The integration of Oriental and Occidental elements, as Michio Ito perceived them, was central to his vision of art and life. “In my dancing,” he said, “it is my desire to bring together the East and the West. My dancing is not Japanese. It is not anything—only myself”.
Ito thus described his dancing in a newspaper interview in August, 1917, less than a year after his arrival in America. Those who view the individual as inevitably embedded in his specific cultural and historical environment may find Ito's description idealistic but naive. He was, after all, only twenty-three. Certainly, Ito was inescapably an Oriental from the standpoint of the Western formulated Orientalism described by Edward Said. Moreover, Ito's prior experience in Europe had already acquainted him with the Orientalist tendency to lump together all Eastern cultures, assuming, for example, that values and behavior of Japanese, Indians, and Egyptians must be similar if not identical. As the only Asian among well over three hundred students at the Dalcroze Institute, Ito noted that, despite his protests, other students regarded what he said and did as typical of all Eastern people as well as all Japanese. Ito, then, was not naively oblivious to contemporary stereotypes of Orientals.
Ito's concept and practice of his art reflects some aspects of Said's Orientalism while evading others. This is partially because Said's study admittedly emphasizes British and French scholarship and imperialist politics, particularly in relation to the Arab world. In this Orientalist tradition, the European saw the Oriental as essentially different and inferior, the passive “other” incapable of self-government despite past glories of Eastern philosophy and art. Consequently, Orientalism logically predicted and justified the colonization of the colonized. Moreover, since the East was thought to have unchanging characteristics, this dominant-subservient relationship was assumed static until the dissolution of the imperialist empires in the twentieth century.