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Q&A with Haruko Nishimura | 1994 GAP, Performance

Sofia Babaeva

Communications Intern

On photo: Haruko Crow Nishimura (a poster for Degenerate art Orchestra show at the Moore ) photo credit: Steven Miller Photography

Q: What kind of art do you make?
A: I am a dancer, choreographer, co-director and musician of Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE) who is always searching to discover how art can create deeper connections and awakenings.  I have lead the creation of large scale theatrical works with DAE as well as performed as lead vocalist for the group’s touring experimental punk orchestra.  My work with Degenerate Art Ensemble are contemporary fairytales and audience interactions asking questions about human connections and the human condition.  I have collaborated with companies including Olson Kundig Architects as well as with human services organizations such as Path with Art in Seattle and the Central City S.R.O. collaborative in San Francisco. I challenge myself to push the boundaries of my medium; dancing in the street, creating rituals for strangers constantly seeking collaboration outside of my media.

Q: What did you use your award for?
A: My first GAP grant was to produce a concert for the Young Composers Collective- a group of composers and performers that my partner Joshua Kohl and myself has artistically directed and curated. We were dedicated to creating and supporting original compositions by its own members and other composers.  The group existed from 1994-1999. More recently I received an Artist Trust GAP award for a collaboration between myself as dancer /vocalist and another experimental and local vocalist/dancer Christian Swenson.

Q: What was the impact of this award/Artist Trust on your art career/life?
A: The 1994 GAP grant was the very first grant I received and it paved the way for us to learn to apply to other grants both locally and nationally which has become a very important part of our livelihood. The GAP grant gave us a validation in our careers and supported our efforts as artists, and now Joshua Kohl and I have individually are supported by grants such as Guggenheim Fellowship and Creative Capital and the New Music USA and the MAP Fund.

Haruko Crow Nishimura is a dancer, director and vocalist who has artistic­ directed the performance company Degenerate Art Ensemble since its formation in 1999 which is her primary creative outlet. The group creates performance work infused with the energy of live music and driven by her own style of visceral movement theater, vocals and dance. The group’s experimental dance and theater projects, concerts and site­transforming spectacles have been presented in 10 countries. Recent highlights of the group’s work include a major exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in 2011, commissioned by director Robert Wilson to re-interpret his work E​instein on the Beach​ in 2012 and collaborated with the Kronos Quartet in 2013 and 2015. Also in 2012, Degenerate Art Ensemble was commissioned by the city of Seattle to create a massive site specific work​ U​nderbelly​ in collaboration with O​lson Kundig Architects​ to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair. The group’s most recent work​ P​redator Songstress​ premiered at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco in 2015, followed by Seattle and will show in New York in November of 2017. In December of 2016, DAE will team up with Czech rock legends Uz Jsme Doma for an epic orchestral work inspired by the music of​ U​z Jsme Doma​ and the music of Degenerate Art Ensemble for a concert at the Archa Theatre in Prague, followed by a performance in Seattle in the spring of 2017 featuring vocals by Miraslov Wanek and H. Crow Nishimura.
In addition to her work with DAE, Haruko is constantly collaborating with both local and international artists to push the boundaries of her medium dancing in the street, creating rituals for strangers in cemeteries, public spaces.