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Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone

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For 73 years, Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone has dedicated her life to Okinawan dance. May 20, 2006 was officially proclaimed "Lynn Yoshiko Nakasone Day" by the mayor of Honolulu. Washington, D.C., 2012, Photograph by Alan Govenar
Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, Washington, D.C., 2012, Photograph by Alan Govenar
Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone receiving her award from NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman, 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Awards, Washington, D.C., Photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone performs with her daughters Julia and Lisa at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone performs at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Photograph by Michael G. Stewart

For 73 years, Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone has dedicated her life to Okinawan dance through teaching, performing, and choreographing original dances to enrich the art form's repertoire.

Born in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, in 1933, into a family that appreciated classical Okinawan music and dance, Nakasone began studying dance under Master Ryosho Kin, beginning at the age of six and continuing until 1955. Okinawan classical dance, also referred to as Ryukyu dance, dates back to the Ryukyu Kingdom and was developed to entertain Chinese envoys and Japanese clans. Featuring slow dance movements and colorful clothing called Ryukyu Bingata, Okinawan dancers use movements of the eyes and hips to tell stories while the upper part of the body remains stationary.

In 1955 Nakasone was honored as one of the Best 10 Dancers in an Okinawa dance competition and in the same year moved to Hawaii with her husband. In Honolulu, she began teaching Okinawan dance and founded the Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi no Kai Nakasone Dance Academy, where she teaches both traditional Okinawan dance and the modern, upbeat folk style, or minyo, dance. The Nakasone Dance Academy has performed throughout Hawaii and on the West Coast and has been a traditional part of the Hawaii United Okinawan Association's annual festival. In 2006, the Nakasone Dance Academy was recognized by the State of Hawaii for presenting 1,000 goodwill performances.

Nakasone's noted performances include a 1968 performance at a special gathering in honor of the Imperial Majesties Prince and Princess Takamatsu; a 1982 performances at the Japan National Dance Theatre in Japan; and a 1985 performance at the Centennial Celebration of Japanese Immigration to Hawaii. In addition to performing and teaching, Nakasone also choreographs new dances for her students, incorporating elements of traditional Okinawan dance into contemporary pieces. In her nomination support letter, Claudia Higa, a student who studied with Nakasone for more than 50 years, writes of Nakasone, "Her nurturing nature and guidance brings multigenerational students together to learn about the Okinawan history, language, and values through dance. [She] is truly a master in the performance and instruction of Okinawan dance."

Among her many awards are an Individual Artist Fellowship from the State of Hawaii, a Legacy Award from the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, a certificate of commendation from the government of Japan, and a Living Treasure Award by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. May 20, 2006 was officially proclaimed "Lynn Yoshiko Nakasone Day" by the mayor of Honolulu.

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Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone performs with her daughters Julia and Lisa at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone performs with her daughters Julia and Lisa at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Nicholas R. Spitzer interviews Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone and her daughters Julia and Lisa, 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

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Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, translated by daughter Lisa Nakasone, answers the question 'What makes Okinawan dance special?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'How did you get started dancing?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone talks about the Okinawan community in Hawaii, Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What are some of the characteristics of Okinawan dance?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, translated by Lisa Nakasone, answers the question 'What dances are your speciality and which are you best known for?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'On what are the dances based?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What are the hand gestures?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What is the most important lesson for your students?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'Who are the students?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, translated by Lisa Nakasone, answers the question 'What does this tradition mean to you on a personal level?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What is the difference between Okinawan dance and dance in Tokyo?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, translated by Lisa Nakasone, answers the question 'What is the difference between Okinawan dance in Okinawa and in the US?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What kind of music accompanies Okinawan dance?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'How have you passed this tradition on?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What does this tradition mean to you?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lisa Nakasone answers the question 'What sorts of events are these dances performed at?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar

Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone answers the question 'Is there anything else you'd like to talk about in terms of the tradition and your life as a dancer?' Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar