U.S./Japan Connection

Created in March 2011, the U.S./Japan Connection began as a partnership between the National Performance Network and the Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN). In 2013 two additional network organizations based in Japan joined the program: Open Network for Performing Arts Management (ON-PAM) and Arts NPO Link. The program is designed to increase opportunities for U.S. artists in Japan and for Japanese artists in the U.S.

About JCDN
JCDN was created in 2001 by Norikazu Sato after a one-year internship at the NPN offices, which at the time were housed at Dance Theater Workshop (now New York LIVE Arts). Although Nori created a network with a different structure from NPN’s, one more suitable to the cultural landscape in Japan, he applied the same values and objectives: addressing problems of isolation and equity by nurturing the creative work of emerging artists; supporting the capacity building of member organizations who operate outside major cities; working at a national policy level to bring changes to diverse communities, insuring that their members have a voice at the table; and being active internationally through partnerships and collaborative efforts.

First Cycle: Network Building

The first cycle of the U.S./Japan Connection had a two-year network building phase. U.S. and Japanese curators from their respective networks have traveled to each other’s countries to build connections, see live work and discuss the structure of the cultural exchange. Having learned that cultural policies, funding structures and the needs of presenters are radically different in the two countries, the binational partners decided to conduct creative residencies for American artists in Japan and tours for Japanese artists in the U.S.

The first cycle of the U.S./Japan Connection resulted in a tour to four U.S. cities by the Japanese theater company faifai in November-December 2013. Then in August-September 2014, two creative residency projects by Allison Orr and Nora Chipaumire were hosted, respectively, by JCDN and the Kyoto Art Center.

link to archived information from the first cycle, below

Second Cycle: Building a Community

Building upon the knowledge and relationship gained from the first cycle, NPN launched the second cycle of the program with Japan in July 2014. NPN and the bi-national program team have been collectively designing a new scheme of artistic exchange, a combination of a creative residency and a tour to follow in each other’s country. Through this model, Japanese and American artists will create new works side-by-side during residencies in both countries and present/tour the works that come out of the residencies. Unlike existing models of “international collaboration” practiced in the field, in which the artists from different countries create one production together, the artists will create two respective productions, but share the creative process with each other by actively interacting and giving feedback, criticism, and stimulation to each other during the residency. The exchange will also provide facilitation and interaction by creative minds from different industries during the residency – meeting various needs as agreed upon by the artists.

The bi-national team of curators:

  • Ron Berry, Executive and Artistic Director, Fusebox Festival, Austin, TX
  • Steve MacQueen, Artistic Director, Flynn Center, Burlington, VT
  • Roell Schmidt, Director, Links Hall, Chicago, IL
  • Sadayuki Higuchi, Secretary General, Arts NPO Link, Kyoto, Japan
  • Hiromi Maruoka, President/Director, Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication (PARC) and Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting (TPAM), Tokyo, Japan
  • Sachie Tanaka, Program Associate, Dance Box, Kobe, Japan

Links to articles about the second cycle from the NPN/VAN E-Newsletter

May 2015 – Developing Asian Network in Yokohama
Marie Casimir from Links Hall describes her curatorial trip to Yokohama

September 2015 – U.S./Japan Connection — Building a Community
Sachie Tanaka talks about the Japanese curators’ trip to see work in Austin and Chicago

April 2016 – Going Extra Miles
NPN consultant for the Asia Exchange program, Kyoko Yoshida, gives an update following a February trip by the U.S. curators to Korea and Japan


Archived information from the first cycle

Japanese Artists to the U.S.
The U.S./Japan Connection’s artistic exchange will be inaugurated in the fall of 2013 with the theatre company faifai’s first tour to the U.S. The tour will present Anton, Nero, Kuri originally created by faifai’s director Chiharu Shinoda in April 2009. faifai (www.faifai.tv) is a Tokyo-based theater company established in 2004 known for their pop aesthetics, energetic groove, and experimental style that transcends the narrative boundaries of dramatic theater.

