Biography of Mary Sano

Mary Sano, artistic director of the Mary Sano Studio of Duncan Dancing is a protégée of Mignon Garland, who founded the Isadora Duncan Heritage Society (IDHS) in San Francisco. A native of Japan, Sano began to study Duncan dance with Garland in San Francisco in 1979, and established the Japanese branch of the IDHS in 1983. She remains active in Japan, performing and offering workshops few times a year. She published a Japanese edition of Isadora by Fredrika Blair in 1990 from Parco Publishing in Tokyo, Japan. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Sano received an MA in Dance from Mills College in 1991 and began to train a group of dancers in the Duncan style, and formed Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers in 1993. In 1997, Sano established the Mary Sano Studio of Duncan Dancing in San Francisco dedicated to the preservation and promulgation of Isadora Duncan’s art, and to exploring its contemporary relevance through ongoing new work.

Sano directs a company whose repertoire includes all of Duncan’s masterpieces set to the works of Chopin, Schubert, Brahms, Gluck, and Scriabin. She also creates new choreography developed out of her deep knowledge of the Duncan technique and dance philosophy, combined with traditional Japanese dance, modern technique, and other theatrical styles. Major past productions include Ship of Dreams: Kanrin Maru -150 Years of Hope, Struggle, and Friendship to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Kanrin Maru voyage and the US-Japan relationship at the Brava Theater in San Francisco in 2010; Dancing Dreaming Isadora at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco in 2008; Sano’s solo dance series Dancing Dreaming Isadora in Tokyo in 2003, 2005, 2012, 2014 and in Gifu in 2015; Duncan Dance: Zen and Now, a fusion of Asian influences and Duncan technique which she premiered in Budapest 2002, and Past, Present, Future: Wishing Moon, performed in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Peace Treaty signing in San Francisco in 2001.

From 2003 to 2006, Sano created dance-dramas in collaboration with a text-writer, live musicians, narrators, actors and video projection, and premiered Dancing/Dreaming Izamani and Amaterasu in 2003 in both the U.S. and Japan. In 2004, she was invited to perform her second dance-drama in collaboration with noted writer/professor Moira Roth at the Gakugeki Festival in Kyoto, Japan and presented Amaterasu, The Blind Woman and Hiroshima. During the year of 2006, she worked with Japanese traditional Noh Theater artists in the Noh Seminar Series presented at the Mary Sano Studio, and performed experimental theater pieces combining Duncan Dance technique and Noh Theater works.

The Mary Sano Studio of Duncan Dancing has been presenting bi-annual music and dance festivals since it’s opening in 1997. The Dionysian Festival in May, celebrating Isadora Duncan’s birthday, and the Terpsichorean Celebration in November, commemorating the studio’s opening. These festivals featured the Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers as well as many talented artists from around the world and we have celebrated our 19th annual festival in May, 2016.

Sano teaches and performs internationally, and has been invited to Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, and Japan. Since the opening of new space RVLab in Tokyo in 2006, she has presented a series of salon concerts; performing her original works as well as traditional Duncan choreography independently and with a group of dancers she has been training in Tokyo.

Sano’s projects have been awarded funding from the Japan Foundation in 2010, 2006 and 2001, the Zellerbach Family Foundation in 2010 and 2007, the Fort Mason Foundation 2008, Grants for the Arts Voluntary Arts Fund in 2015, 2012 and 2008, and the San Francisco Arts Commission Organizational Project Grant in 2010. Media appearances include Greek TV in Athens in 1994, NHK TV in Tokyo in 1998, KBS TV in Seoul in 2000, KQED TV on SPARK in San Francisco in 2009, and NHK TV in Gifu in 2015.