The Tale Behind 'Genji': A Conversation With Dr. Melissa McCormick and Nao KusuzakiVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Thursday, March 23, 2023
7 p.m. Program
Join acclaimed Harvard scholar Dr. Melissa McCormick and artistic director Nao Kusuzaki for an insightful talk about the classic novel The Tale of Genji, prior to the world premiere of the ballet Genji at Asia Society Texas on March 24.
Genji, a passionate and poetic new ballet by Nao Kusuzaki, is a contemporary retelling of the classic novel The Tale of Genji, about friendship, love, and the dynamics of power and social class in Heian period Japan. Dr. McCormick will provide an overview of The Tale of Genji and place it in the context of Japanese culture, global literature, and its influence on other art forms. Ms. Kusuzaki will discuss her artistic approach to creating Genji, the first ballet adaptation of this foundational masterpiece. The talk will include a question and answer period with the audience.
Genji was commissioned by Asia Society Texas.
About the Speakers
Melissa McCormick, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at Harvard University, earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan (1990) and her Ph.D. from Princeton University (2000). She began her teaching career as the Atsumi Assistant Professor of Japanese Art at Columbia University in the Department of Art History and Archaeology and then moved to Harvard as Associate Professor in 2005. She was promoted to Professor with tenure in 2009.
Her research focuses on the relationship of art and literature, as well as forms of visual storytelling, and their integration with social and political history and Buddhist thought. McCormick’s work on the eleventh-century narrative The Tale of Genji has resulted in over a dozen publications in both English and Japanese. Her research was featured in two NHK televised specials (2008, 2019) and is the basis of her monograph, The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion (Princeton University Press, 2018). In 2019 she co-curated and co-edited/authored the catalogue for the international loan exhibition The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, named among the top five exhibitions that year by The Washington Post.
Nao Kusuzaki was born in Ehime prefecture, Japan. After moving to the U.S. at age 10, she continued her training with The Washington School of Ballet and Boston Ballet School. Nao became a member of Corps de Ballet with Boston Ballet in 2001. In 2004 she joined Houston Ballet and was promoted to Soloist in 2009. She has danced numerous leading roles in both classical and contemporary repertoire. Some of her featured roles include: the Sugarplum Fairy and the Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Nikiya in La Bayadere, Madame Butterfly in Madame Butterfly, Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, Sinfonietta, and Falling Angels, William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush, and Mark Morris’s Pacific.
Nao is also active in the Houston community through producing Dance for Hope, a benefit Concert in response to Japan Earthquake of 2011, co-creating TSURU with Asia Society Texas in 2015, and directing and dancing the 45th Anniversary Ballet Performance celebrating Houston and Chiba Sister City Relations, which premiered in July 22, 2017. In November, 2017, she directed and danced in the revival of TSURU at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston where Nao was commended by the Consulate General, Japan. Nao is Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Creative Minds Collaborative Inc., a nonprofit organization which seeks to create meaning across artists, educators, and supporters of the arts utilizing dance as the main medium.
Presenting Sponsors of Genji
Stephanie and Frank Tsuru
Diamond Sponsors of Genji
Leigh and Reggie Smith
Gold Sponsors of Genji
Anne and Albert Chao
Silver Sponsors of Genji
Isla and T.R. Reckling III
Vivi Nguyen and Christopher Robertson
Bronze Sponsors of Genji
Jean and Henry May
Duyen and Marc Nguyen
Milton D. Rosenau, Jr. & Dr. Ellen R. Gritz
Japan Series Sponsor
Performing Arts and Culture programs at Asia Society Texas are presented by Syamal and Susmita Poddar. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment, and The Brown Foundation Inc. Generous funding also provided by AARP, The Anchorage Foundation of Texas, The Clayton Fund, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, and the Wortham Foundation. Additional support provided by the Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional programming and exhibitions to Asia Society Texas.
Performing Arts and Culture Presenting Sponsors
Syamal and Susmita Poddar
Performing Arts and Culture Program Sponsors
About Asia Society Texas
Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diverse perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating the vibrant diversity of Asia, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Spanning the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community — trusting in the power of art, dialogue, and ideas to combat bias and build a more inclusive society.
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