Dance Preview: Misako Ballet Reflects Asian Culture

It’s very quiet – quite lovely, in fact – in the upstairs studio where visiting guest artist Fumihito Shimizu is rehearsing the Misako Ballet Company and guest dancers from Tokyo for a special one-time-only presentation of Water Flow this Saturday evening at the Convergence Art Center in Alexandria.


How strange it feels to be climbing these familiar steps at the Harper’s Choice Village Center – formerly Joseph Square – and climbing the same staircase that once led to Columbia’s wild and wicked Disco Palace in the early 1980s. This time, however, it’s not Donna Summer’s sounds that will accompany the dancing but the lovely strains of classical music from faraway Japan.

There’s little glamour at a rehearsal. Backpacks, books and ballet gear are scattered throughout the dressing room. A buzz surrounds the space where dancers are stretching on the floor. The studio, however, turns out to be a place of inspiration where the beauty of ballet takes shape.

Japanese musician, Tetsuroh Konishi, composed the score forWater Flow that includes a soprano solo for Eriko Tokura Murray in the Saturday show. Counting in “sevens,” rare for a ballet teacher who often works in waltz tempo, Shimizu leads a group of dancers through an especially poignant combination. Everyone appears touched by that portion of the ballet, including the tall, strawberry blonde choreographer whose grin is as broad as his shoulders.

It was a virtual hub of creativity last Saturday afternoon as five Japanese performers came together in Columbia with Misako Ballet Company dancers Melissa Lineburg, Ashlea Glickstein, Danielle Milstead, Jessica Markiewicz, Amber Hodak, Isabelle Zhan, and Amanda Wade, who, perhaps, best captures the Asian-influenced gestures in her dancing.

Poised in the middle of Misako’s especially tall group of ballerinas, Lineburg and Markiewicz are the bookends in this fantasy ballet. Strong and powerful in they’re movements, the two women weave in and out – each step precise and effortless. Glickstein, who recently joined Misako Ballet, brings added sweetness to the ballet, though she can whip through a foutee faster than you can name the movement.

Indeed, all of the dancers, both Japanese and American, are in their best form. In one of the sections, designed to evoke a seascape half the world away, petite Moemi Yahagi, reigns supreme. She clearly excels in both classical and Asian-influenced works. Kayo Noguchi also adds technical brilliance to the piece.

For balletomanes interested in what’s happening in dance on the other side of the world, check out Water Flow at the Convergence Art Center – 1801 North Quaker Lane, in Alexandria, VA 22302 on Saturday, July 23, at 7 p.m. It’s free but donations will be accepted. Call (703) 998-6260 for details.

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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.


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