Kei Takei


Kei Takei (pronounced "Kay Takay") began her career when she was 12 years old in Tokyo, a middle-school student at the fashionable Oyu Gakuen Girl's School. She assembled a handful of her classmates and paraded them around the gym floor in what she called "The March of the Good Friends."

Kei's father had taught his daughter (the second of three children) drawing. Her mother, more practically instructed her in the secrets of growing garden vegetables. Conventionally enough, young Kei enrolled in the Sakaki Bara Dance School where she was drilled in folk dances, ballet, and the subtleties of buyo or Japanese classical dance. Japan's dance world after the tragedies of the war had begun a merciless search of self-expression and, eventually, self-discovery. Led by pioneers and now immortal names Tatsumi Hijakata and Kenji Hinoki, the artistic equivalents of Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, a new kind of experimental dance emerged from Japan, at once indebted to and scornful of the past, buto. Kei soon wearied of these new codifications with their chalk white painted bodies, the trancelike slow motion movements, and their darkness of gloom esthetic. The shackles of the past, Kabuki and Noh it seemed had been replaced by another set of artistic chains. Kei wanted dance to be a camera of life, capturing an honesty both in inspiration and in movement.

Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham had performed in Japan, but it was Anna Sokolow who in 1967 recommended Kei for a Fulbright Scholarship to study in New York. Within two months of starting her studies at The Juilliard School, the diminutive 5 foot tall Kei made her solo debut in The New Choreographers Series at The Clark Center for the Performing Arts. She left Juilliard, and made the rounds of Graham, Cunningham, Nikolais and even The American Ballet Theater School. She had become a Japanese seed growing in American soil.

Since those early days Kei has received choreographic grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (annually since 1975), The New York State Council on the Arts annually since 1976, The Creative Artists Public Service Program, and an unsurpassed two Guggenheim Fellowships.

Commissions poured in from dance theaters and dance companies in America, Holland, Germany, Israel, Belgium, Scotland, Hong Kong.

So far her career has embraced 70 cities in the United States and 17 countries abroad, appearing before intimate chamber audiences as well as vast audiences of thousands in Central Park, New York, and Caesarea, Israel.

In 1985, thanks to the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, she took her entire troop to Japan for 7 weeks of performances, demonstrations, workshops, and study experience.

Kei has also been artist in residence at dozens of universities world-wide and on the faculty of the American Dance Festival, Jacob's Pillow, and others.

Kei Takei's success as a dance citizen of the world has been spectacular. Rooted in a new sense of time and timing, a new relationship of gravity between the floor and the dancer, and drawing on sources as far afield as nursery rhymes, Buddhist chants, or wrestling matches sumo style, Kei's creations find a common universality, but one without a name tag. Not buto, not avant-garde nor post modern, what is it?

In 1979 when the distinguished television director and producer, Merrill Brockway presented Kei in the "Dance in America" series, along with Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, and David Gordon, he settled on the blanket title, "Beyond the Mainstream." The exact nomenclature he left to others.

Meanwhile as Kei's public life progressed, so did her personal life. In 1980 she married Lazuro Brezer from Edmonton, Canada, her leading dancer and now associate director of the Moving Earth Company. They have one son, Raishun.