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Fujima Ryu of Chicago Celebrates the 38th Recital

The Fujima Ryu of Chicago celebrated the 38th recital on October 19 at the auditorium of the Northside College Preparatory School, and a variety of Japanese classic dance was showcased by the members of the group. The Fujima Ryu is one of the most traditional Japanese-dance schools in Japan, and Fujima Shunojo, who had received his professional name from the Fujima School, opened the Chicago branch in 1976. Last year, he was awarded by the Foreign Minister of Japan for his significant contribution to deepen understandings of Japanese art and culture in the Midwest.

This year, Fujima Shuryu, Grandmaster of Fujima Ryu in Japan, came to help the recital. Shuryu spent more than eight years in Chicago in his young days and called Shunojo as sensei, teacher. Fujima Yurino also joined the recital from Australia. She has attended it regularly for many years.

The 38th recital opened with “Haru no Kotobuki”, a congratulatory dance for the opening or a new beginning, performed by Fujima Shunojo and Shuryu.
The recital has traditionally been held in autumn, but most of the dance pieces are themed on spring because spring symbolizes a new beginning with new energy.

Erin Ikeuchi played “Ougi Zukushi (Collection of Fans), and the piece described all the different types of celebratory themes such as happiness and the good fortune of a long lasting marriage or a new year.

Fujima Ikunojo and Fujima Yoshinojo performed “Harukoma” (Spring Colts). The piece described two geishas, who reenacted the famous story of the Soga brothers, two samurai searching to avenge their father’s death.

Sachio Nang danced “Kotobuki Shochikubai”. The piece is themed after the three traditional signs of fortune: the pine, bamboo, and plum blossom. The pine is a symbol of strength; the bamboo is the sign for longevity; and the plum is the first flower to bloom in the early spring.

Joy Nieda danced “Chiyo no Maiougi”, which depicted a court dancer travelling to the opposing general’s war camp where her lover had been captured. She will dance at the camp, so that she can see him one last time.

Yukio Nang and Aki Abatangello danced “Hana no Utage” (Celebration of Flowers), Fujima Yoshinojo performed “Shunrai” (Spring Thunder), and Fujima Yurino performed Shima no Senzai, which described a court dancer. One of the well known moments in the dance is that the dancer tries to draw a moon’s reflection from a well.

After taiko-drumming performance by Kokyo Taiko and Tuskasa Taiko, the second part of the recital started. Japanese classical dances are usually performed with live music; however, this is almost impossible in Chicago. Fujima Shunojo, who places high respect on tradition, asked Toyoaki Shamisen group to provide live music. With the live music, Fujima Ikunojo performed “Sanosa Bune”, a dance of a broken-hearted geisha at the shore of a river.
Fujima Shuryu performed “Deai Gashira” with two masks of man and woman. Lastly, Fujima Shunojo beautifully danced “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) with his gorgeous kimono dress.

Shunojo’s Fujima Ryu recital is famous not only for dances, but also for beauty of kimono and the way of dressing. Usually Shunojo helps his students get dressed, but it requires strong, powerful arms and fingers. Once he said that his fingers had been numbed before he performed.

Fujima Shuryu said that he came to the recital because he really wanted to help Shunojo.
Shuryu was born and raised in the Fujima family and debuted at the age of six. He is the fourth generation of the family and grandson of the famous Fujima Shusai. However, teenager Shuryu left his home and decided to have a career outside of Fujima Ryu dance.
He said that an elite boy, who was the same age as his, was in the family, so the boy would take over the family tradition.
He came to the U.S. and wanted to attend a college. Fujima Shunojo of Chicago, who was once a live-in apprentice under Shusai, prepared everything for him, so he could attend Roosevelt University and majored in Speech Communications in 1983.
While he was studying, Shunojo often invited him to dance lessons and offered him many opportunities to perform in the Chicago area.

Shuryu graduated from the University and was employed at Inter Continental Hotel in Chicago. Thanks to Japanese companies in Chicago, he was promoted as a concierge in a three-month period. He had a job, was able to make living, and utilized his bilingual skills.
Throughout the years in Chicago, Shuryu was often asked about Japanese culture and classical dances. While he was answering the questions, he wondered if he had enough knowledge about Japanese culture and dances. The more he studied, the more he was interested in the dance in his family. After eight and a half years of American life, he decided to return home.
He restarted his dance career from the beginning and worked at family chores. Nearly a quarter century later, Shuryu became Grand Master. He is also a member of the Japanese Dance Association (JDA) and the Neo-Classical Dance Theater (NCDT). In addition, he has supported the operation of Promotion Japanese Cultural Awareness in order not only to preserve the tradition of dance, but also to introduce such dance and culture to the next generation by lecturing and demonstrating on various occasions. He also has given lectures and demonstrations in Taiwan and Singapore.

Shuryu said, “If I didn’t meet Shunojo sensei, I’d never have today’s career.” He has realized how hard it is to continue a Fujima school for about 40 years in Chicago and Shunojo’s hardship. “It was really true that I never thought that I could go home to start it from scratch if I didn’t have connection to Shunojo sensei,” Shuryu repeated.
Shuryu said, “I’m very pleased to work for sensei in the backstage, so I think that I can reduce sensei’s stress in the recital. I want to come here again next year.


Fujima Shunojo


Fujima Ikunojo

Fujima Shuryu


Erin Ikeuchi (L) and Sachio Nang


Yukio Nang