Fujima Ryu of Chicago is a Japanese Classical Dance program that has been a primary cultural representative/herald in the Japanese American community in Chicago for the past 40 years. Credence to the attainment of such an iconic position must be acknowledged to the forerunners in the Chicago-land community. Immediately following WWII, the Japanese cultural identity in the Midwest was in danger of becoming mere reflections of an individual’s experience, with no coalescing attributes for the collective community. The establishment of the various Buddhist Temples in Chicago provided not only a sheltered sanctuary for the Japanese American community to honor and continue the traditions’ of their founding members, but as the landscape of cultural and racial identity shifted, it also served as a solidifying factor towards establishing a foundation for the Japanese American community to rediscover and protect their cultural heritage and identity. The diaspora of Japanese culture in the Midwest was bastioned by individuals such as Joyce Kubose (tea ceremony), and Wakayagi Shiyu (classical dance). And continues with Fujima Shunojo and the ongoing legacy of Fujima Ryu of Chicago, with Japanese Classical Dance. The perpetuation of the legacy is precisely defined by collaborating with purely traditional cultural groups, such as Tsukasa Taiko, which allows for the core aesthetic to be incorporated into revitalized productions of Japanese cultural performance. The performance aesthetics revolve around a classical,or neo-classical foundation,which is proxied by the music,and the style of costuming.The trademark innovation among the eclectic offerings is the hikinuki,it is a quick change of costume that demonstrates its biggest impact when performed on stage,during the performance.The acknowledgement of such a performance reputation attests to Fujima Ryu of Chicago’s contribution to the cultural awareness that has infused in to the JapaneseAmerican Community through various educational outreach,and community performances.
Fujima Shunojo 藤間 秀之丞 earned his professional name at an early age. He opened his own school of classical dance and taught for several years in Tokyo before coming to the United States; first, on tour with a classical dance troupe, and later, permanently. For the past 40 years, grandmaster Shunojo sensei has directed his own dance group in Chicago. And in 2011, Grandmaster Fujima Shunojo received the Japan America Society Cultural Achievement Award for his continuing work in traditional Japanese classical dance, and in 2013 he received the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation Award for his ongoing work in the United States promoting Japanese culture through teaching and performing Japanese Classical Dance; in addition to the annual recitals, Fujima Shunojo and his dancers perform for various civic and cultural groups, colleges/universities and various festivals in and around the Chicago and Mid-west area.
Fujima Ikunojo 藤間 郁之丞 is a Chicago-area native and Japanese American, and received her training from Fujima Shunojo. She has attained her professional name, natori, and teacher’s license, (shihan), and has been a contributing member participating in community performances and the annual student recitals of the Shubukai dance troupe for over 30 years.
Yoshinojo Fujima (a.k.a. Rika Lin), is a shin-nisei, a part of postwar Japanese American diaspora, an interdisciplinary performing artist, choreographer, and a Grandmaster in Fujima style Japanese classical dance. She has performed in venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Cultural Center, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, as well as within community and educational outreach programs. An active member of Asian Improv aRts Midwest, she is continuously crafting contemporary awareness with identity and tradition, in addition to maintaining traditional arts practice in Japanese classical dance and Ozashiki shamisen. In 2017 she received the 3Arts Make a Wave award and was also a 2017 Links Hall Artistic Associate Curatorial Resident, where she began the Beyond the Box series, which champions female performers. She recently concluded her 2017 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist year with her performance at the MCA SHareOUT! Minifestival with Asobi: Playing within Time. She continued her queries as a High Concept Lab Sponsored Artist in spring 2018, and is now looking forward to her residency at Ragdale Foundation and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in 2019. Her choreography, which stems from traditional pedagogy, lulls people into believing what at first appears to be a traditional Japanese dance but is in fact a transgression filled with subtle expressions of humor and protest. Yoshinojo blends traditional aesthetics with contemporary music and movement practices to make dance pieces relevant with 21st century ideas of roles and identity.