NOBUKO’S DANCE CLASS

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In 1974, Reverend Masao Kodani offered Nobuko Miyamoto the use of Senshin Buddhist Temple’s social hall to teach dance. It became a space to experiment, create and collaborate with Kinnara Taiko and others. Non-dancers and dancers alike took the class, and the majority were Asian American women. Nobuko taught the class until the mid-1980s, and Senshin remains Great Leap’s spiritual and creative home to this day. From this class, dance performances with original music by Benny Yee and Nobuko eventually led to the founding of Great Leap.

Nobuko writes,

I had just come home after three years in New York singing with Chris Iijima. I wanted to sink into the LA community. I had also just become a mother, a single mother in need of a way to support us. A friend suggested I teach dance. Sisters in the movement wanted a dance class in the community.

I never wanted to teach. The truth was, I trained and worked as a dancer, but didn’t know how to teach. The movement was in a moment of trying to create culture that grew from our community. So maybe learning how to teach dance to non-dancers was a good start.

Rev. Mas believed the temple was a dojo, a place to learn about Buddhism. He saw the arts as a way to practice its principles. He took me to see the social hall, an open space with a high ceiling and a beautiful old sprung wood floor. It was the floor that got me. It was a perfect floor for bare feet, a perfect space for a dance class. Rev. Mas gave me more than a place to teach. He gave me a way to be part of a community.


A clip of a dance rehearsal at Senshin from 1978 or so can be seen here [1], with thanks to Visual Communications for the footage.