Dance teacher remembered

PHOTO COURTESY OF WANDA LEE EVANS

 

By Edgar Lopez

The death of dance instructor Miyoko Komori has affected not only East Los Angeles College, but the community as well.

Komori was born in 1930 in Osaka, Japan and resided in Downey, where she passed away in her home on Jan. 23 at the age of 80.

Her funeral services were held on Jan. 31.

“We have a great absence,” said Wanda Lee Evans, a fellow dance instructor at ELAC and long-time friend of Komori.

Evans said that the absence is even greater because Komori passed away during off-school time so students were, and some still are, unaware of her death.

She had a following at ELAC as many students would return to her classes.

Her students would take a class with her and eventually return to her in ten years said Debbie Scott, a friend of Komori and of the ELAC women’s physical department.

She loved her students and was loved by her students.

“Every student was fed,” said Scott.

Scott said that Komori would never eat unless all her dancers were nourished; she would buy lunch for the whole team when needed.

She’s the sweetest nicest little old lady ever,” said Scott, “but she was a strict teacher.”

Komori was a knowledgeable, generous, beautiful and a very loving person, said Evans, who met Komori when Evans first arrived at ELAC in 1974.

One of Komori’s greatest assets was how she held everyone in high respect said Evans.

A story that fits in particular is that of when she danced with Fred Astaire as Komori would often tell it in her broken English, as Scott said.

However, this was not the handsome, youthful looking Astaire from the movies, but the old Astaire.

Komori did not know it was Astaire, but she was encouraged by others to dance with him.

At first she did not care much, but she noticed he was a good dancer.

After the dance, Astaire returned with contest paperwork for Komori, who ended up with second place while having to compete in a style she was unfamiliar with.

Komori worked hard and made sacrifices for her career.

Komori began learning to dance at an early age in modern ballet style.

She refused to marry in order to focus on her dance career in ballet.

Her dedication to dance went far. “Once she got injured in a sword dance routine where her arm was cut and crippled,” said Scott. Yet she continued to teach.

Evans said that aside from her teaching career, she was a great contributor to the ELAC Visions of Dance Program.

She donated “generously and silently.”

Komori also donated much of her time, as she showed enthusiasm toward working creatively when Evans invited her to work with her students on a concert piece.

What the dancers saw in her was a project that had been carefully thought out, said Evans.

To prepare, Komori asked her sister to send her music from Japan.

Rehearsals would be practiced with this music over winter break.

However, Komori’s home was robbed last fall while she stayed at the hospital and the music was taken among other things, said Evans.

“She was a resilient woman who believed you pick up and keep going.”

“It was wonderful to know I experienced her muse being reactivated.

“All of us involved in the Komori Project knew we were working with someone special,” said Evans.

Evans said Komori’s project will be carried out as a tribute to her.

She was efficient and persevered, even at age 80.

Komori is credited with changing the traditional aspect of Obon dancing, which is a dance performed by female dancers.

 

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