Master-Apprentice: The Role of Practice

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No doubt: When individuals learn techniques and artistry under the guidance of a recognized master, a community’s culture is preserved. Since the first grants were awarded through the SFA Master-Apprentice program, four leading practitioners have paired with exemplary students in significant commitment to long-term practice of their traditional art forms.

Suzuyuki-Kai group during Tucson Maizome festival

The Suzuyuki-Kai group during Tucson Maizome festival, January 2016.


All teams are now delving deep into activities involving tutoring, practice and performance. In the collaboration between Master Artist Mari “Suzuyuki” Kaneta and Apprentice Suzu Igarashi, rigorous practice now also is preparation for traditional Japanese dance performance during the February 27-28 Arizona Matsuri Festival. and the 30th Anniversary of Tucson’s Suzuyuki Kai Odori dance group, in April.

Sensei Suzuyuki notes that practice is an evolving cultural lesson, with dancers taught to respect who they are in terms of their cultural background. As they learn the etiquette and manners of being a Japanese dancer, lessons are taught both in Japanese and English to build awareness of this cultural background, and also to learn to move gracefully. The various venues of performance will help integrate the dance traditions into many everyday lives, she continues.

The apprenticeship with Suzu and the weekly lessons of the group are a basis for innovation and as well as advancement of the tradition, says Sensei Suzuyuki. “Suzu’s awareness of being an apprentice has increased since receiving the award, and she is currently learning the importance of teaching the children who will be paving the way for this art form to continue to grow.”

The Suzuyuki-Kai Odori dance group has participated in the Arizona Matsuri for approximately 30 years, Sensei Suzuyuki notes, providing an important introduction of Japanese dancing to those in the Phoenix area looking to learn more about the Japanese culture.  “We perform in our traditional kabuki style make-up and kimono, and perform to the classical dance music to modern pops and jazz/fusion to let our audience experience many styles of japanese dancing,” she says.  The Suzuyuki-Kai dance group also collaborates with our own Taiko group (Suzuyuki-Kai Mogan Daiko), and Suzuyuki-Kai is the only dancing group in Arizona which actually incorporates traditional (classical Kabuki style) Japanese dancing with the live Taiko drumming.

Dances exist in a complex network of relationships — with the dancers connecting the culture to the community. As with all the traditional art forms deeply rooted in classical dance, practice is the key to their preservation. Heritage and history, rather than being static, becomes a fluid foundation for new expression and advancement of a living, practiced tradition.


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