Brown Bag Talk with Cowles Visiting Artist Susan Kikuchi

Apr 06, 2015

Cowles Visiting Artist Susan Kikuchi is here in Minneapolis setting the work “Panorama” on 38 University of Minnesota Dance Majors. They will perform alongside the Martha Graham Dance Company next weekend.

Hosted by the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts and Dance program, Susan Kikuchi joined the students during the lunch hour to discuss her work and life in dance. Her background story is fascinating.

Susan Kikuchi’s mother was the legendary Graham performer, Yuriko. Yuriko was born in California and raised in Japan. During the time of WWII, as Japanese Americans, Yuriko and her husband were interned to the camps in Arizona. After the war, Yuriko relocated to New York City with only $100 in her pocket. She had a list of people she would like to study with: Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm, and Martha Graham. She knocked on the door of Martha Graham’s studio, and that is how her relationship with Martha Graham began.

While Martha Graham was in the process of creating Diversion of Angels, Yuriko became pregnant with her daughter (Susan!). You will see Diversion of Angels at Northrop on Saturday evening.

When Susan was born, Martha Graham came to the hospital and held her in her arms. It is safe to say Susan was born into the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Dance was an integral part of Susan Kikuchi’s life. She studied Cunningham technique and ballet at the University of Rochester. In addition, she worked with Steve Paxton, the creator of contact improvisation. Susan recalls a time when he came to her apartment and they had a discussion about contact improvisation before it was invented.

Susan also spent some time as a scholarship student at the Alvin Ailey School. It was around this time that Susan worked on the King and I. Two faculty members of the University of Minnesota Dance Program, Linda Talcott Lee and Scott Rink, worked with Susan on this Broadway production. In fact, Linda was Susan’s roommate!

Broadway was a big part of Susan’s career in addition to her work with the Martha Graham Dance Company. When she stopped performing, she spent 25 years teaching at the Ailey School and the Martha Graham School and continues to set work on students, just like she is here at the University of Minnesota!

You can listen to the full audio of Susan’s talk below:

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