Martha Nishitani celebrated 40 years at her University District dance studio in 1994. The modern dancer, teacher, and choreographer kept her studio open until 2002. Born to Japanese immigrants in 1920, Nishitani was first drawn to dance at the age of six while watching the vaudeville show that preceded a film (a common feature at early movie theaters). Nishitani passed away in 2014. • Photo by Dean Wong, 1994
Martha Nishitani celebrated 40 years at her University District dance studio in 1994. The modern dancer, teacher, and choreographer kept her studio open until 2002. Born to Japanese immigrants in 1920, Nishitani was first drawn to dance at the age of six while watching the vaudeville show that preceded a film (a common feature at early movie theaters). Nishitani passed away in 2014. • Photo by Dean Wong, 1994

The following is Martha Nishitani’s obituary:

Martha Nishitani passed away peacefully June 5, 2014, at the age of 94. She was born February 27, 1920, in Seattle to Denjiro and Jin Nishitani. Martha was the ninth of 10 children. She is survived by her sister, Connie Sekijima of Mercer Island, and numerous nieces and nephews. Martha attended Maple Leaf School, Lincoln High School and the University of Washington. Her education was interrupted during World War II when her family was interned at Camp Minidoka. She was a modern dance performer, choreographer and teacher for more than 50 years. She studied modern dance under Katharine Wolfe and Eleanor King in Seattle, and at Connecticut College under Doris Humphrey. She began her own dance company in Seattle in 1951.

In 1954, she opened the Martha Nishitani Modern Dance School in the University District, where she worked until her retirement in 2002. She also studied ballet, Spanish dance, and Japanese classical dance. She taught for the Seattle Public Schools, Helen Bush School, the Seattle Parks Department, Shoreline Public Schools, and as artist-in-residence at UW. She was honored as a Woman of Achievement by the Seattle chapter of Theta Sigma Phi in 1968, and as an Asian American Living Treasure by the Northwest Asian American Theatre in 1984. A memorial will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, July 5 at Blaine United Methodist Church, 3001 24th Ave. S., Seattle. Remembrances may be sent to Progressive Animal Welfare Society, PO Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046, or go to www.paws.org for online donations.

Martha Nishitani (1920 -2014) photographs her students after a recital. Nishitani championed modern dance in the Seattle area, teaching thousands of students at her University District studio. • Photo by Dean Wong, 1994
Martha Nishitani (1920-2014) photographs her students after a recital. Nishitani championed modern dance in the Seattle area, teaching thousands of students at her University District studio. • Photo by Dean Wong, 1994

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