“I could have danced all night” with Yuriko!

Remember seeing The King and I or Anna and the King? The first movie was made in 1956 and was based on a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Within these stories is Anna’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Little do non-enthusiasts know, the original Broadway musical and movie featured a classical dancer as the character Eliza.

Yuriko, the first to set goal roles for future achievers in the dance world as we know it today, was the dancer in that 1950s film and the originator of the role on Broadway. Also, besides the renowned choreographer, she is recognized for being the first dancer to play the role of Virgin Mary in Martha Graham’s monumental “Primitive Mysteries.” For our studios to be graced by the one-name legend, now 87 years old, the Division of Dance is extremely honored. Even more exciting, though, is the fact that we have the good fortune of learning and notating Graham’s signature piece for the Dance Notation Bureau.

Part of the process of being a dancer is the audition. To prepare for our rapid rehearsal pace, we cast “Primitive Mysteries” during our first week back at SMU. Calling only female dancers who had at least one year’s experience in the modern technique, Division Head Myra Woodruff and long-time professor Nathan Montoya, both former dancers in the Graham Company, carefully viewed each of us. After a six-hour audition, the dancers had learned much of the dance’s choreography along with what would be required to be a part of the work.

Now, nine weeks later, costumes are being constructed, casting is being finalized, and Yuriko is here! There are so many memorable stories that she has to share with us, and which I am sure will stick with me forever. Three weeks until the curtain goes up, and we’ve just begun!