Movement beyond borders

Visiting dancers teach students a blend of American and Japanese styles

| Author: ​Jeff Johnston

What do you get when you combine gymnastics, jazz, ballet, karate, kendo and judo?

It may sound like a riddle, but it looks like power and grace in motion.

It’s Masashi Action Machine, a Japanese dance company who recently hosted a weeklong workshop for Central Michigan University dance students.

Artistic Director Kumiko Sakamoto co-founded the group with choreographer and principal dancer Masashi Mishiro in 1990 in Nagoya, Japan.

Both had studied in New York City with American jazz dance legend Frank Hatchett in 1981 and absorbed American influences for inspiration, according to the Masashi website.

“This was an opportunity for students to learn about a style of dance that they had never been exposed to in their previous dance studies,” said Heather Trommer-Beardslee, dance program coordinator and artistic director, University Theatre Dance Company. “We are now exploring the possibility of taking CMU students to Japan to perform with Masashi Action Machine in Nagoya.”

The company is known for its acrobatic movement and the combination of American and Japanese dance styles.

“Being a part of the residency was a fun, wonderful experience,” said Jazmine Banks, a junior and dance minor. “Not only did we learn their technique but about Japanese culture as well. The three guest artists were amazing people.

“Many of us didn't know what to expect, and I know some of us were nervous, thinking we wouldn't be able to execute some of the movement, but they constantly pushed and motivated us. They increased our confidence and we became a little family in the short period we had.”

CMU's theatre, interpretation and dance department hosted the weeklong residency, funded by the College of the Arts and Media.

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