Byōbu – Shelburne Farms, Vermont


Alice Yamasaki began learning traditional Japanese dance at age 11, when her family was relocated from California to an internment camp in Arizona during the Second World War. Dancers performed on an outdoor stage in traditional kimonos, and people sat on the ground to watch. After the war, the family resettled in Seabrook, New Jersey, along with many other Japanese American families who persevered in continuing their cultural traditions and spiritual life on the East Coast. In 1975, a visiting dance teacher from Japan recognized Alice’s talent and encouraged her to become a minyo dance teacher. In 1997, Alice began studying classical Japanese dance with a teacher descending from the Bando School of Kabuki in Japan. She received her certificate and stage name, Bando Sumifuji, in 2006. She has taught minyo dance for more than 40 years and has been the president of the Seabrook Buddhist Temple since 2011.

The dances performed as part of Byōbu were from the Japanese min’yo tradition. Min’yo translates roughly as "folk song,” and dances developed over time to accompany specific songs. The songs and dances are distinct to their areas of origin in Japan, and often describe the lives of traditional working men and women in fields and on the water, as well as spiritual life. The songs and dances are performed most often during Obon, a festival of homecoming and reconnection with ancestors. Min’yo remains an accessible and popular art form in Japanese culture, with spectators frequently invited to join the performers, and dancers from different locations sharing dances with one another during festivals and special occasions.