Great Leap, Inc.

2013 is the 35th anniversary of Great Leap. We have consistently created productions, workshops and art programs that have grown from our engagement with diverse communities. Our longevity reflects our ability to change, innovate and respond to the needs of the times. In 1978, Founder/Artistic Director, Nobuko Miyamoto established Great Leap as a non-profit arts organization creating concerts and musical theater works reflecting the Asian American experience, successfully mounting and touring musicals “Chop Suey” and “Talk Story” on the West Coast and Hawaii. In response to the racial conflicts of Los Angeles Uprising in 1992, Great Leap became a multicultural arts organization, presenting the first-voice stories of Asian, Latino and African American artists in “A Slice of Rice, Frijoles and Greens.” To this day the performance tours colleges including a yearly show at UCLA’s Medical School as cultural awareness training for new interns. Our youth version toured schools for 10 years, reaching 50,000 youth yearly with the Music Center on Tour program. In 2001, the events of 9/11 pushed us to create workshops and that brought together people from the Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish communities. We created a sacred space where people could share their stories and traditions, and experienced the power of the bonding that resulted. From this we developed the theater piece “Leaps of Faith,” performed at the 2009 World Parliament of Religions in Australia. Great Leap has also designed Arts and Yoga for Youth, a program for USC’s Upward Bound program, training and creating performances with young people. In 2005 we created our artist mentorship program, Collaboratory to pass on our creative practices to the next generation. We are now doing the tenth cycle of Collaboratory in Long Beach, with Cambodian, Samoan and Tongan artists and community members who will learn Great Leap’s creative and collaborative methodology in theater making and community building. Now we are using our environmental music video series, “Eco-Vids” as an innovative way to engage communities of color with the critical issue of Climate Change and highlight the sustainable practices passed down the generations. The first, “B.Y.O. Chopstix,” promotes conservation by using disposable chopsticks; “Mottainai” tells the story of the Japanese tradition of “No Waste,” and “Cycles of Change,” a collaboration between Quetzal and Nobuko, encourages urban families to bicycle for their health and the environment. Since 2010 the Ecovids have received over 45,000 views on YouTube.


1 Submitted Idea

  • 2013 Grants Challenge

    Fandango Obon Project / Proyecto Fandango Obon

    Overview: Los Angeles is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, but cross-cultural interaction is often hindered by injustice, misconceptions, fear and competition for resources. Can a musical dialogue open cultural borders between diverse Angeleno communities? Can ritual circle dance help us imagine a new vision for Los Angeles? The LA2050 study indicates that Arts and Cultural Vitality significantly enhance the quality of life in Los Angeles. GREAT LEAP is creating the Fandango-Obon Project as a fresh way to boost this potential. This collaboration between the Grammy-winning artists of QUETZAL, and Nobuko Miyamoto will co-create an original composition that brings together two thriving Latin and Asian music and dance traditions – Fandango son Jarocho and Obon. A series of cross-cultural workshops throughout Los Angeles will teach the song and communal dance, and guide a creative process to share traditions and personal stories to deepen understanding between participants. On November 2nd, Day of the Dead, a culminating Fandango-Obon celebration will bring together diverse community members, musicians and dancers in a ritual piece at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center Plaza. A documentary short video will be created from the process and spread through social media to engage the widest audience. We hope to secure a broadcast television outlet for the video as well. Our goal with this project is to inspire other communities to replicate this model, with meaningful, in-depth cultural exchanges that we believe will create a more harmonious, sustainable Los Angeles of the future. A Dialogue Between Cultures: Fandango Son Jarocho is a popular folk form of music and dance rooted in Indigenous, African, and Spanish cultures from Veracruz, Mexico. Musicians playing ‘jaranas’ (small 8-string guitars) in a circle, others singing and dancing percussively upon the wooden platform, generate a spirit of “convivencia” - living/being together, building communication and trust. Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez of “Quetzal” brought what they learned from Veracruz and are strengthening a network of Fandango Groups spreading throughout L. A. and the nation. Obon is an ancient folk music and dance from the Japanese Buddhist tradition, brought here over 100 years ago. The music commonly uses shamisen, a stringed instrument, taiko and voices also performed on a raised platform. Japanese communities dance the circle at summertime Obon festivals to remember their ancestors. Nobuko has been instrumental in translating this traditional form into a vibrant contemporary practice by creating new songs in English. Over 10,000 people danced her popular environmental-themed piece, “Mottainai (Don’t Waste Nature)” at 16 temples during 2011-12. This new collaboration between Nobuko and Quetzal will spark a groundbreaking “musical dialogue” between cultures. The new piece themed, “All Things Connected,” will give space to each form to express its traditional uniqueness, while exploring new improvisational and harmonic possibilities. Choreography from both traditions will be taught by seasoned dancers, however will be fundamental and familiar enough that people of all ages and abilities can learn, enjoy and interpret freely. The Community Workshops: Fandango Son Jarocho and Obon are proven models for community building. In the neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo and South L.A., Great Leap will offer a series of workshops to teach the music and dance in community centers, temples, and schools to gather participants for the culminating performance/celebration. Hands-on experience with instruments like the Jarana and taiko, and improvisational exchanges with musicians will bridge the public’s connection to these folk forms. Most importantly, we will provide a space and process for sharing personal stories and cultural traditions that will deepen knowledge of each other. The Performance/Celebration: The finale premieres the new Quetzal/Nobuko piece that will engage at least 500 people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds at the plaza of the JACCC. In a ritual of connectedness there will be performances of Son Jarocho, Obon and Taiko communities, and stories about their cultural significance. Documentation and Replication: Videomaking and distribution through social media will extend our journey of creative exchange and engage the general public. Our documentary will dramatize how participants reflect on and are changed by their experiences, and how the knowledge of our interdisciplinary practices can be continued by a new group of artist leaders. As L. A. lags behind comparable metropolitan cities in per capita expenditures on arts and culture, a project like Fandango-Obon, developed at the grassroots and made inclusive and accessible to underserved communities, is vitally important. Our hope is to inspire many bold, innovative cross-cultural collaborations L.A.’s future.