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Great Leap maintains a multimedia archive of its performance history. The archive contains a fairly comprehensive collection of Great Leap’s pictures and more, from 1970 to the present. The archive is organized in categories to be clear and accessible. Great Leap is also in the process of digitizing some of our videos.

Part 1: 1970-1982

The years 1970-1982 represent the formative years of Great Leap.

To reflect upon and celebrate this portion of the organization's history, Great Leap organized a gathering on March 11, 2018 at Senshin Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles to recognize the work and relationships made during this period of time.

1970-1973: Yellow Pearl

Chris Iijima, JoAnne (Nobuko) and Charlie Chin (CCJ), sometimes known as Yellow Pearl. The album “A Grain of Sand” was recorded in 1973. Chris, Nobuko and Charlie came together in ’97 for a series of reunion concerts.

1974–: Great Leap

ASIAN AMERICAN PERFORMANCES: Great Leap was officially established in 1978 by Nobuko Miyamoto and Benny Yee (who designed the leaper logo), but much work was created before that time.

1974–1981: Warriors of the Rainbow

Warriors of the Rainbow, a fusion rock/jazz band headed by Benny Yee (keyboards) and Nobuko (vocals). Other band members included at various times Russel Baba, Kenny Endo, Bobby Farlice, Alan Furutani, and others.

1975: Nobuko's Dance Class

Nobuko's Dance Class held at Senshin Buddhist Temple was populated by many non-dancers and dancers in the community. Rev. Kodani and the temple, graciously allowed it to continue for more than 10 years. From this class dance performances with original music by Benny Yee and Nobuko, eventually led to the founding of Great Leap.

1977: Martial Arts Dance

MARTIAL ARTS DANCE: Nobuko invited professional dancers to the Senshin workshop to create dances on a more professional level. This piece was a collaboration between martial artists (Tatsuo Hirano) and dancers (Louise Mita Kawabata, Aulani Chang…)

1977: Sonyu

SONYU: a collaboration between Nobuko and dance class with Kinnara Taiko of Senshin Temple. Kinnara was one of the first taiko groups in America.

1978: Women Hold Up Half the Sky

1980: Chop Suey

Chop Suey was Great Leap's first musical production. The performance featured story with songs by Nobuko and Benny Yee, and choreography. This was initiated by the East West Players for a summer series presented in parks in Los Angeles County. GREAT LEAP was formally born as a non-profit Asian American arts organization. 3 Iterations, different directors, JOSE DE VEGA comes into Great Leap.

1981: Breaking Out

BREAKING OUT: a mutli-media concert featuring Nobuko, Benny Yee and Warriors of the Rainbow. Concert with Al Robles

1982: Jan Ken Po

JAN KEN PO: original song by Nobuko done in various concerts with children from various communities. Made our first music video, in a time music videos were just beginning to appear.



BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: first solo album by Nobuko and musical director/arranger Derek Nakamoto. Was also a multi-media concert presented at the Japan America Theater.

1984 (?)

GAMAN: 16mm film short produced by Bob Miyamoto, with Nobuko’s song “Gaman” and the drawings of Betty Chen. It portrays the story of a young girl growing up in one of the concentration camps that Japanese Americans were sent to. The film was shown on the NAATA series “Silk Screen”, on PBS.


JOSE DE VEGA: met Nobuko when he was playing ‘Chino’, and she ‘Francisca’ in the film “West Side Story.” She invited him into Great Leap and he became principal choreographer and director of major pieces.


JOURNEY IN THREE MOVEMENTS / BRIDGE: major repertory works with original music composed by Nobuko Miyamoto and Jose De Vega, choreography. "Journey", the story of immigrant struggle, was filmed and shown on Educational Television. "Bridge" portrays trade between Japan and America.

’87, '88

TALK STORY I & II: Musical theater shows created from stories of the Asian American experience. Music, lyrics by Nobuko, choreography mainly by Jose De Vega.


TALK STORY, HAWAII TOUR: 3 island tour and 1 week residency in a Kawaii elementary school serving 2000 children with workshops.


JOANNE IS MY MIDDLE NAME: solo performance piece by Nobuko, premiered at the Japan America Theater. Later toured as part of Slice of Rice” through LA Music Center on Tour Program.


