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Artists Open Doors: Japan/UK    
2. Policy and Practice Panel:

Shoji Shimomoto
Saori Mikami
Emma Gladstone
Christopher Thomson

Saori Mikami is a producer at the Setagaya Public Theatre. Her role includes support for performances by emerging Japanese dance companies, and inviting overseas dance companies to the theatre for workshops and performances. She aims to make contemporary dance more widely popular in Japan, both for artists and audiences. In 2004-2005, she was granted a fellowship from the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs to study in France at the Centre de Développement Chorégraphique, in Toulouse, and the Centre Chorégraphique National de Tours.

I am here today to talk in relation to my work as a producer at Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo. Opened in 1997, Setagaya Public Theatre aims to support individual's creative freedom through opportunities to experience the performing arts, in particular, to experience contemporary theatre and contemporary dance. The theatre is managed by Setagaya Ward which, with a population of some eight hundred and thirty thousand, is the most populous ward in Tokyo. The theatre comprises two performances spaces: the main space, Setagaya Public Theatre; and Theatre Tram. Setagaya Public Theatre was uniquely designed to support the creation of new work and has additional spaces that include a rehearsal studio, production room and acoustic studio.

While the performance programme lies at the core of the theatre's work, we also programme lectures, workshops and education projects, providing different avenues for public access to the performing arts. Setagaya Public Theatre is acknowledged to differ radically from other theatres in Japan. Whereas other theatres are defined by their building – the performance space – Setagaya Public Theatre has a more far-reaching identity with roles for artistic director, management and production teams, Gakugei (dramaturg and educational outreach) and new technology. At Setagaya Public Theatre, twenty two thousand children have, to date, participated in our schools' projects. We were in fact the first public theatre, to establish a Gakugei division, an innovation that has enabled commercially-run theatres to develop an educational vision. Our Gakugei division organises, for example, lectures, workshops and street performance festivals.

The performance programme frequently builds on international collaborations. For example, Shun Kin, a collaborative project with British theatre director Simon McBurney, was performed at Setagaya and will go on to be performed in the UK. A new work, The Diver, created and directed by playwright and director Hideki Noda is being premiered today, and French-based choreographer Josef Nadj recently created a dance performance work with us entitled Asobu, which was presented at the opening of France's Avignon Festival.

The mission of Setagaya Public Theatre is: to premier new work from the Tokyo region and also nationally and internationally; to support artist development; to cultivate effective arts management and leaders in the performing arts. The theatre is fundamentally a place of exchange between artworks and audiences. Presently, for example, our artistic director and a Kyogen artist, Mansai Nomura is working on a project that draws together traditional arts and contemporary theatre.

My role as producer at the theatre is focused on dance, and so the remainder of my presentation is addressed to the situation of dance here. At Setagaya Public Theatre, our priority is in presenting new dance works, for example, the recent Kinjiki, choreographed by Kim Itoh. We do also programme work by Japanese dance artists who are also highly regarded overseas, including Sankaijuku, Dairakudakan, Saburo Teshigawara and Min Tanaka. Furthermore, respected overseas artists are invited here to present work and teach workshops, including Josef Nadj, Maguy Marin, Phillipe Decouflé and William Forsythe. This year, we invited a new Belgian dance company named Peeping Tom.

One of the projects that I lead is focused on young artists' development; the artists receive feedback during their making process and then technical expertise to ensure high production quality. We have, for example, worked intensively with Idevian Crew, Strange Kinoko (Mushroom) Dance Company, Nibroll and Ikuyo Kuroda’s Batik.

As I talk, I have been reflecting on Professor Bannerman's question to the panel regarding dance performance and cultural policy. At Setagaya Public Theatre, the dance performance programme comprises a sizeable 25% of the theatre's use. It is difficult for me to respond as to the extent to which our programme is affected by Japanese cultural policy. Government policy does have positive outcomes but since its cultural policy is administered on an annual basis, it is difficult to predict future policy. At the theatre, we aim to be self-managing, running our projects independently. The vision of Setagaya Public Theatre, as I mentioned earlier, is as a place of mutual exchange between art works and audiences.

 
 
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