Great Leap is a Los Angeles based multicultural performing arts organization dedicated to creating and presenting original works in theater, music and dance. Through the collaborative process of performance creation, workshops and community residencies, Great Leap works with professional artists and community partners to instill a deeper sense of connection between diverse peoples and Mother Earth. Founded in 1978 by Artistic Director Nobuko Miyamoto, Great Leap is rooted in the Asian American community and promotes cross-cultural exchange with local and nationwide audiences..
Great Leap was founded as an Asian American arts organization in 1978 by Artistic Director, Nobuko Miyamoto. Originally trained as a dancer and singer who worked in films and Broadway, her involvement in the social movements of the ‘60s led her to re-imagine her role as an artist. Songs she co-created with Chris Iijima and Charlie Chin for the album “A Grain of Sand” captured the desires and spirit of the nascent Asian American movement (now part of the Smithsonian Folkways Collection) and started her on a journey to use art for social change (another way to include high quality??)
The invitation to use the social hall Senshin Buddhist Temple in South Central LA, gave Great Leap a home and a space to teach, rehearse and create within a supportive Japanese community. Artistic collaborations spawned musicals such as “Chop Suey” and “Talk Story” reaching audiences hungry for their untold stories. The mid-‘80s saw a plethora of solo performer/writers beginning to express their unique experiences as Asian Americans. Great Leap began producing A Slice of Rice festival and a touring show to support this new cultural wave.
In the wake of the racial divisions of the 1992 LA Uprising, Great Leap became a multicultural arts organization, bringing together Asian, Latino and African American artists to share the stage. “A Slice of Rice, Frijoles, and Greens” took audiences across borders addressing tough issues with humor and poignancy. “Slice” toured colleges nationally and a youth version was created for the Los Angeles Music Center On Tour program, reaching over 50,000 youths yearly.
In 1997, Great Leap began taking communities beyond their color lines by engaging them with the creative process. The To All Relations Project used movement, theater games, meditation, song and storytelling as a way for non-artists to experience connectivity and collectively create performance works from their stories. Major residencies took place in LA, Phoenix, Watts, Boyle Heights, Brooklyn, Wisconsin, Appalachia and Detroit.
After 9/11, Great Leap applied its creative community engagement process to heal religious divides, creating spaces where Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Jews in workshops and retreats us to open dialogue and make performance works to deepen interfaith understanding. “Leaps of Faith” was invited to be part of the 2009 Parliament of World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia.
In 2005, Great Leap launched its mentorship program, COLLABORATORY, to share our unique pedagogy and over 30 years of experience in artistic creation and community building. COLLAB’s free ten-week institute for emerging artists of color has thus far had 11 iterations training over 120 young artists in Great Leap’s techniques.
In 2009, with growing concerns over Climate Change began Great Leap’s work to use art to bring communities of color into the environmental conversation. Our Eco-Vids series, directed by Dan Kwong, combines song, story, humor and factual information to make environmental consciousness hip, fashionable and fun. Widely distributed through YouTube and other social media and film festivals, Great Leap has produced: B.Y.O. CHOPSTIX, MOTTAINAI, and CYCLES OF CHANGE.
Senshin Buddhist Temple continues to be Great Leap’s home and source of inspiration for new works. Nobuko Miyamoto has written and choreographed several new pieces for the Obon tradition of ancestor remembrance. Her widely accepted song/dances are performed at annual Obon Festivals at Senshin as well as at 18 temples throughout Southern California and spreading beyond. Her artistic collaboration with the group QUETZAL, Grammy-winning, Smithsonian Folkway artists, who have helped to spread the participatory music and dance tradition of Fandango Son Jarocho of Vera Cruz, Mexico, throughout the U.S., has become an annual FandangObon Festival at LA’s Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, bringing together Asians, Latino and now African Americans into one circle. Their song/dance “BAMBUTSU” is now embraced by the Japanese Obon community and danced by over 10,000 yearly.
Great Leap, led by Nobuko Miyamoto and Associate Artistic Director, Dan Kwong, continues to thrive as a community-based arts organization and evolve through their artistry and belief that ART can be a driving force to open borders between communities, as well as support cultural and environmental sustainability.