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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, July 6, 2000

Courtesy of Kazuko Hicks
Segawa Senka, stage name of Kazuko Hicks, danced
Kyokanoko Musumedojoji at the National Theater in
Tokyo last year. One of her students will perform
the same dance at Saturday's recital.

Exotic cereus inspired
‘Gekkabijin’ dance

By Stephanie Kendrick


Story of the Night-Blooming Cereus
--By Kazuko Hicks
A young Hawaiian woman lives in the mountains with her father in the early 19th century. One night a young man, wounded by fighting, collapses in front of her house. The daughter nurses him. They fall in love, but the healed young man must return to battle. With heavy heart, he leaves a present of gratitude and departs. Seeing the feather robe he had given her, the girl realizes he is someone of high rank and at the time it was kapu to marry someone of another class. In order to hide herself from the youth, the maiden moves deep into the mountains where she succumbs to illness and dies. Touched by the sadness of the maiden, God endows her with the spirit of a flower that would bloom for one night. Thus reborn, the maiden gives off her beauty as the night-blooming cereus bathed in moonlight.

The cereus hedge around Punahou school was heavy with blossoms last week. The creamy flowers open to the light of street lamps like elaborate bells, seeming even more delicate perched at the end of prickly cactus stems. It's not hard to imagine why this fragile beauty would inspire an artist like Kazuko Hicks.

"I love the night-blooming cereus; it's beautiful," she said.

The first time Hicks saw the bloom she was overcome with emotion. The experience inspired her to choreograph her first original dance, a blend of Japanese dance and classical western music traditions. The dance is also a family effort; her daughter, Sarah Hatsuko Hicks, composed the cello and flute score.

The piece, titled "Gekkabijin," or "Night-blooming Cereus," will debut Saturday at the Segawa Senka Studio Dance Recital.


Bullet What: Segawa Senka Studio Dance Recital
Bullet When: July 8, 1:30 p.m.
Bullet Where: Mamiya Theatre
Bullet Admission: Free
Bullet Call: 521-1797

Segawa Senka is Hicks' stage name and the name of her studio. She began learning traditional Japanese dance on June 6, in the year -- she won't say which -- she turned 6. The date was supposed to ensure an auspicious career, but it didn't work out right away.

"I didn't like Japanese dance when I was small," Hicks said. Her mother pushed her to learn and she resisted. But she grew to like it and by the age of 14 she was teaching dance. After getting married and moving from Japan to Hawaii, she took a break from dance to raise her two children.

Then, in 1979, Hicks opened a studio in her home.

Most of her students have been with her for more than a decade. Newcomers to the troupe include two girls, ages 7 and 9, and Robert Avilla, a hula dancer new to Japanese dance. He will join Hicks in the "Gekkabijin" premiere.

The story of the night-blooming cereus will be narrated by Toyotake Rodayu, a renowned artist of Japan's National Bunraku Theater.

Wigs and costumes borrowed from the theater also are coming from Japan for the recital. These include vivid kimono with bright colors and bold designs, and elaborate wigs molded to each performer's head, according to Kazuko's husband Richard, who has long enjoyed Japanese art and supports his wife's studio.

The wigs will be styled after they arrive, which means the wig stylist must come too. The cost of putting on such a well-dressed performance is covered by the studio and corporate sponsors.

Aside from "Gekkabijin," the Summer Blossoms recital numbers are all classic Kabuki dances, said Kazuko. "Some dance has a story," she said. Some are celebration dances, offering prayers to the gods.

The divine nature of dance is often communicated in kabuki by the way the dancers' feet rarely leave the floor, said Richard. This symbolizes the gods coming to earth through the dancer.

Most of the stories on the program will be familiar to audience members who know Japanese dance, he said. "The gestures in Japanese dance, like all Japanese art forms, are highly stylized," said Richard. For example, a dancer will express frustration or jealousy by clenching a sash in her fists and biting down on it.

The premier of "Gekkabijin" represents a rare event in Japanese theater. "It's unusual to have something done modern," said Richard.

"The performance on Saturday is East meets West," he said.

East is the dance, West is the musical style for the new piece, said Richard. "Hawaiian legend provides the reason for new choreography for this Japanese dance."

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