A SLICE OF RICE: inspired by the first-voice storytelling movement… Jude Narita and other Asian Americans telling their own stories. Recruited DAN KWONG into GL; started as a festival to feature the many Asian American artists who were developing their own solo works in theater, dance, music. Later toured colleges and LA pubic schools with the Music Center on Tour Program; primarily featuring Dan Kwong, Louise Mita Kawabata, Young-Ae Park, Long Nguyen, and Nobuko.


LAUGHTER FROM THE CHILDREN OF WAR/Club O’Noodles, Vietnamese Theater Group. Nobuko co-directs w/Hung Nguyen.



1992 to present

MULTICULTURAL PERFORMANCES. 1992 was a turning point for Great Leap. The Los Angeles Uprising (or Riots) after the Rodney King trial exposes the tensions between local communities of color. Great Leap responds by transforming from an Asian American arts organization into a multi-cultural one.


A SLICE OF RICE, FRIJOLES AND GREENS: first-voice stories of Asian, Latino and African American artists are presented together. The show continues to tour colleges around the country. There was also a version for youth audiences that performed in the LA Music Center On Tour Program, until about 2004. (CULTURES)


A GRAIN OF SAND: Nobuko’s solo autobiographical show played Highways, East West Players, Los Angeles Theater Center and New World Theater, then began touring the college circuit.


BINDU RECORDS: Partnership between Nobuko and Derek Nakamoto launches "Bindu", which supports artists such as Nobuko, Kenny Endo, Frances Awe, and others.


TO ALL RELATIONS: CD produced by Derek Nakamoto of Nobuko’s songs. Based on the Lakota sacred salutation, Mitakuye Oyasin (to all relations).


TO ALL RELATIONS, FORD THEATER: A multicultural concert with Nobuko Miyamoto, Frances Awe and the Nigerian Talking Drum Ensemble, Charlie Chin.


A GRAIN OF SAND REUNION CONCERTS: Chris, Nobuko and Charlie Chin re-release “Grain” on CD on Bindu Records. First concert at UC Berkeley and many others follow.


SACRED MOON SONGS: A musical theater piece created with Muslim, Japanese, Mexican and African American artists and community members. Directed by Nobuko and Ruben Guevara. Presented at West Players, July 30 to August 1, 2004. (No pictures, only on GL website)


ARTS AND YOGA FOR YOUTH, summer program designed for USC Upward Bound.


TRIANGLE PROJECT, “JOURNEY OF THE DANDELION”: this international collaboration brings together PJ Hirabayashi of San Jose Taiko, Yoko Fujimoto of KODO, and Nobuko of Great Leap, in a journey that takes them to San Jose, Sado Island, New World Theater U.Mass, Cal State Monterey Bay, Japan America Theater, Stony Brook Un, and NY Museum of Natural History.


LEAPS OF FAITH: interfaith theater piece created in GL’s mentorship program, COLLABORATORY, directed by Dan Kwong. (FAITH)

GL MISC. ARTISTS: pictures of various artists who have worked with GL.


WHAT CAN A SONG DO: Nobuko’s lecture/performance, work-in-progress, Stony Brook University (NO PERF. PIX YET, USE NOBUKO PIX)


TO ALL RELATIONS RESIDENCY PROGRAMS: Inspired by Mitakuye Oyasin, To All Relations develops into a series of residencies that bring communities of different colors and cultures together.


TO ALL RELATIONS , WORLD FESTIVAL OF SACRED MUSIC: GL creates an all day event that engages people from 5am to 10 pm at Senshin Buddhist Temple. Yoga at sunrise, taichi, talks by Black Elk, Tibetan monks, Rev. Kodani, workshops in jazz, movement, building flower mandala, peace flags and more, ending with a concert with June Kuramoto, Derek Nakamoto, Nobuko, Nedra Wheeler, Tibetan singers, etc.


TO ALL RELATIONS, PHOENIX: Nobuko and Paulina Sahagun work with Asian American elders, Phoenix police officers, Native youth and Desert Dance Theater.

