The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
An Overview
Latest Trends by Genre: Contemporary Dance
Private Support and the New Generation of Producers

Private corporations began supporting the arts as a part of their social contribution programs in the 1990s. Among the companies that actively supported contemporary dance, including creative works of unproven value, were Asahi Breweries, Kirin Brewery Co., Ltd., Toyota Motor Corporation, and the Saison Foundation.

Toyota in particular joined the Setagaya Public Theatre in 2001 to establish the Toyota Choreography Awards with the objective of discovering the next generation of choreographers. After only two rounds of awards, it has become known as a prize that opens doors for new choreographers. The grand prizes have been awarded to Jareo Osamu and Terada Misako (2002), Kuroda Ikuyo (2003), Higashino Yôko (2004), Sumiji Maho (2005), and Shirai Tsuyoshi (2006), providing these artists with career breaks. Another gateway to success is the competition for choreographers from all over Asia, that is held during Yokohama Dance Collection R, a comprehensive dance festival organized by Yokohama Arts Foundation and sponsored by Kirin Brewery, that offers performances, showcases, and workshops.

Another element supporting the vitality of contemporary dance is the activities of a new generation of producers. In contrast to producers in Butô who doubled as company leaders and worked with only one company, these producers work independent of dance companies and establish their own production companies. They have changed the system in significant ways by receiving private and public support for mounting a variety of productions at festivals and other projects.

In addition, nonprofit organizations (NPO) have just begun to play a major role in this area. Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN), which was founded in 2001 by member artists, deserves special mention. In addition to offering information on artists and selling tickets, in 2000 when it was still in preparation to become an NPO, it started “Odori-ni-ikuze!!” (“We’re Gonna Go Dancing!!”), a national-showcase project tour featuring groups of artists (including those from the hosting cities for the purpose of their development). It started out with eight artists/groups from four cities, and increased dramatically in 2007 to 49 artists/groups from 21 cities. The organizations that bid to host the events included not only public and private theaters but also public museums, municipalities, dance NPOs, arts NPOs, community development NPOs, and local theater companies, many of which were not always related to dance. This fact alone shows the spread of contemporary dance in Japan over the last several years.

The greatest movement of the last decade probably is that efforts and progress have been made to create a social environment where dance is accessible to anyone. An NPO Artist’s Studio In A School (ASIAS) sends artists to elementary and junior high schools. The Japan Foundation for Regional Art-Activities sends contemporary dancers to public cultural facilities for performances and outreach programs.

With the arrival of this new era, artists themselves have greatly changed the way they think. Not particularly fond of having interdisciplinary ties, they are now taking their connections to the society. There are some professional dancers specializing in outreach programs for schools. The new relationship between society and contemporary dance has led to searches for new ways of conducting creative activities. There are grassroots activities where dancers stay within a particular community to create a work with the residents. While it is still unclear whether such a new environment will establish itself in Japan, the openness of contemporary dance supposedly will become the symbol of a new era.
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