graham’s dances have begun to pass into the public domain, Yuriko offered her services as a stager for dance companies and student groups that want to present these important works. Under the title “The Arigato Project,” Yuriko contributed her expertise and often included her daughter Susan Kikuchi (another former Graham dancer). “‘Arigato’ means ‘thank you’ in Japanese,” Yuriko said. “It’s my thank you to Martha Graham and to the dance world for giving me such a beautiful life, and I want to give it back. The knowledge, the experience: I can’t take it with me. It’s my legacy to young dancers.”

“Point of Departure” will be moderated by two leading experts on Graham and Noguchi: Mindy Aloff and Bonnie Rychlak. Aloff is one of the nation’s most respected dance critics who has written for The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Nation. She also teaches dance history at Barnard College in New York and serves as a consultant for the George Balanchine Foundation. She is editor of the highly anticipated book, Dance Anecdotes: Stories from the Worlds of Ballet, Broadway, the Ballroom, and Modern Dance, which will be released in Spring 2006. Rychlak is the Curator at the Isamu Noguchi Museum in New York, and oversaw the 2004 exhibition, Noguchi and Graham: Selected Works for Dance. Her essay on Noguchi—“Sitting Quietly: Isamu Noguchi and the Zen Aesthetic”—can be found in Isamu Noguchi: Master Sculptor (2004), which was published by the Whitney Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

“Point of Departure” is free with admission to Isamu Noguchi - Sculptural Design. Seating is first-come, first-served, and early arrival is advised. Special admission prices apply to this exhibition: Adults $12; seniors (age 62+) $9; students and youth (ages 6-17) $8; and children 5 and under are free. National Museum members are free.

Reservations are recommended for all programs. For more information call (213) 625-0414.



Login or register to add tags

ckomai . Last modified Jul 09, 2010 12:11 p.m.

Get updates

Sign up for email updates

Journal feed
Events feed
Comments feed

Support this project

Discover Nikkei

Discover Nikkei is a place to connect with others and share the Nikkei experience. To continue to sustain and grow this project, we need your help!

Ways to help >>

A project of the Japanese American National Museum

The Nippon Foundation