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“Play Ball Kyoto” Hits it Out of the Park!

By Allison Orr & Renata Petroni

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On September 23, a national holiday in Japan that marks the first day of autumn,the Kyoto Art Center, choreographer Allison Orr, and the world’s only women’s professional baseball league, the Japan Women’s Baseball League, welcomed 500+ fans to Kyoto’s Wakasa Stadium for a premiere performance of “Play Ball Kyoto,” a dance directed by Allison Orr and featuring the West Flora and South Dione baseball teams.

The Kyoto Art Center, a partner in NPN’s US/Japan Connection, hosted Allison in the final year of the US/Japan Connection project. During her five-week residency, Allison shadowed and observed the players in practices and games, and in collaboration with two teams—West Flora and South Dione—she created an evening-length dance utilizing the movements of baseball and the stories of these players. The dance also included the stadium grounds crew, a cast of 20+ community dancers, and original music performed live by Allison’s longtime musical collaborator Graham Reynolds.

"Play Ball Kyoto"

The Japanese women’s baseball team won the International World Cup in women’s baseball in August, so there could not have been a better time to make a dance about women’s baseball in Japan. Play Ball Kyoto received great press: it was featured in two Kyoto newspaper articles and in a televised documentary piece presented by a Japanese news channel. Finally, Allison Orr and Graham Reynolds were selected as Creative Ambassadors by the City of Austin, and both, along with Kyoto Art Center Staff, met Kyoto’s Mayor Kadokawa to present a gift from the City of Austin.

“A new era in community-based dance making has begun in Japan!” one longtime artist remarked to Allison after the premiere of the dance. Allison herself was transformed by her experience with the Kyoto Art Center, including an unforgettable memory of being thrown up in the air by the ball players after the show was over. Kyoto Art Center staff is still collecting feedback from the JWBL and other project participants, but you can read more about the project and Allison’s reflections along with show photos and video on the “Play Ball Kyoto” page of Forklift Danceworks’ website.

Renata Petroni, director of NPN’s International Program, says “Allison has the passion and a special ability for giving voice to the people in a community who don’t always have opportunity or incentive to speak up or express themselves. Her past works with firemen, electricians and sanitation workers are highly acclaimed and wholeheartedly embraced by the participants because Allison throws herself into the community, works with them side-by-side, and in the process, finds beauty in their everyday movements which she turns into elegant dances.”

Specific funding for the U.S./Japan Connection is provided by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Japan-United States Friendship Commission.

November 2014




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