The King and I – Choreographer – Susan Kikuchi

Susan Kikuchi - Choreographer for The King and I

Susan Kikuchi was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company (MGDC) and served as Director of the Graham Ensemble and School, and Artistic Program Manager of MGDC.  She has re-staged many Graham works for the MGDC, Joffrey Ballet, Boston Conservatory and other companies.
Ms Kikuchi has worked in many productions of The King and I since age seven, as a soloist, dance captain, assistant director (Broadway production with Yul Brynner at the Uris Theater), choreographer (Broadway, Asia tour in China and the Far East, Royal Albert Hall in London starring Daniel Dae Kim) and director (Kansas City’s Starlight Theater starring Lou Diamond Phillips).
Her Broadway credits include The King and I, Pacific Overtures, Flower Drum Song, South Pacific and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and in 2013 she was associate choreographer of Miss Saigon (Starlight Theater in Kansas City).
Ms Kikuchi as a BA from University of Rochester and has served on the faculties of The Ailey School and the Martha Graham School. She is also artistic director of the New Dance Drama Educational Projects Florence, Italy.
DanceLife caught up with Susan recently to find out what keeps bringing her back to this epic production!
You’ve had quite a long history with The King & I (since age 7), what draws you to keep coming back to this show?
The King and I is a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, and one which continues to be relevant in the 21st Century.  The original choreography in The Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet is by Jerome Robbins.  Within his lifetime body of work, this ballet, and his pieces in West Side Story, On the Town, Fiddler on the Roof, just to name a few, are as much a part of our musical theatre history as his ballets are in concert dance.  They continue to touch the hearts of many audiences and are performed throughout the world in major dance venues.  That is what the choreography in this King and I continues to do, and that is why it is such a pleasure to see it come to life on each new cast for an audience.
You’ve worked on The King & I (amongst other musicals) previously on Broadway. Is this your first time working on an Australian production?
I worked on the original John Frost production that opened in Adelaide in 1991.  This production went on to Broadway, and continued to the West End and beyond.  I have travelled the world with this Australian production, and this is my second King and I in Australia.
What made you want to come to Australia to work on this production?
Opera Australia and John Frost want to bring The King and I to a new audience, and wanted to gather the same creative team who developed this production for Australia, Broadway and London. I love the show, and am happy to be a part of bringing it to Australia for this tour.

Earlier in your career you were a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, then moved on to be Director of the Graham Ensemble and School. Tell us about your experiences there?

My mother, Yuriko, was a member of the MGDC from 1944-1968 so I was often at rehearsals and toured as a child with the company.  I later performed with the company, taught on faculty for many years and was the Director of the Martha Graham Ensemble, the second company that tours in the United States.  I have watched the company all my life and I have a unique perspective on the work, having viewed the choreography since childhood.

As you know, Martha Graham developed a dance technique that broke the mold of classical ballet and pioneered the field of modern dance. Why do you think that is it still important for dancers today to practice and learn The Graham technique?

It is important for a dancer to learn The Graham Technique and other modern and contemporary styles of movement because it enables a dancer to become a more versatile performer.  I certainly feel Graham has a unique artistic value, but in addition to this, the technique in particular involves certain types of movement, such as the contraction, that are not as emphasized in other forms. Training in this style strengthens the body, and builds the dancer’s facility for artistic expression.
What type of training did you undergo and where did you study to get you to a professional level?
I started studying dance at the Martha Graham School and continued at university.  I was awarded a scholarship by Mr. Ailey to study at The Ailey School, where I also studied ballet, Horton, jazz, pilates, and yoga, etc.

Do you have any advice for young dancers who want to make it professionally

My advice for any dancer who would like a career in the arts is to train in diverse styles to build versatility, and to look for specific areas to perform in which suit their individual abilities and artistic sense,  be it contemporary, concert dance, or Broadway, etc.
Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane
Performance Times:  Wed–Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Tues, Wed & Sat 1.30pm & Sun 3pm
Price: From $69.90*
Bookings: or phone 136 246
Groups of 10 or more 07 3840 7466
Premium Tickets & Packages visit SHOWBIZ.COM.AU or 1300 4 SHOWS
Princess Theatre, Melbourne
Season: From 10 June, 2014
Performance Times: Wed–Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Tues & Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm
Price:  From $79.90*
Bookings: or phone 1300 111 011
Groups of 10 or more call 1300 889 278
Premium Tickets & Packages visit SHOWBIZ.COM.AU or 1300 4 SHOWS
Tickets on sale 25 November
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Season:  From 9 September
Performance Times: Wed–Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Tues & Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm
Price:  From $59.90*
Bookings: or 9250 7777 or phone 1300 723 038
Groups of 10 or more call 02 8240 2290
Premium Tickets & Packages visit SHOWBIZ.COM.AU or 1300 4 SHOWS