– Japanese dance troupe delighted audience at Touhill PAC.

By Paul Peanick, Staff Writer for The Current

Sachiyo Ito and Company delivered an intimate, elegant performance of Japanese traditional dance filled with expressive movement and pantomime framed within vibrant costumes, clever prop usage and graceful gestures, on November 9 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center’s Lee Theater. The program was presented by University of Missouri – St. Louis’ International Studies and Programs.

During the performance, not many words were spoken but very much was communicated in ways words fail to convey. Body language, props and gestures seem to evoke empathy, sympathy, and the sharing of the emotions as a result of the drama taking place onstage.

Sachiyo Ito is an accomplished performer, choreographer, producer and teacher. She founded Sachiyo Ito and Company as a not-for-profit in 1981 but has been performing in Japan, Europe, North and South America for nearly four decades. A professor, she has been an instructor at both the Julliard School and New York University since the early 1970s. Ito is also a contributing editor to the Oxford University Press.

Ito’s company produces and performs many genres of music including Kabuki, Noh, Okinawan Court music and Jiuta-Mai. The company also has produced many contemporary works as well.

Sachiyo Ito together with her dance troupe and it’s school are known collectively as Dance Japan. In addition to touring around the globe, Sachiyo Ito sponsors a thrice yearly series of inspirational lecture demonstrations aimed at young artists.

The performance of the night featured sprightly girls dressed in vibrant kimonos in pale pink, violet, gold and rouge. They made ample use of graceful, precise, purposeful dance movements, props and expressions.

The piece began with a talk about the historical significance and unique features of Kabuki. The dancers then showcased moving pieces of drama like “Iris Flower Dance,” “Cherry Blossom Hunting,” “Spring Sea,” “The Three Masks Lullaby,” “Flowers of The Four Seasons” and “Early Spring.” The history of Kabuki dance and theater spans nearly four centuries. Kabuki has always been popular in Japan but often earned the ire of those in power. Female Kabuki performances were banned for most of the genre’s history as being, “too suggestive.” Consequently, an entire school of Kabuki developed with males playing the roles of both sexes.

Much of Kabuki’s strong resurgence after World War II can be credited to Tetsuji Takechi, a director who created many new, innovative east meets west Kabuki productions. One of Takechi’s actors, Nakemaru Senjaku, became so ubiquitous and famous for Kabuki that, within Osaka, Japan, the mid-twentieth century of Kabuki is known as the “Age of Senjaku.”

Today, thanks to the passion of Kabuki artists such as Sachiyo Ito and Company and increased East/West cultural exchange, audiences can enjoy globally the beauty of the art. Kabuki theaters large and small dot the landscape in Japan. Many performers are famous, and Kabuki is a thriving genre. Its actors are featured in theater and on live television, and the number of new performances continues to grow every year. Anyone can catch a glimpse into a long and rich tradition in Kabuki nowadays.

Thanks to Sachiyo Ito and Company and UMSL International Studies and Programs, Touhill audiences were treated in Kabuki’s beautiful costumes and warm fluid movements.

©  The Current 2013