Part 1 - Finding Voice
First in the Great Leap at 40: The Gatherings series, Part 1 - Finding Voice was the title of a Great Leap event held March 11, 2018 at Senshin Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles. The event served to gather voices and community around the origins of the Great Leap organization.
Participants gathered in the temple's social hall, the same location where four decades ago Nobuko Miyamoto started a community dance class. On the same wood floors that gave ground to Nobuko's artistic career of weaving together performance and activism, event participants gathered in a large circle to spend the afternoon re-living memorable performances and reminiscing about their impact and meaning on the Asian American identity movement.
The introduction of the event included a live performance of We Are The Children and included artists Genie Nagano, Quincy Surasmith, Lisa Furutani, Nancy Sekizawa, Carla Vega, Anne Ito, Marsha Furutani, and Nobuko Miyamoto.
Dr. Deborah Wong welcomed attendees.
Warren Furutani shared a thoughts on Great Leap's contribution to art, culture, and the Asian American Movement.
Story Circle I
The first circle of the event focused on Nobuko's Dance Class, which was active from 1975-1987.
Members of the dance class led a warm-up with tanka/poem by Genie Nakano.
The story circle discussion was facilitated by traci kato-kiriyama and included participation of Rev. Mas Kodani, who spoke about the role of art in the context of Buddhist awareness.
Story Circle II
The event's second circle focused on the band Warriors of the Rainbow, which was active from 1974-1982. The circle began with a live performance of the Benny Yee song West to East. The song was performed by Benny Yee, Nobuko, Danny Yamamoto, Alan Furutani, and Taiji Miyagawa.
The second story circle discussion was facilitated by Sean Miura.
Story Circle III
The event's third circle focused on the musical Chop Suey, which was active from 1978-1981. This segment of the program began with a humorous monologue performed by Michael Paul Chan as a Chinese restaurant waiter. Performers from the Chop Suey musical performed a medley that included the numbers Can I Take Your Order Please, Set Me Free, Sweat Shop, and American Made.
Dan Kwong facilitated the third story circle.
After the event's final story circle, the ensemble performed a closing medley.
Event participants enjoyed a reception of Chinese food catered by Feast from the East, as well as a 40th anniversary cake.
Before the event, taiko performer Kenny Endo recorded a congratulatory YouTube video, explaining how and why working with Nobuko and Great Leap has influenced him.
After the event, storyteller and performance artist Brenda Wong Aoki emailed Nobuko to express her regrets at missing the event, and she shared her memories of taking Nobuko's Dance Class.