Bamboo & Cherry Blossoms features dancer Michiko Kurata and musicians Chris Molina (shakuhachi) and Claudia Erland (koto). Based in Boston, the trio fuses contemporary and classical music for Japanese instruments with dance inspired by nihon buyō, a specialized genre born in 17th century Japan. Highly theatrical gestures and pantomime are matched with colorful kimono, makeup and occasional props. The dance form now known as nihon buyō was originally developed for the stage by women – and by men playing women’s roles – during the Edo period (1603-1868). Portraying characters both refined and joyful, flirtatious or scorned, nihon buyō served both professional entertainers as well as geisha in its power to mesmerize.

Michiko Kurata began her dance career at age 2, winning first place in the junior division of Japan’s prestigious National Dance Contest by age 15. She attained natori status and earned her professional name Hanayagi Sukekatsumi before moving to the United States for college. She has offered solo performances at both the National Theatre and the Kabukiza in Tokyo.

Chris Molina earned his Masters in Music from the University of Michigan, then relocated to Japan to study the bamboo flute shakuhachi. The flute’s history of itinerant monks, government spies and masterless samurai inspires his work, as does its power for meditation and its mimicry of sounds in nature. Chris performs regularly in Honolulu, where he is pursuing a doctorate in composition.

Claudia Erland took up koto while stationed in Japan, expanding her performance career to Washington DC as a member of the Toho Koto Society led by Kyoko Okamoto, and since 2005 as a member of the Miyabi Koto Ensemble led by Masayo Ishigure in New York City. She travels regularly to perform with fellow members of the Sawai Koto School, and offers yearly recitals in both Boston and in Europe.


“Bamboo & Cherry Blossoms gives voice to Japanese timbres in Boston, a city which has long admired classical Japanese painting, print-making, and theater. Drawing from the richness and purity of Japanese aesthetics, but also in the spirit of New England transcendentalism, the trio celebrates nature and story-telling, human breath and subtle gestures, joy and melancholy. The simple pleasure of watching cherry blossoms dance in the breeze, the hypnotic glint of ocean waves, the soft sound of wind through the trees, or through a piece of bamboo…”