Dancing Through Life
I was born Susan Yasuko Hiura in February 1945 in the Tule Lake Japanese Internment Camp. My parents and I, with my mother’s mom and three brothers, moved to Japan in December of 1945. After a short stay with my dad’s family in Hiroshima Ken, we moved to Yamaguchi Ken to join my maternal grandmother and her three sons.
I was a very sickly child and had always been carried on my grandmother’s back. When I was three years old, with a strong urging by the doctor, my grandmother started taking me to Nihon Buyo dance lessons taught by a young local dance teacher named Okubo Sensei. When I was older, Okubo Sensei urged me to go to her teacher, Maekawa Tokiji Sensei, who was in Fukugawa, a train station away.
My grandmother took me to Odori dance lessons every day, rain or shine. She encouraged me all through elementary school with her favorite proverb, “Art and knowledge brings bread and honor,” and her simple mantra, “Art brings bread.” By the time I graduated elementary school, my weak legs were no more! I was a healthy girl who never missed school nor dance lessons.
That is how I started dancing Nihon Buyo. I have been dancing all my life. I was fortunate to meet and learn from Sanjo Kanya V. I became a NATORI or advanced dancer with a professional name, Sanjo Kan-oh, in 1969, taught in Sacramento and performed in Los Angeles and San Francisco until her passing in 1989.
In 1994, I began studying with Nishikawa Minosuke V. from Tokyo, Japan. I attained professional status from Nishikawa Headmaster in 1996 and was given the name of Nishikawa Senkin-oh. In 1999, I earned the SHIHAN status — an advanced level teaching credential. Nishikawa Minosuke designated me as his substitute to teach his California students when he is absent.
I am proud to say I have two students originally from Sacramento who have reached professional status, Emari-oh in 2003 and Sen-ohmi in 2006.
Although I no longer dance the classical dance, I go to San Francisco to oversee and critique Minosuke Nishikawa’s students during his absence. I also started teaching a folk dancing class at PVE. This style of dancing does not require the fine timing and movements of classical dancing.