Notes on the Research Trip to Chicago and Austin

September 30, 2015  •  3 minute read

By Sachie Tanaka*, Dance Box (Kobe, Japan) As I learned about Links Hall in Chicago, I realized that it has a lot in common with Dance Box in Kobe: a small performance space in the outskirts, where local, national and international artists are presented, developing unique projects and programs rooted in the community, and supporting and fostering young artists. Links Hall moved to its new space just two years ago, and I felt full of fresh energy from the staff who work there and people who gather there.

(first row, far right) Marie Casimir; (second row, starting 3rd from right) Eriko Nishitani, Sachie Tanaka, Kyoko Yoshida with artists from Manual Cinema, Walkabout, Paige Cunningham Caldarella, J.Soto with Joseph Hutto and KHECARI

One of the programs we attended was “Peep Show,” a thrilling “instant choreography” series in which two sets of choreographers and dancers made new works respectively, set to a music piece by one composer, in just 45 minutes, and in front of the audience. All artists involved were setting themselves a certain challenge and the audience witnessed the process as active participants in the work. The program also used two black box spaces effectively. The live showcase presentations by six young local artists were very powerful. I would love to introduce some of them to Japanese audiences. In less than 48 hours in Chicago, we attended eight live performances and presentations, and visited and met with the representatives of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) and The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago as well. The schedule was very tight, but our group enjoyed such a rewarding and productive time thanks to the wonderful coordination by vibrant, delightful and dynamic Ms. Marie Casimir, associate director of Links Hall, and Ms. Roell Schmidt, director of Links Hall. I thought that some programs, including the ones for young artists, were perfectly suited for the size of the organization, which is about the same as Dance Box. The experience of these two days generated new ideas and possibilities of collaboration between Dance Box and Links Hall. When we were leaving O’Hare airport, it was lightly snowing. After a 2.5 hour flight, we arrived to 90℉ weather in Austin to attend Fusebox Festival. There, we were able to really see and understand the city of Austin, art works displayed and performances happening all over the city, and the people and organizations involved with the art. When we took a local bus to the Festival’s Information Center / Fusebox’s office located in the eastern part of the city, and walked about twenty minutes from east to west in the downtown on the first day, I was astonished to see the apparent disparity between rich and poor, a serious social issue of the whole country. The thinkEAST project launched as part of the Festival this year involves the research of this eastern area and is collecting ideas from the community on what can be done to enrich the area. My impression was that the project was being developed by carefully interweaving the opinions and ideas of people from various backgrounds during that process.
Kyoko Yoshida, Eriko Nishitani, Ron Berry, Sachie Tanaka

(l to r) Kyoko Yoshida, Eriko Nishitani, Ron Berry, Sachie Tanaka

The happy hour meetings for the producers and curators visiting from all over the U.S. and the world hosted by Mr. Ron Berry, executive artistic director of Fusebox, were truly meaningful and uniquely arranged. They were planned with thorough attention to provide a relaxing atmosphere over drinks during the afternoon even though the discussions dealt with serious subjects. In addition, I was impressed to see that every aspect of the festival was well thought out, and the importance of each individual working at a variety of positions was so distinctive — like the role of the food director at the festival. It gave me a very positive impression to observe the festival created and developed not only by the ideas and labor of the producers and staff members, but also by involving all kinds of people working together. I was tremendously inspired by the trip to Chicago and Austin. I am hoping to explore how to utilize and adopt what I learned, in Japan and at my organization in Kobe, and identify how the artists and art mix and collaborate with the community in order to create original values. Last but not least, I would like to thank and show my sincerest gratitude to Ms. Kyoko Yoshida of NPN who planned and coordinated this incredibly fulfilling one-week research trip. *On August 15th, Sachie Tanaka received the best actress award along with three other Japanese women at Locarno Film Festival. Congratulations, Sachie! all photos courtesy of the author
September 2015