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Petterson to celebrate art of Japan

East meets west this Saturday,
April 21 when the
Petterson Museum of Intercultural
Art at Pilgrim Place
holds a Celebration of Traditional
and Modern Arts of Japan to kick
off an ongoing exhibit of the same
name. The celebration, held from
10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will feature performances
of traditional Japanese
theater, music and sword fighting,
children’s activities such as
origami and calligraphy, demonstrations
and displays in the
Japanese garden, a bento box
lunch and a stunning exhibit of
Japanese art and artifacts.
“It will expand your mind. Open a window to a different
culture, an exotic culture,” said Leonard Pronko,
45-year Pomona College language and theater professor
and an expert in Kabuki, Japan’s classic dancedrama.
Mr. Pronko completed the Kabuki Training
Program at the National Theatre of Japan in 1970 as the
first non-Japanese to complete the rigorous program,
and has since directed more than 20 Kabuki productions
at Pomona and elsewhere. When he first observed
Kabuki, he thought it was “the greatest theater I had
ever seen,” and spent the ensuing decades immersing
himself in its study, performance and production.
Serving as chairman of the program committee
on the Friends of the Petterson Museum
board of directors, Mr. Pronko helmed
preparations for Saturday’s event. His expertise
was critical to the depth, breadth, accuracy
and excitement of the day.
“He was our go-to man for putting the celebration
together,” said Museum Curator
Carol Gil.
Saturday’s celebration will open at 10 a.m.
with a spectacular display of coordination
and grace when disciples of Master Masashi
Shikai present a demonstration of the Art of
the Sword: Chuo Kendo Dojo. Master
Shikai trained the first US Kendo team to defeat
the Japanese National Team in the art’s
history.
Following the Kendo demonstration will
come a performance by the Taiko drumming
group, Makoto Taiko, at 11 a.m.
“Makoto means integrity, honesty,” said
Mr. Pronko, noting that all of the day’s performances
and demonstrations will be preceded by a
brief explanation: “I believe people always enjoy
things more if they understand how things work.”
Knowing how human beings work and that hunger
may be building by this time of day, Mr. Pronko coordinated
with Marukai Market in West Covina to offer
bento box lunches to guests for $6. Featuring a traditional
Japanese fried chicken, there will also be a vegetarian
option. Lunch is available from noon to 1 p.m.

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