Itō, Michio (1893–1961) By Swain, John D.
Itō Michio’s creative endeavors spanned dance, theatre, and film, just as his career spanned the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, however, his life as a creative artist was one of World War II’s international cultural casualties. After decades of work with people such as W. B. Yeats in Ireland, the Washington Square Players and Martha Graham in New York, and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Itō was repatriated to Japan in 1943 where he continued to teach and choreograph until his death. The first son of an old samurai family whose parents encouraged their children to pursue any avenue of interest, Michio was the elder brother by eleven years of Itō Kunio, aka shingeki theater director Senda Koreya.
Itō collaborated with Yeats on his Plays for Dancers, and is probably best known for creating the role of the Guardian of the Well in (At the Hawk’s Well) 1916. His work as a dancer and choreographer in the United States is not as well remembered because almost none of that extensive body of work was preserved. He was to choreograph the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but did not live to see that project materialize.
Itō left Japan for Europe in 1912 to study voice. Once in Germany he became disillusioned with opera, but was entranced by the dance of Isadora Duncan, Pavlova, and Nijinsky. He decided to study modern dance, and entered the Dalcroze Institute in 1913. Much of his later work is influenced by eurythmics.