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Yoko Shioya Awarded Taiwanese Cultural Collaboration Medal

  • Date:2023-10-20

Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director of the Japan Society in New York City, has received the 2023 Cultural Collaboration Medal from the Republic of China(Taiwan)’s Ministry of Culture. The award honors individuals who have provided long-term support and assistance to the development of Taiwan’s culture and art.

Shioya was recognized for her ongoing passion and work in connecting Taiwan and the World through performing arts. Since 2008, Japan Society has partnered with Taipei Cultural Center in New York to co-present Taiwanese dance companies/choreographers at Japan Society’s renowned Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia. Through dance programming, Shioya has connected with Taiwan and Taiwanese artists over the last fifteen years, bringing more than 10 Taiwanese dance companies/choreographers to New York City, such as Sun-Shier Dance Theatre(三十舞蹈劇場), Wind Dance Theatre(風之舞形), WCdance(林文中舞團), Anarchy Dance Theatre(安娜琪舞蹈劇場), I-Fen Tung(董怡芬), Shang-Chi Sun(孫尚綺), Yen-Cheng Liu(劉彥成), B.DANCE(丞舞製作), HORSE(驫舞製作), and Incandescence Dance(告白熾造).

Shioya moved to New York in 1988 after graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts, where she majored in musicology and dance history. In 2003, Shioya became the Director of Performing Arts at Japan Society and assumed the role of Artistic Director in 2006, taking on a larger responsibility for the Society's cultural offerings.

In 1997, the then-director of the performing arts program for the Japan Society launched the Japanese Contemporary Dance Showcase. The idea was to time the event to coincide with the annual New York conference for the Association for Performing Art Professionals (APAP) so the program could reach not only New Yorkers but also Western performing arts presenters. The program updates international presenters on trends in the East Asian contemporary dance scene without having to travel overseas.

In 2008, to mark the 2nd decade of this contemporary dance festival, Shioya expanded the program to feature new pieces by Taiwanese and South Korean choreographers alongside the works of Japanese choreographers. She renamed the event to Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia to reflect the growing visibility and vitality of creative exchange between the and East Asian contemporary dance communities. Shioya wanted to showcase this phenomenon at the event. 

The New York Times wrote an extensive review on the most recent event in January of 2022, and the work of the two featured Taiwanese choreographers received raving reviews. The event’s success was particularly rewarding for the program after having cancelled previous events due to the pandemic. During the pandemic, Shioya and Taipei Cultural Center in New York planned a nine-month long bi-weekly exchange workshop between Japanese and Taiwanese choreographers on Zoom. Both Japanese and Taiwanese artists learned and grew through the challenges of overcoming a language gap and conveying the nuance of breath and body movement when not physically sharing the same space. 

For the Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia, "international cultural exchange" means the exchange between each choreographer's work and the American audience. Shioya visits Taiwan every 12 to18 months, not only to watch choreographers’ performances but also to have a lengthy conversation with each choreographer. Through this indispensable process of  understanding and valuing their work, Shioya continuously searches for the uniqueness of Taiwanese culture in the work of Taiwanese artists and the common ground shared by  potential American audiences. 

When asked about her views on cultural exchanges, Shioya shared: 

“a key to successfully conducting a cultural exchange between international artists is that you should start with a conversation with artists – try to get to know what is important for him/her for art making; what inspires them; what motivates them; what they are interested in and not interested in; what their current concern, and where they are heading to reach their goal, etc. etc. You have to be humble to listen to what they are talking about; and you have to respect their commitment to pursuing a challenging life of being an artist”.

For Shioya, through those conversations, she can tell whether artists’ work can resonate with audiences from a different culture, and whether the artist can thrive through collaboration with different. In the future, Shioya will continue creating strong connections with Taiwanese artists and Taiwan, and help raise the profile of Taiwanese art on the global stage.