Sachiko is a voice of atomic victims in flamenco performance


Nishiushi’s exploration of the Spanish Flamenco dance has culminated with her first self-choreographed and directed performance with “Hiroshima: A Night Dreamt and a Day Flashed to Burn,” on Sept. 27-29, 8:00 p.m., and Sept. 30, 7:00 p.m. at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis.

The production, “Explorations in Flamenco,” is presented by Intermedia Arts and Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre, and Sachiko will be followed by Deborah Elias in her production of “Tia” (Auntie). A post performance dialogue will follow the Saturday performance.

Four the past four years, Sachiko has danced in many productions and this is her first attempt at her own direction and choreography. She says it is quite different from dancing to someone else’s direction.

There were many and complex reasons that Sachiko decided on the emotional theme of the atomic bomb victims. She visits friends in Hiroshima whenever she goes back to Japan. She was there on the anniversary of the August 6, 1945 attack that killed more than 140,000. While at the museum, she met with survivors, now in their 80s and 90s, and still suffering and dieing from the effects of radiation. The Nagasaki bombing a few days later that killed nearly 75,000 people.

Sachiko said that her flamenco dance project is to evoke a sense of the impact of unimaginable devastation. She emphasizes that the work is not intend as a political statement but is more about our common humanity.

“I have this image of the victims being voiceless,” said Sachiko. “These people believe that when they are gone, it will all be forgotten.”

Further inspired by stories of the victims by Hibakusya, the novels of Masuji Ibuse and the poems of Toge Sankichi, Sachiko now believes that people know what happened, but do not acknowledge what it this holocaust really means.

“I have this image of them with their mouths covered,” she said. “They have words to tell us and we have never heard those voices.”

So, flamenco becomes a silent voice that can express all of the emotions in a moving exploration of horror, but also of the healing powers of the imagination.

“Dance itself is a metaphor for life and can be translated as metaphor for peoples everyday life and emotions,” she said.

There are three components to traditional flamenco. The music of an acoustical guitarist, the singer and the dance. For Sachiko’s performance, guitarist Michael Ziegahn and singer Rachel Milloy will perform the tangos and siguiriyas. For the Japanese element, the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) will be played by Takeru Matsuhashi along with a taiko drum by Susan Tanabe.

Sachiko will be the central performer and will be joined by local dancers and flamenco students: Laura Horn, Christine Kozachok, Andrea Plevan and Tara Weatherly. Each dancer portrays a wounded survivor with a story of inspiration, all told through a unique blend of flamenco, Japanese traditional dance, martial arts, and Butoh-inspired movements.

In the aftermath, Sachiko dances a flamenco piece as a symbolic and abstract to war, agony and death through movement. The composition is traditional flamenco with nontraditional movement.

“I am a translator through the movement,” she added.

Sachiko is an Osaka native who discovered flamenco in high school, where she says the dance is very popular. She studied undergraduate law at Kansai University, and then discovered a flamenco class while an exchange student at George Washington University. She returned to Osaka around 1995 where she continued studying the dance at a local flamenco school.

“I started dancing pretty late, and was about 23 when I began studying flamenco,” she said. “I had no experience before that and never thought of becoming a professional dancer. I just liked it and kept taking classes.”

When Sachiko was accepted to the University of Minnesota Graduate School in 2000, she began searching for local flamenco schools, and discovered Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre in Minneapolis, a renowned school under the founding artistic director, Susana di Palma.

Sachiko was surprised and pleased to be encouraged to perform early on with Zorongo. “In Japan, it was really difficult for someone to find this opportunity, where here it is pretty common.”

Her skill and passion for flamenco soon made her a member of Zorongo’s ensemble, Majas. She has also performed with Zorongo and Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Michael Hauser’s Cuadro Flamenco and FUEGO Flamenco.

Sachiko also seeks to enhance her flamenco skills by studying Indian dance to and is a member of Ananya Dance Theater. There she studies the Odissi style, a graceful Indian dance form that is quite different from flamenco, but will help her become a better dancer all around by mastering these difficult techniques.

“Its like anthropology,” she said. “You really have to know the history and the culture, so that gets me to open up to who they are.”

It’s all very hard work, and Sachiko’s daily routine begins with a one or two-hour warm-up, followed by two to three hours of practicing fast and slow movement coordination. Then she squeezes in some abdominal workouts and yoga, before cooling down.

“Flamenco is a very demanding and intense dance form that is very formal,” she said. “You have to have stamina, strength, flexibility, an understanding of music and that is all pretty demanding.”

Sachiko also goes to Spain about once a year to take dance classes where flamenco originated as a folk dance more than 500 years ago. With multiple influences, the origins of flamenco are not clear but there are Gypsy-Indian, Flemish, French, African and Arabic roots. The name comes from the bright colored costumes that resemble flamingoes, the acoustic guitar rhythms, singing, chanting, dancing and handclapping.

“For me, its just very Spanish and very showy,” Sachiko said, noting that in Japanese culture, the dancers do not express such emotion. When she dances, she is very much into flamenco, but when not dancing she is still very Japanese.

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