  • Legion Arts, Cedar Rapids, IA – November 10-17, 2013
  • REDCAT/Roy & Edna Disney, CalArts Theater, Los Angeles, CA – November 18-26, 2013
  • DiverseWorks, Houston, TX – December 1-7
  • Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA – December 8-16

The New Orleans residency will be in conjunction with the NPN/VAN Annual Meeting. The ensemble will spend one week in each city where, in addition to public performances, they will conduct residency activities in local communities, ranging from workshops with children to lecture/demonstrations and workshops for artists..

Curators from the first cycle

  • Dawnell Smith, Interim Executive and Artistic Director, Out North Contemporary Art House, Anchorage, AL (www.outnorth.org)
  • John Herbert, Executive Director, Legion Arts , Cedar Rapids, IA (www.legionarts.org)
  • Yolanda Cursach, Associate  Director of Performing Programs, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL  (www.mcachicago.org)
  • Ms. Chizu Saito, Artistic Director of ConCarino in Sapporo (www.concarino.or.jp)
  • Reiko Hagihara, Program Director of Kyoto Art Center in Kyoto (www.en.kac.or.jp)
  •  Kyoko Yokoyama, Program and Planning Coordinator of the Fukuoka City Foundation for Arts and Cultural Promotion (www.ffac.or.jp)
Yolanda Cursach, Kyoko Yoshida, MK Wegmann, Nori Sato, John Herbert, Renata Petroni, Dawnell Smith

Asian Curators in Japan, October 2012: (L to R) Yolanda Cursach, Kyoko Yoshida, MK Wegmann, Nori Sato, John Herbert, Renata Petroni, Dawnell Smith

Links to articles from NPN/VAN E-Newsletters

November 2014 E-Newsletter – Home Run for US/Japan Connection
Austin-based choreographer Allison Orr in Kyoto and her work featuring players from the Japan Women’s Baseball League

August/September 2014 E-Newsletter – Nora Chipaumire Brings the Heat to Kyoto
The New York-based choreographer’s residency with the Japan Contemporary Dance Network – includes a link to JCDN’s website

April 2013 E-Newsletter – NPN and Japan Contemporary Dance Network Announce First US Tour
A Tokyo-based theatre known for its pop aesthetics and energetic groove will tour to three cities as the inaugural tour of NPN’s US/Japan Connection. The faifai theatre company will travel to Cedar Rapids, Houston and New Orleans between November 25 – December 15, 2013, to present Anton, Nero, Kuri. Renata Petroni’s article includes a quick glimpse into the history of Yokohama, from fishing village to cultural capital, and an overview of contemporary performance in Japan.

January 2013 E-Newsletter – If it’s Tuesday, it must be Beppu: a travel diary
Renata Petroni chronicles the fall 2012 visit of the U.S. curatorial team to Kyoto and Tokyo, with a unique combination of national history, reflections on urban design and artistic insights.

March 2012 E-Newsletter – “Japan:  After the Wave”
Two NPN Partners on the International Program’s curatorial team and two NPN staff traveled to Yokohama in February to further develop relationships with their colleagues at the Japan Contemporary Dance Network.  During the trip, the delegation traveled to northern Japan, to visit the site of last year’s tsunami and earthquake, witnessing first-hand the devastation and the Japanese people’s response to the tragedies.

February 2012 E-Newsletter – “What Impressed Me About the Annual Meeting”
A delegation of nine representatives from the Korean Arts Management Services and the Japan Contemporary Dance Network traveled a long and exhausting distance to join their U.S. and Latin American/Caribbean colleagues at NPN’s Annual Meeting in Tampa in December 2011. With varying abilities to speak English, the delegation nonetheless made valuable contacts and reported “great joy” at the gathering.

November 2011 E-Newsletter – “A Glance Into Korea and Japan”
For the second year, a U.S. curatorial team visited Seoul and Tokyo to meet with their Asian counterparts, see exciting new work and learn more about our disparate cultures.  Renata Petroni, director of NPN’s International Program, reports on the October 2011 visit, with observations on the different systems of cultural support in Korea, Japan and the U.S.

The U.S./Japan Connection is funded in part by the Center for Global Partnerships, a Division of the Japan Foundation, the U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network, and by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission.

Past Issues