A still from the dance film ‘Sadako and the Cranes” • Courtesy

Gabrielle Nomura Gainor is a fifth-generation Japanese American dancer, choreographer, and activist. She recently created “Sadako and the Cranes,” a dance film performance, in collaboration with Trial & Error Productions and Hiroshima to Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, as well as all victims of war and violence.

Gabrielle envisioned “Sadako and the Cranes” as both a film, as well as a live performance. Sadako Sasaki was a young girl who folded 1,000 origami cranes and wished for peace before passing away due to radiation from the Hiroshima bombing. A statue of Sasaki sits in Peace Park in the University District.

The film can be viewed on the choreographer’s personal YouTube page. Nomura Gainor and her dancers will perform a slightly different version of the piece at the annual ‘From Hiroshima to Hope’ Green Lake event on Aug. 6, 2023 at 6 p.m. To learn more about the event, visit fromhiroshimatohope.org. Nomura Gainor took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to sit down with the International Examiner.

Nomura Gainor and her dancers will perform a live version of the piece at the annual ‘From Hiroshima to Hope’ Green Lake event on Aug. 6, 2023 at 6 p.m • Courtesy

Alan Chong Lau: Can you tell us a little about your family roots in Hiroshima? How was the process of creating this dance piece personal and meaningful for you?

Gabrielle Nomura Gainor: The Japanese part of my family is from Hiroshima — a fact I have always reflected on growing up whenever I visited the Peace Park in Seattle. Located near the University Bridge, the Peace Park features a beautiful statue of Sadako Sasaki, who was a girl who lived in Hiroshima and folded 1,000 paper cranes before she passed away due to radiation from the atomic bomb. When America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, where some of my family members lived, other relatives of mine had been languishing in American concentration camps on the other side of the world.

It’s weird to think that as a little girl growing up in the 90s, I could be impacted by what had happened to family members I never even got to meet during World War II. And yet, I wrestled with profound feelings of loss and anger from a young age. My Asian-ness that caused me to be harassed in school brought into sharper focus the ways that my Japanese family had experienced injustice. Sadako was a girl whose story both broke my heart and inspired me to do something with this pain.

As one of my role models, Stan Shikuma, taught me: We are Nikkei, but we are also American — it’s up to us to change what we don’t like about our own country. We have a responsibility to act. I am not a victim. I am an artist determined to bring change because I know that even small actions can be powerful.

“Sadako and the Cranes” • Courtesy

ACL: How was it working with and involving your daughter in this film and dance creation, both for you and her?

GNG: My daughter Kiyomi is 5, and she is a featured performer in the film. Kiyomi to me represents the next generation to carry Sadako’s message of peace into the future. At the end of the movie, she and Sadako place a lantern into Green Lake, just like at Hiroshima to Hope. I told Kiyo that the point of this dance is to convey an important message about our desire to not have war or violence in the world. And she responded by chanting, “No war! Protect children! Do better, grown-ups!”

Gabrielle Nomura Gainor’s daughter, Kiyomi, age 5 • Courtesy

ACL: Why did you want to partner with the non-profit Hiroshima to Hope?

GNG: There are so many different ways that Asian Americans support and promote our communities in Seattle. For me, it’s dance. Dance is the medium I use for storytelling and activism. I have been honored to collaborate with the Wing Luke Museum, Seattle JACL, and Densho, among others, because I am dedicated to using the arts to support their important work. Hiroshima to Hope educates for peace, non-violent conflict resolution, and nuclear disarmament. As we gather to place lanterns into the water, we are allowed to grieve our ancestors who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all victims of war and violence. As we remember and honor, we hopefully gain new resolve for a more just world.

To learn more about the annual Green Lake event, visit fromhiroshimatohope.org • Courtesy

ACL: What do you hope people will take away from viewing your film or seeing your live performance at the ‘From Hiroshima to Hope’ live event at Green Lake?

GNG: I created this dance so that more people would know about Sadako’s story and would remember her. Sadako-chan died before she had the opportunity to grow up — all because of the violence of adults in the world who failed to keep her safe. Kiyomi my daughter, said: “Mom, I think Sadako grew up and is happy wherever she is as an ancestor.” I would love to think that is true. Getting to play the character of one of her cranes is such a dream come true for me. If anyone were to examine my work, I hope they see love, community, healing.

A still from “Sadako and the Cranes,” a dance film by Gabrielle Nomura Gaines • Courtesy
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