Melody Takata and Asian Improv aRts collaborated with NEA Heritage Fellow Madame Fujima Kansuma, minyo and shamisen master artist Hideko Nakajima, and ozashiki shamisen artist Tatsu Aoki and other artists to create a performance on the theme of “Shimenawa”–a practice of binding multiple threads together for strength. The finished 75-minute piece featured traditional and contemporary dancers and musicians and a spoken word artist.
In 2006, as this project was proposed, six key properties in San Francisco’s Japantown were put up for sale. Project collaborators were longtime members of the Japantown community and deeply concerned about the neighborhood’s future. Shimenawa–which is used as a symbol on gateways to ward off evil–used Japanese traditional arts to explore the theme of cultural erosion. The finished work took the form of a series of vignettes about different Japanese women who had suffered loss.
Sansei Melody Takata, founder and artistic director of Gen Taiko Arts, has been performing for more than 20 years in Japan and the United States. She grew up in the Japanese American community of Los Angeles where, from age eight, she learned odori (Japanese dance) at the Nishi Hongwanji. At age 12 she began formal study of Nihon Buyo at the Fujima School under Madame Fujima Kansuma and, at 15, began studying and performing with Los Angeles Matsuri. She also has studied in Japan and performed as a member of Tokyo’s O Edo Sukeroku Taiko.
Asian Improv aRts, founded by musicians Jon Jang and Francis Wong, is a multidisciplinary arts presenter that has produced high quality arts and cultural events, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area, for many years. Its mission is to produce, present, and document artistic works that represent the Asian American experience.