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Japan Info Flash
February 20, 2013
Published by Consulate General of Japan in New York / Japan Information Center
For her trailblazing career in the world of modern dance, Martha Graham Dance Company's former principle dancer, Ms. Yuriko Kikuchi, was awarded the Japanese Foreign Minister's Commendation on January 30th, 2013. Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki, Consul General of Japan in New York, presented her with this official government recognition at a special ceremony and reception in her honor.
During her remarkable half-century as a professional dancer and teacher, Ms. Kikuchi was a pioneer in the development of contemporary dance, beginning with the Martha Graham Dance Company. It was at this legendary institution that she came to blend their techniques with tenets of Japanese philosophy such as respect and harmony, in addition to the Zen Buddhist values she learned while growing up in Japan. ?She incorporated this approach into her performances in major productions with the Martha Graham Dance Company such as “Appalachian Spring” in 1944, “Dark Meadow” in 1946, “Canticle for Innocent Comedians” in 1952, “Ardent Song” in 1954 and “Clytemnestra” in 1958.
Ms. Kikuchi passed on the importance of these principles of Japanese philosophy to the students she directed as a faculty member at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.? Her sharing of Japanese aesthetics with the American public spurred on the growth of new generations of dancers such as Ms. Miki Orihara, the current principal dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company, who is of Japanese descent.? Ms. Kikuchi's devotion to dance, and her appreciation of Martha Graham, was proven by the establishment of Ms. Kikuchi's Arigato Project, in which she worked with young dancers in the same manner as Martha Graham had kindly taught her, enabling her to become a principal dancer. ?
Ms. Yuriko Kikuchi's Career History
- 1943    Joined the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
- 1944    Performed and reproduced a variety of Martha Graham Dance Company productions as its principal dancer, solo dancer and demonstrator
- 1945    Began her teaching career as a faculty member of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance
- 1951    Performed in several Broadway musical productions
In attendance at the ceremony were esteemed members of the international dance community, which included colleagues from Ms. Kikuchi’s distinguished career as a dancer and teacher, cultural organizations such as the New York State Council on the Arts and Japan Society, and friends and family.? The famous Kabuki actor, Mr. Koshiro Matsumoto IX, who performed in musicals Ms. Kikuchi choreographed such as “The King and I,” relayed a heartfelt message to her from Japan, addressing himself as her “Son in Tokyo” to his “Mom in New York. ?Media such as Kyodo News and the blogsite, JapanCulture-NYC, were also in attendance to cover the event.

Thanks in no small part to Ms. Kikuchi’s efforts, Martha Graham’s spirit remains strong: the Joyce Theater will be holding her production, “Myth and Transformation” from February 20th to March 3rd, 2013 and university and high school students from around the country will perform Graham classics, including those Ms. Yuriko Kikuchi revived, such as “Panorama.”
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