Kokoro Dance’s Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget on the challenges of surviving as an artist in Vancouver

Kokoro Dance’s Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget on the challenges of surviving as an artist in Vancouver

By Jay Hirabayashi with Barbara Bourget

Barbara and I have been destined to be artists. Artists are those that have interaction in deliberate subversion of quotidian complacency.

We dwell and work in Vancouver, a capitalist metropolis in a capitalist province in a capitalist nation. Capitalism is an financial system that depends on the exploitation of 1’s fellow residents for private achieve of wealth, fame, and energy. Capitalism divides the populations of capitalist international locations into the wealthy and the poor. Dance artists are often relegated to the category of the poor, though there are some who’ve navigated the capitalist system to emerge within the class of the wealthy.

These dance artists create a product that solely the rich can get pleasure from. We aren’t a part of that class of artists. Capitalist programs depend on bureaucracies which have complicated guidelines and laws that confine and limit entry to wealth, to the rich. To outlive as an artist in Vancouver, it’s worthwhile to perceive the way to navigate and circumvent these guidelines and laws.

“However to dwell outdoors the regulation, you should be trustworthy.” Bob Dylan stated that. I spend most of my time filling out functions, ultimate reviews, and posting monetary statistics. I work seven days every week and am fortunate if that features eight hours of dancing.

In 1986, we determined to go away EDAM to type our personal dance firm. Our son, Joseph (Jo), was about to be born, to affix Bodhi, Daniel, and Kai as their child brother. Barbara and I had met one another in Paula Ross’s studio in 1979. Paula is one in every of Canada’s finest choreographers and was a mentor to us.

We instructed Paula that we wished to name our firm “Kokoro Dance” and that we have been going to pursue butoh as our dance aesthetic. She instructed us that if we took that identify, we might by no means get Canada Council for the Arts (CCFA) funding as a result of that funding company was racist. She suggested us to name our new firm “The Barbara Bourget Dance Firm.”

Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi with their youngsters Bodhi, Daniel, Kai, and Joseph.

In 1986, there was not a single dance firm that didn’t have a French or English identify, and solely white dance firms acquired funding.

On July 7, 1986, Jo was born, and on July 31 we included Kokoro Dance Theatre Society as a non-profit society in B.C. We phoned the CCFA to see if our new firm might get funding and have been instructed that we might first need to have an administration, rent dancers, and produce a present, have that assessed, and to attend a 12 months, after which we might apply—all of this with none funding assist.

We started to suppose that possibly Paula was proper. We efficiently utilized for an Explorations Grant, and we created a musical, Episode in Blue – A Cantata from Hell, the place Barbara and I sang and danced, actor Ian McDonald and composer Jeff Corness additionally sang and danced, and 16mm movie projection by the late Scott Haynes added a visible element to the work.

The piece was among the finest works we now have ever carried out, nevertheless it was a catastrophe on the field workplace. We misplaced about $5,000 producing it. Nonetheless, it met the CCFA’s preliminary barrier to funding entry, and so we utilized for an organization grant. We weren’t profitable in that utility, nor have been we profitable in making use of for firm funding for the subsequent 4 years.

We then wrote to the CCFA and knowledgeable them that we might now not be making use of to the CCFA. By that point, Kokoro Dance had carried out greater than 260 occasions throughout Canada, in Europe, and in the united statesA., a lot of them with Jo in tow. He would go to sleep when the taiko drumming began in our college present, Rage. Perhaps these pounding rhythms had some unconscious affect in his eventual option to develop into a musician.

Once we knowledgeable the CCFA of our resolution to now not apply, we have been instructed that our final manufacturing, Sunyata, had acquired a wonderful evaluation. We requested if that meant we might obtain an organization grant. The reply was “no”—we wanted to obtain three wonderful assessments. Nevertheless, we have been additionally instructed that if we utilized once more, we might give the CCFA the names of those that we didn’t need as assessors and counsel people who we might be comfortable to view our work.

We determined to use another time and instructed the CCFA that not one of the creative administrators of CCFA-funded dance firms have been allowed to evaluate us. As an alternative, we might be comfortable to be assessed by anybody from the theatre, music, opera, interdisciplinary, or visible arts disciplines.

The CCFA despatched two theatre administrators to see our work. They gave us wonderful assessments, and in 1992 we acquired our first firm grant. It was $20,000 as a substitute of the conventional $50,000, as a result of prime minister Brian Mulroney had minimize funding to the CCFA that 12 months.

Bats by Kokoro Dance.

For the subsequent 18 years, we continued to dwell under the poverty line. There was one 12 months once we needed to go on welfare; others the place we might work for six months and go on Employment Insurance coverage for six months.

In 2000, with none funding, we began the Vancouver Worldwide Dance Competition. We’ve got by no means acquired a wage for producing it up to now 22 years. Believing that dance shouldn’t simply be accessible to those that have the means to purchase tickets, we now have made it a coverage to by no means let lack of funds bar anybody from attending VIDF occasions.

Kokoro Dance’s performances and lessons on the 2023 pageant are free to anybody who needs to attend. 

Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget are co-founders of Vancouver’s Kokoro Dance. They’re additionally the creators and curators of the Vancouver Worldwide Dance Competition, which runs this 12 months till March 25.



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