At what point does slavish devotion to one's art qualify as an obsession? That's the query posed by the life and career of professional dancer Akiko Kaneda, who grew so attached to dance and so driven to dance that it eventually ruined her nuptials. In the 1985 Akiko: Portrait of a Dancer, director Sumiko Haneda creates an in-depth, feature-length biographical profile of Kaneda. The film relays how this woman, born and raised in Japan, gravitated to dance training at age 7, then impulsively dropped out of university at the age of nineteen and relocated to the States when she felt inspired by the Martha Graham dance ensemble. Kaneda realized her life's dream by joining the ensemble, and gave all of herself to her performances in that venue; she later recalled, "my whole body, every single cell, was recreated into that of a dancer." She also asserted, time and again, that dance appealed to her more than any other art form given its resistance to words, because words only cause pain and suffering. Following her involvement with Graham, Haneda witnesses Kaneda gradually breaking away from the great woman's tutelage and creative influences to forge her own path as the choreographer of a piece she christened 'Mary Magdalene' - a development that details Kaneda's evolution into a unique artist. Director Haneda originally intended to present only 50 minutes of film, but reportedly found Kaneda so compelling that she expanded the project to twice its original length.
~ Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide