Misako’s Japanese Touches Bring Added Beauty to Ballet.
It’a very quiet—quite lovely, in fact—in the upstairs studio at Joseph Square, where Misako Aoki is rehearsing her company dancers for this Sunday’s concert at the Jim Rouse Theatre in Columbia.
One dancer, in particular, stands out. Jessica Markiewicz is grand, stately and as American as a high-kicking Rockette. Yet she captures all the soft, delicate movements in Misako’s intensely personal work, set in a distant village near the Sea of Japan where the director was born.
“The Grateful Crane,” a one-at act ballet featured in the company’s Sunday afternoon program, is indeed a welcome to summer. Like the sunflowers about to bloom, Misako’s company is a barometer of warmer days. The crane, an elegant and beautiful bird, is considered to be auspicious in Japan. The ballet retells the story of one such revered bird who, when struck by a hunter’s arrow, is rescued by a childless couple. The crane repays their kindness in a magical way.
There’s more than a whisper of dance history in this mirror-covered studio.
Five decades have passed since the New City Ballet opened its doors in the Village of Harper’s Choice, directed the short-lived company with his wife, Rebecca Hoffberger, who until recently, ran the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.
By the early ‘80s, John “Kinderman Taylor and TV star Peter Lupus from “Mission Impossible” turned the second floor of Joseph Square into the infamous Disco Palace. This time, however, it’s not Donna Summer’s sounds that will accompany the dancing but lovely strains from faraway Japan with soprano, Eriko Tokura, lending her singing talent in the folk tale ballet.
While the disco craze lasted only a few years, Misako has successfully managed her studio classes since 2002. Five years later, she created her professional company, filling the place with passion, determination and vision, much as Columbia’s first dance leaders once did.
So what keeps a dance studio flourishing in these difficult financial times for the arts?
“Dance makes the world a better place, and Misako makes our dance world special,” said one veteran ballet student, a former ice skating pro, who prefers her arabesques on the ground rather than on ice. “This class brightens up our day,” adds another Misako protégée.
We all remember kids taking tap dance classes during the depression and World War II—think Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. But Misako is a ballet teacher who preserves this European art form with a “Japanese” twist, freshness, and honesty. Her company dancers believe it is her “quiet tenacity” that keeps them on their toes.
“I’m thrilled for my first season with Misako Baller Company, said Tara Hutton,” who soars as the lead crane in Misako’s Japanese ballet. The tall, lithe ballerina also performs in “Dancing in the Dark,” a musical theatre arranged by Jens Lee, a faculty member who teaches ballet, pas de deux, musical theatre dance, and ballroom dancing for fun at her studio.
Tara Hutton graduated with a BFA in Dance Performance from Butler University, then took off to dance in California. She appears in the 2019 film of “Little Women” as a dancer and captures the beauty and fierceness of a “Giselle” variation in Sunday’s live concert.
Cool off at one of the summer’s can’t miss events. It’s the perfect date for couples, families, and all lovers of ballet when Misako Ballet Company presents its 15th Anniversary performance.
“Ballet Boutique: A Summer Celebration” will be presented on Sunday, June 26, 2022 at 2 p.m. at the Jim Rouse Theatre, Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia, MD 21044 For tickets and more information, click here. General admission $25, and children 14 yrs & under are free with paying adult.