A dance featuring the Japanese Women’s Professional Baseball League
See video from the performance HERE!
“A new era in community-based dance making has begun in Japan!” – Play Ball Kyoto audience member and longtime Japanese community artist
On September 23rd, Forklift’s Artistic Director Allison Orr, together with The Kyoto Art Center and the world’s only Women’s Professional Baseball League, the JWBL, welcomed 500+ fans to Kyoto’s Wakasa Stadium for the premiere performance of Play Ball Kyoto, a dance directed by Allison featuring the West Flora and South Dione baseball teams.
Through the National Performance Network’s Asia Exchange Program, Allison was invited to Kyoto, Japan to share her unique method of choreography with a community of her choice. Continuing her investigation of baseball history and culture, Allison chose to collaborate with Japan’s Women’s Professional Baseball League. In taking this concept abroad, she was able to research both the sport’s international impact as well as the significance that baseball has within the Japanese culture and amongst the players themselves. Forklift’s first venture into the realm of baseball was seen in our recent project, Play Ball on Historic Downs Field, a performance with the Huston-Tillotson baseball team that explored the vital role of Downs Field in both Austin’s and our nation’s baseball history.
During her five week residency, Allison shadowed and observed players in practices and games, and in collaboration with two teams – West Flora and South Dione – created an evening length dance utilizing the movement of baseball and the stories of these players. The dance also included the stadium grounds crew, a cast of 20+ community dancers, and original music performed live by Allison’s longtime musical collaborator, Graham Reynolds. Play Ball Kyoto was received with great acclaim and was featured in two Kyoto newspaper articles as well as in a televised documentary piece presented by a Japanese news channel. Acting as Creative Ambassadors for the City of Austin, Graham and Allison, along with the Kyoto Art Center staff, met Kyoto’s Mayor Kadokawa to present a gift from the City of Austin.
Renata Petroni, director of NPN’s International Program, says that “Allison has the passion and the special ability for giving voice to the people in a community who don’t always have the opportunity or incentive to speak up or express themselves. Her past works with firemen, electricians and sanitation workers are highly acclaimed and are wholeheartedly embraced by the participants because Allison throws herself into the community, works with them side-by-side, and in the process, finds beauty in their everyday movements which she turns into elegant dances.” Allison herself was transformed by her experience with the Kyoto Art Center, including an unforgettable memory of being thrown up in the air by the ball players after the show was over. You can read more about the creation of the piece and Allison’s experiences in Kyoto on our blog!
With the help of the Kyoto Art Center, Forklift Danceworks conducted a post-project evaluation of Play Ball Kyoto. The survey was administered to those who participated in the project shortly after the performance. Survey results indicate that Forklift Danceworks’ first international engagement, Play Ball Kyoto, was a success in terms of both spreading awareness of the existing role that women play in a sport very much dominated by men and expanding the audience for both sporting events and performing arts events in the Kyoto community.
74% of participants who responded to our survey agree that the audience at Play Ball Kyoto learned something about JWBL and women’s role in sports, and 74% of respondents agree that Play Ball Kyoto positively affected the JWBL. Additionally, while none of the participants who responded to the survey had participated in the arts or attended a Kyoto Arts Center performance before Play Ball Kyoto, 67% said they were more likely to attend a future KAC event or other performing arts group event after the performance.
Likewise, Play Ball Kyoto had a positive impact for the individual players and their teams. 95% of respondents believe that Play Ball Kyoto made them better baseball players in physical and mental ways, as well as in areas such as teamwork, cooperation, service to their community, communication, and imagination. 79% of respondents reported increased pride in being a female baseball player. Likewise, 79% of participants who responded to the survey felt that Play Ball Kyoto gave them a greater sense of themselves as creative people.
The participants in Play Ball Kyoto described their experience as fun, a good memory, enjoyable, exciting, amazing, beautiful, and energizing, and the majority respondents said that they would participate in Play Ball again if they had the chance.