Nimura, Yeichi, 1897-1979
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Collection is available for research.
The Yeichi Nimura and Lisan Kay Nimura Papers document Nimura's and Kay's shared and independent personal and professional lives as dancers, choreographers, teachers, performance partners, dance school administrators and, after 1964, spouses. Included are: correspondence; teaching notes; choreographic and rehearsal notes related to Lute Song (1946), Tropic Etude (1960) and other works; press books featuring Nimura's and Kay's 1930s, multinational tour; annotated scores; professional and personal photographs; programs; clippings; material related to the publication of Jiden (1971), Nimura's autobiography; material concerning the annual Nimura Award; publicity and other materials related to Ballet Arts at Studio 61, Carnegie Hall and its sister school in Tokyo; published and unpublished articles by and about Yeichi Nimura; Lisan Kay's writings, including journals and drafts of And So to Up!, her unpublished biography of Yeichi Nimura; material related to Lisan Kay's family; andmaterial concerning Yeichi Nimura's death. Nimura's journals from 1941-1942 are among his personal writings. Articles, correspondence and diaries of Virginia Lee, Nimura's manager and fellow co-founder of Ballet Arts at "61" Carnegie Hall, are also included in these papers. Most of the material is in English; portions of the correspondence, clippings, and programs are in Japanese. Substantial amount of material concerns Lisan Kay's personal and professional life, and demonstrates her ongoing efforts to keep Nimura's work and reputation in the public eye and remembered for the future.
Yeichi Nimura, dancer, teacher, and choreographer, was born Tomizo Miki on March 25, 1897 in Suwa, Japan. He arrived in New York City in 1920 and began studying ballet. Chance attendance at a Denishawn Company recital in 1924 led to intensive training at the Denishawn School,primarily ballet with Katherine Edson. He also studied ballet with Ivan Tarasoff and Constantin Kobeleff, and Spanish dance with Aurora Arriaza at other Manhattan studios. In 1925, he studied only briefly with Michio Ito - their movement styles were incompatible. Yet Nimura's talent was evident and Ito hired him to perform two musical numbers in the 1927 revue Chingaling. Virginia Lee,Ito's manager, saw a "rare quality of mobility" and "majesty" in Nimura's dancing and began promoting his career. He performed a fan dance and warrior dance, accompanied by Louis Horst, at a Dance Masters of America convention in 1927, and was featured in the short-lived operetta Taza (1928), choreographed by Edward Strawbridge.Other early engagements included Neighborhood Playhouse productions of Bloch's Israel (1928) and Prince Igor; Shubert productions of A Night in Venice, Broadway Nights,and Land of Smiles (1931); numerous Roxy Theater shows as featured soloist; and, in the role of the Efficiency Expert, the League of Composer's Pas d'Acier (1931), choreographed by Strawbridge with an orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Nimura choreographed signature worksJavanesque (music by Lily Strickland), Ceremony (David Freed), Spear Episode, Cosmic Poems (including "Earth is aDrum" and "Primeval") and Wizard Cat (aka The Cat Dance) (Alda Astori) in these years. In 1930, he made a successful concert debut with Pauline Koner at the New Yorker Theater. By 1931, Nimura was teaching a dance idiomthat blended "eastern and western ideals and techniques" at the Yeichi Nimura Studios in the Lincoln Square Building. He was soon invited by Sali Lobel to be a faculty member of the First International Summer School ofDance in Buxton, England (1932). His protege, Lisan Kay, was a Buxton scholarship student and Nimura chose her as his dance partner at the program's end. Nimura and Kay, with Virginia Lee as their manager, toured Europe, North Africa and the Middle East from 1932-1937 and the United States, Canada, Hawaii and Cuba from 1937-1940. Plans for a second national tour were dropped with the outbreak of World War II and the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment. Nimura and Kay's final performance together was on October12, 1940. Thereafter, Nimura concentrated on teaching, choreographing and coaching. He and Virginia Lee established The Nimura Studio at "61" Carnegie Hall in 1937, renaming it Ballet Arts when they co-founded the school in 1940. Nimura was Artistic Director and permanentinstructor, specializing in Modern Plastique (aka Nimura Technique). Many of his students went on to professional renown, including Gemze DeLappe, Bambi Linn and Diana Adams. The school faculty included Anton Dolin, Edward Caton, Agnes DeMille, Vera Nemchinova, Lisan Kay, VladimirDokoudovsky, Nina Stroganova, Alexandra Danilova and Aida Alvarez. Nimura resumed theatrical work in 1945 at the urging of Mary Martin. He choreographed the Broadway musical Lute Song (1946) in which Martin and Yul Brynner starred and reset the dances and staging for the 1959 revival. Tropic Etude (Villa-Lobos) premiered in 1960 and was restaged by Missouri Concert Ballet in 1984. Other concert works have included Ondine (Saint-Saens) which premiered at Jacob's Pillow in 1960, and A Changing Wind (Rosenthal) based on Rashomon. Coaching and directing credits include both the ballet in the opera Iris (1931) and Marjorie Lawrence's Salome (1938) at the Metropolitan Opera, Madame Butterfly (1941) at Radio City Music Hall, and Andra McLaughlin's ice dancing in the Hollywood Ice Revue of the 1950s. Though he never returned to Japan, Nimura steadily cultivated a network of Japanese artists, businessmen and officials. The Azuma Kabuki Dancers and Musicians, the Takarazuka Opera Company, and numerous others were invited to teach at Ballet Arts and/or were guests in Nimura's home. In 1969, Nimura was awarded the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure. Thereafter, most ofhis projects were based in Japan and many were supervised by Masao Fujiwara. In 1971, Jiden, his Japanese-language autobiography, was published in Suwa and Ballet Arts of Carnegie Hall in Tokyo opened under the direction of Aiko Ohtaki, a former pupil. Finally, in 1973 he established the Nimura Award, a prize recognizing Japanese dance artists, conferred annually in Suwa, Japan. Nimura and Virginia Lee were married in 1947 and divorced in 1963. Hemarried Lisan Kay in 1964. Yeichi Nimura died in New York City on April 3, 1979.
