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June Watanabe Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography/Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: June Watanabe Papers
    Dates: 1957-2013
    Collection Number: 020.008
    Creator/Collector: Watanabe, June June Watanabe Dance Company June Watanabe in Company
    Extent: 15 Document Cartons, 2 Document Boxes, 1 Flat File Box, 6 Garment Boxes / 42.5 Linear Feet
    Repository: Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library
    San Francisco, California 94124
    Abstract: June Watanabe has created contemporary dance theater works and collaborated with distinguished artists from diverse disciplines including taiko masters, visual artists like Ruth Asawa and Sandra Woodall, and choreographers Remy Charlip and Alonzo King. Her work incorporates and illuminates the Japanese American experience and explores ritualistic formalities and womanhood. June and her family were held in an internment camp for three years, and her internment works have been used to teach students and the general public about the relocation and displacement of Japanese Americans during WWII. The June Watanabe Papers contains documentation highlighting Watanabe's extensive career in dance, the history of her troupe, June Watanabe Dance Company (1980-1985)/June Watanabe in Company (1985-2006), and her teachings. The collection is arranged as follows: I. Administrative Files; II. Public Relations; III. Collaborators; IV. Choreographic Works Chronology; V. Production; VI. Notebooks; VII. Photographic Materials; VIII. Mills College Faculty Oral History Project; IX. Other Professional Work; X. Posters; XI. Audiovisual Materials and Other Media; and XII. Costumes.
    Language of Material: English


    Most of the collection is open for research. Certain documents, such as contracts and documents with living individuals' personal information, will be accessible on a case-by-case basis.

    Publication Rights

    Reproduction of these materials can occur only if the copying falls within the provisions of the doctrine of fair use. Copyright varies by item.

    Preferred Citation

    June Watanabe Papers. Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library

    Acquisition Information

    The items were donated by June Watanabe in four accessions in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2020 respectively. The bulk of the collection came in the 2014 and 2020 accessions.

    Biography/Administrative History

    June Yoshiko Watanabe (née Tsukida) was born on June 7, 1939 in Los Angeles, California. From 1942-1945, June and her family were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming as part of the Japanese American displacement and imprisonment during World War II. After returning to Los Angeles (LA) in 1945, Watanabe studied dance at the West Coast School of Music and Dance with Elizabeth Gilman in 1948. After a few years, she transferred to the LA Conservatory of Music and Arts to begin studies with Patricia O’Kane, with whom she studied for most of her ballet training. June also attended the Eugene Loring School of American Dance, and most critical, studied with and was most influenced by Gloria Newman and Dr. Alma Hawkins & Carol Scothorn at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1955, at age 16, she auditioned for and was chosen by Jerome Robbins to dance in the film version of The King and I. In 1956, Watanabe enrolled at UCLA, graduating in 1960 with a BS degree, focusing on dance. Watanabe then served on the faculty at El Camino College (1960-1962) in Los Angeles, then at UC Berkeley (1973-1975) and Mills College full-time from 1975-1979, returning in 1986 years at part-time until retiring as Professor Emerita 24 years later. In 1979, Watanabe began her dance career at the age of 40, driven by her need to dance and speak out about the internment experiences and heritage she had shunned as a child because she wanted to be "so American". In 1980, she became the director of her own company, June Watanabe Dance Company/June Watanabe in Company (JWIC). The company initially performed annually in Marin, where she received support from the Marin Community Foundation throughout the company's existence. Her company also performed heavily in the San Francisco Bay Area with East and West Coast tours from 1982 to 2006. According to Watanabe, "life informs [her] dance and [her] dance informs [her] life", in dealing with issues of bondage in womanhood, reclaiming one’s cultural heritage and the survival of the human spirit. This has led to the creation of seven versions of her internment works regarding "the unjust, unconstitutional betrayal of the Japanese American culture because of racism". She felt a responsibility and commitment to teach students and audiences about the incarceration because many did not know of or understand the shame that was placed upon innocent people, being imprisoned unconstitutionally. Watanabe is recognized for her starkly focused contemporary works which incorporate artistic, cultural, and historic elements through a one- of-a-kind, interdisciplinary approach. Her Japanese-American heritage illuminates and informs her contemporary modern dance works, as she captures the human condition within an Eastern temporal and spatial framework with elements which characterize her works. These include the energy of the Noh Theatre, the architectural use of space, emptiness, all with an inner strength of concentration. She has created dance theater works and collaborated with distinguished artists from diverse disciplines such as Noh Master Anshin Uchida, Intangible Cultural Asset of Japan, Taiko Master Seiichi Tanaka; musicians such as Pauline Oliveros, Denny Zeitlin, David Rosenbloom, Kronos Quartet, Bun-Ching Lam, Kirsten Vogelsang, Alvin Curran, Carl Stone, George Yoshida; visual artists Ruth Asawa, Jose Maria Francos, Douglas Rosenberg, Kerry Vander Meer, and Sandra Woodall; writers/poets, such as Leslie Scalapino and John Woodall; and dancers/choreographers such as Ed Mock, Alonzo King, Remy Charlip, Daniel Nagrin, Livia Blankman, Karen Attix, Sharon Kinney, Frank Shawl, Helen Dannenberg, and all the company dancers, among others. As of the publication of this finding aid, Watanabe is retired from active performance and living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The June Watanabe Papers contains documentation highlighting Watanabe's extensive career in dance and the history of her troupe, June Watanabe Dance Company (1980-1985)/June Watanabe in Company (1985-2006). The papers include administrative documents related to the operations of her company, including but not limited to Board of Directors related documents, grant applications, letters of support, and contracts. There is also extensive information regarding her choreographic works from 1979-2006, including photographs, programs, press materials, and production information. Also included in the collection are a set of notebooks, featuring her thoughts and choreographic notes regarding specific productions. The photographic materials include a rich set of prints, slides, and negatives from noted dance photographers such as Arne Folkedal, Gary Sinick, Marty Sohl, John Murkowski, and Bonnie Kamin, among others. The collection also contains several original audiovisuals recordings. These include audio tracks used in performances, featuring artists like Doug Rosenberg and Kirsten Vogelsang. There are also video recordings of multiple June Watanabe Dance Company/June Watanabe in Company performances. The collection also includes a hard drive with preservation master files of several original videos. The collection also includes original costumes and costume pieces, from visual artists and collaborators such as Ruth Asawa and Sandra Woodall, among others. The June Watanabe Papers are organized as follows: Administrative Files; Public Relations; Collaborators; Choreographic Works Chronology; Production; Notebooks; Photographic Materials; Mills College Faculty Oral History Project; Other Professional Work; Posters; Audiovisual Materials and Other Media; and Costumes.

    Indexing Terms

    Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
    Modern Dance.
    Modern dance--20th century.
    Modern dance--Study and teaching--United States.
    Modern dance--United States.
    Asawa, Ruth
    Charlip, Remy
    Mock, Ed
    Rosenberg, Douglas
    Uchida, Anshin
    Woodall, Sandra
    San Francisco Bay Area (Calif.)
    Programs (Publications)
    Video recordings