TO ALL RELATIONS, DETROIT: Grace Lee Boggs invites Nobuko to learn about Detroit’s urban dilemna and create work around the burgeoning gardening movement. A ritual celebration is created with other artists/gardeners. Nobuko creates song/dance “I Dream A Garden” based on Buddhist Obon circle dance, ala Motown. (EARTH)


RELATIONS, SAN JOSE: Nobuko and Hung Nguyen of Club O’Noodles, do workshops with Vietnamese American youth.


TO ALL RELATIONS, BOYLE HEIGHTS: Nobuko and Dan Kwong lead a residency with former Boyle Heights members from Japanese, Mexican, and Jewish American communities. Performance is mounted with the exhibit of Boyle Heights at the Japanese American National Museum.


TO ALL RELATIONS WATTS: in a collaboration with Watts Labor Community Action Coalition, Great Leap worked with at-risk teens on a gardening and arts project.

‘03 -04

TO ALL RELATIONS: “SACRED MOON SONGS”. In response to 9/11 Great Leap under the direction of Nobuko and Ruben Guevara, brought together Muslims, Japanese, Mexican, and African American community members to share common experiences of relocation, repatriation and deportation. First presented as a work in progress at NCRR’s Breaking the Fast Ramadan gathering at Senshin Buddhist Temple, then as a finished piece at East West Players, July 30 to August 1, 2004. (No pictures, only on GL website)


TO ALL RELATIONS: “Ceremony of Remembrance”. One-week residency with Laotion students at University of Wisconsin, culminated with performance directed by Nobuko and Traci Kiriyama. (video only, pictures on GL website)


COLLABORATORY MENTORSHIP PROGRAM: Great Leap's program for developing and supporting the next generation of artist-leaders in L.A., and passing on GL's philosophy and methodology for creating community-based performance. Participants experience master classes with mentoring artists, culminating with a collaborative performance. Directed by Dan Kwong, with Co-director Young Ae Park and Nobuko as primary workshop leaders. Guest teachers/mentors have included Luis Alfaro, Shishir Kurup, Diane Rodriguez, Keith Antar Mason, Ruben Guevara, Leslie Ishii, Dorit Cypis, and many more.


COLLABORATORY I: Communities of color. Culmination July 30, 31 2005, La Finestra Gallery and Performance Space


COLLABORATORY II: Communities of color. Culmination performance at SIPA (Search to Involve Pilipino Americans)


COLLABORATORY III: Immigration and Democracy, Culmination October 21-22 at JANM, Center for the Preservation of Democracy.


COLLABORATORY IV: The Third Stone (care of the environment) Culmination Aug 18,19 at Farmlab Space


COLLABORATORY V: Leaps of Faith, culmination Mar 8-9, JANM


COLLABORATORY VI: Leaps of Faith, culmination Jan 10, JANM

2005 – 08


ART OF WEAVING FAITHS – all day interfaith workshops with 30 people of diverse faiths, usually held in religious centers.


AOWF, Brooklyn Bridges, women’s gathering who have been affected by events of 9/11. First Unitarian Church, Brooklyn. Leaders Nobuko Tomomi Kanemaru, artist.


Senshin/Omar Al Khattab Mosque


Islamic Center


Senshin Buddhist Temple


Santa Monica Art Museum


Culver City Interfaith


Memphis Theological Seminary, week-long workshops with Christian Theology students, Nobuko and Kamau Ayubbi.


PARLIAMENT OF WORLD RELIGIONS - Nobuko and Carla Vega go to Melbourne, Australia.

1986 – PRESENT


2010 - present

Eco-Vids are Great Leap's ongoing series of environmentally-themed music videos, with songs written by Nobuko and video direction/editing by Dan Kwong. B.Y.O. CHOPSTIX (2010) highlights the ecological dilemma of disposable chopsticks (consuming 30 million trees per year) and encourages people to carry their own portable pair. MOTTAINAI (2011) honors the forgotten or ignored traditions of communities of color that teach each us to live responsibly on this Earth. CYCLES OF CHANGE (2012) champions the common bicycle as an alternative means of urban transportation. Created in collaboration with Grammy-award winning rock band, Quetzal.




Great Leap at 40: The Gatherings series commences with Part 1 - Finding Voice on March 11, 2018 at Senshin Buddhist Temple.