What Impressed Me About the Annual Meeting

February 14, 2012  •  4 minute read

The Japanese Presenters’ Perspective by Renata Petroni, Director of International Program People across cultures share many similar feelings, emotions and life circumstances, but it’s the way they express these feelings and emotions and react to life circumstances or relate to each other that sets them apart. As we engage in international exchanges, we must learn to recognize and respect these differences, which are not limited to language, food, or dress code, but extend to etiquette, personal space, body language, humor, and values. How can we improve communication with our international partners when globalization and the speed of information give us the illusion of knowing more about other cultures than we actually do?  What’s more, generalizations, hearsay, stereotypes, expectations, projections of one’s culture onto another add to the confusion. NPN’s approach is that there is nothing more exciting and effective than personal experience. To promote this first hand knowledge, NPN supports ongoing explorations by U.S. and international presenters’ through visits to one another’s countries. Over the last 10 years, through the Performing Americas Program, a partnership with La Red de Promotores Culturales de Latinoamerica y el Caribe, NPN has supported travels in the western hemisphere by 65 NPN Partners and La Red members. NPN is now developing a new program in Asia with two new partners: the Korea Arts Management Services (KAMS) and the Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN). Representatives of NPN’s three international partners attended the 2011 Annual Meeting in Tampa, making it the largest international presence to date. Of the three La Red members, five KAMS presenters and staff, and four JCDN presenters only two spoke fluent English. Despite the language barrier, the international guests were embraced by the NPN community, participated in all the activities, and were thrilled to make connections with many U.S. presenters and with each other. An outcome of these encounters is an exchange project between Japan and Korea scheduled for 2013. Here is what our Japanese guests wrote about the NPN, the meeting and the cultural differences they experienced: Participating in the meeting, I was reminded of the importance of a “place” in which people from different fields, positions and affiliations can come together as equals and talk to each other face-to-face. Currently, there is no such established system (of network) as NPN in Japan and thus, individuals in the field make their own efforts separately. T-PAM (Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting) is centered in Tokyo and its vicinity and does not necessarily connect professionals from other regions. JCDN is perhaps the only organization that connects different regions of Japan through dance performances. Learning about NPN’s structure was stimulating, and inspired me and my colleagues from Sapporo and Fukuoka to think about the possibility of creating a network in Japan and to think objectively about the cultural landscape of our country. More than anything, I felt a great joy to meet with NPN members face-to-face and am looking forward to building a network together.

—Reiko Hagihara, Program Director, Kyoto Arts Center

Although there are many “networks” in our field, many have become obsolete. In contrast, I witnessed that NPN works very well as a network, providing opportunities to meet colleagues face to face, to share values and ideas. It helped me think about how we could form a network in Japan. I also found it very significant that we were able to communicate with people from different countries, not only from the U.S. In particular, it was great to spend time and converse with colleagues from Korea about strengthening the network in Asia. I thought that the self-introduction session at the beginning of the annual meeting was particularly wonderful and effective. It enabled immediate communication regardless of one’s position or affiliation. (No conference in Japan starts with such a casual style like that!) I came to the meeting feeling quite nervous and pressured due to the cultural difference and language barrier. However, since everyone was very open-minded and kind to me, I was able to overcome such feelings. I appreciated “the Buddies” program and want to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who supported my participation.

—Kyoko Yokohama, Program and Planning Coordinator, Fukuoka City Foundation for Arts and Cultural Promotion

 What I found wonderful about the meeting:
  • The presenters based all over the U.S., coming together and having conversations on various issues face-to-face. From the official working sessions to social events including parties, the opportunities for face-to-face communication were maximized.  In comparison, the current situation of “network” in Japan is that we always say “I hope to get together and talk things out,” but it is very difficult to actually do so. I realized that the main difference is the fact that NPN secures financial resources for the convening, which is the key to making it actually happen.
What impressed me:
  • It felt as if the air in the auditorium blew up and down along with how the audience members reacted in response to the keynote speaker. I was so surprised. It was like a scene from a play. In Japan, no matter how engaging the speaker, it won’t create that kind of atmosphere. I was impressed, thinking that this may have to do with the common practice of American people clearly expressing their feelings and thoughts in their daily lives.
  • To be given this opportunity to visit the U.S. for the first time was precisely, “seeing is believing” the diversity of this nation of immigrants. In recent years, Japan has gained more awareness about diversity, however, the Japanese “diversity” is much different compared to the U.S. – as if all people in Japan are blood-related. I also seriously thought that cultural exchange is crucial for Japanese and the U.S. people, who think they know each other, to really understand each others’ cultural differences.
During the five days I was thinking that the U.S. is a young country, forever-young.

Chizu Saito, President, Concarino