Lisan Kay Nimura, wife and dance partner of Yeichi Nimura,was born Elizabeth Malvina Hathaway on May 4, 1910 in Conneaut, Ohio. By twelve years of age, Kay was studying in Chicago at the Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet School and, later, with Ruth Austin, a former Denishawn Company member. Kay's professional debut was in 1926 with Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet. She rose from corps member to soloist, touring the United States and Canada on concert stages andin vaudeville as Nina Valerskaya. After five years, Kay left the Pavley-Oukrainsky troupe and moved to New York City in search of a dance partner. In 1931, Kay became a regular in Nimura's classes and toured briefly with Ruth Page. In 1932, she won the Sali Lobel Scholarship to The First International Summer School of Dance in Buxton, England where Nimura was to teach. The Dean of judges was Ruth St. Denis, who would become a steadfast mentor. At the close of the Buxton program, Nimura selected Kay as his dance partner and she took her new professional name. From 1932-1937, Nimura and Kay, with Virginia Lee as theirstage manager, toured Europe, Egypt and Palestine to widespread acclaim. Among their signature duets were Nimura's Figures of Earth and Ch'Ien Niu and the Spinning Maiden. Nimura, Kay and Lee returned to the U.S. and, from1937-1940, the dancers toured the United States, Canada, Hawaii and Cuba. When their onstage partnership ended in 1940, Kay became a permanent faculty member at Ballet ArtsSchool in Carnegie Hall, teaching Modern Dance, Ballet, and Modern Plastique (aka Nimura Technique) to professionals and amateurs of all ages. She was also active in the 1980 protest against Carnegie Hall's rent hikes for artist tenants and the Dance Artists' NationwideSpace Emergency (D.A.N.S.E.) movement of 1986. Among thoseKay has taught or coached have been Gemze De Lappe, Yul Brynner, Lavinia Williams, Ron Fletcher, Aiko Ohtaki, Valerie Harper, and Nancy Raffa. Kay continued teaching atBallet Arts into the 1980s, while also pursuing freelance work. She was a lead dancer in Broadway's Lute Song (1946),and remounted Nimura's choreography for the 1948 London production. She performed the role of Azuri in MUNY St. Louis' Desert Song from 1946-1947 and was a guest artist in San Carlo Opera Company's 1950 Aida. She choreographed and performed Birth of a Color (1944) for the New York Times' stage show "Fashions of the Times"; Dinner Menu (1944), for Bernard Gabriel's musical suite on food rationing; and choreographed Vera Ralston's dances in the movie Storm over Lisbon. Kay also taught Nimura Technique and ballet in lecture-demonstrations and at teaching conferences until 1964. Over time, Nimura and Kay became offstage companions, and in 1964 they wed. Kay had alreadybeen Nimura's advocate in obtaining permanent U.S. residency status. As his wife, she became his ally, secretary, publicist and enthusiastic biographer, writing and circulating photos, press releases, and portions of And So to Up!, her unpublished biography of Nimura. Long after Nimura's death, Kay continued to publicize, and sometimes appear at, the Nimura Award celebration in Suwa,Japan. Lisan Kay Nimura died on August 24, 2006.
Controlled Access Terms
- Nimura, Yeichi, 1897-1979.
- Nimura, Lisan Kay, 1910-2006.
- Lee, Virginia, 1904?-1979.
- Ballet Arts (New York, N.Y.)
- Tropic étude (Choreographic work : Nimura)
- Dance teachers -- United States.
Additional Creator Names
- Nimura, Lisan Kay, 1910-2006.
- Irwin, Will, 1873-1948. Lute song.