Mary Sano

The free-spirited passion of neo-Romanticism remains alive at Mary Sano’s Studio of Duncan Dancing, where Sano passes on the work and teaching of the great early-20th-century modern dancer Isadora Duncan. Spark follows Sano as her company prepares for its 10th-anniversary performances and as she passes on the legacy of Isadora Duncan to a new generation of dancers.

Sano was first introduced to the world of Duncan’s dancing in 1979 during a visit to San Francisco. The daughter of a Japanese mother and an American father, Sano found a connection to the San Francisco-born Duncan through teacher Mignon Garland, who studied with Irma and Anna Duncan, themselves original students of Isadora Duncan.

Impressed by the freedom and imagination of Duncan’s style, Sano founded Japan’s first school of Duncan dancing in 1983, and after moving to San Francisco a couple of years later, she earned her M.A. in dance from Mills College in 1991. Sano established her own company — Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers — in 1993 and finally opened the doors to her SOMA studio in 1997.

Sano sees her goal as not just the transmission and preservation of the hundreds of dance pieces that Duncan left behind, but also the creation of new work inspired by the Duncan style. At her company’s annual Dionysian Festival, a commemoration of Isadora Duncan’s birthday in May, and at the Terpisichorean Celebration in the fall, Sano not only has presented historical compositions by Isadora Duncan, but also has hosted guest dance artists performing with their own companies.

Melding Duncan’s philosophy with dance forms as diverse as Japanese butoh, hula, Indian classical bharata natyam and Native American dance, Sano also regularly works with artists from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. For her company’s 10th-anniversary performances in 2008, “Dancing Dreaming Isadora,” Sano collaborated with Japanese koto player Shoko Hikage on an original piece of dance theater as well as with drummer Dennis Banks on a work inspired by Native American themes.

Mary Sano 19 January,2016Spark
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