Beyond the Box II ~ Yu (遊)

May 4 – 6, 2018

Beyond the Box II ~ Yu (遊) takes another step and explores the roles of women from the confines of traditional Japanese classical dance where female characters are predominantly limited to subtle, contained, and subdued expressions. Up against this notion of submission, “Yu” boldly and creatively deviates from the accepted norm in traditional Japanese performance practices, the performers facilitate the meta-perceptual opportunity to embody the full range of emotional and physical expression, strength, and power, and subconsciously accepted standards for gender identity.

Grandmaster Yoshinojo Fujima, Reduction Ensemble, led by renown artist/creative musician Tatsu Aoki, Hokkaido calligraphy artist Natsuki Kubo, and synthesized electric guitarist/composer/sound artist Julia A. Miller present: “Yu (遊)” as the concluding event of the Bridge Dance Festival. The performance also commemorates the first collaboration of the Chicago-Obihiro Artist Exchange. Integrating the past with the present; a transfusion of traditional arts, Japanese dance, calligraphy, taiko (Japanese drums), shamisen (3-stringed lute) and conceptual extrapolations, fashioning a state of reflection and realization.


Prop master: Steve Ducklow
Scenery Consultants: Yoko Kawaguchi & Duncan Robert Anderson
Graphic Design: Al Brandtner
Costume/Make-up: Grandmaster Shunojo Fujima
Videographers: Rebecca Tsai & Yao Dang

Japanese Artist

Natsuki Kubo

Natsuki Kubo ~ A design calligrapher, a.k.a Hourin Natsuki was born in Kyowa-Chou, Hokkaido in 1984. She started learning calligraphy at age 7 from Master calligrapher Zuihou Sato. In 2009, she created her original writing method that combines letters and illustrations. In 2012, she moved her working base to Sapporo. At the same time, she started to collaborate and perform with artists and creators of various industry genres such as sound, clothing designers, lighting, and food. In 2014~15, she expanded the range of her artworks to include group exhibitions, workshops, and demonstrations in Japan and in America (Chicago). In 2016 she formed a unit “Wakana” to enjoy calligraphy in kimono. Her motto is “to live with calligraphy a life-time”, expand the charm of calligraphy, which is one of traditional Japanese cultural arts, for future generations.

US Artists

Fujima Yoshinojo

Chicago-area native, Yoshinojo Fujima (a.k.a Rika Lin) is an interdisciplinary performing artist, based as a Japanese classical dancer/choreographer. She received her professional name in 2006 as a member of the Fujima Ryu Japanese Classical Dance School in Japan, and attained her grandmastership last year, which certifies her with a shihan (teaching license). She is an active performing member of Toyoaki Shamisen, and performs in collaborations with Asian Improv aRts MidWest, Tsukasa Taiko, and Tatsu Aoki’s the Miyumi Project and was featured in the 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival at the J. Pritzker Pavilion, and has performed at such venues as the Elastic Arts, Hairpin Arts Center, Constellation, Chicago Cultural Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. She presented her “Beyond the Box” presentation/series at Links Hall as an Artistic Associate Curatorial Residency for the 2017 season, and is currently conducting research for “Asobi – Playing within Time” project as a Chicago Dancemakers Forum 2017 Lab Artist.

Tatsu Aoki

Tatsu Aoki is a leading advocate for the Asian American community, as well as a prolific composer and performer of traditional and experimental music forms, a filmmaker, and an educator. Born in Tokyo, 1957 into the Toyoakimoto artisan family, a traditional house for training and booking agents for geisha. Aoki was part of his family’s performance crew from the age of four. In the late 1960s, he shifted his energies from the traditional to American pop and experimental music. By the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement as a member of Gintenkai, an experimental ensemble that combined traditional music and new Western forms. In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo and is now one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, contributing more than ninety recording projects and touring internationally during the last thirty-five years. Aoki is Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, which celebrated its twentieth year in 2015. Aoki was named one of 2001’s “Chicagoans of the year” by Chicago Tribune for his music for his cross cultural music and has performed with masters such as Roscoe Mitchell, Don Moye, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and the late Chicago legend Fred Anderson. Aoki’s suite ROOTED: Origins of Now, a four-movement suite for big band, premiered in 2001 at Ping Tom Memorial Park, and was performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival and at MCA Stage as part of Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival. Additional notable releases include Basser Live (1999) and Basser Live II (2005), recorded live at MCA Stage; The MIYUMI Project (2000), Symphony of Two Cities (2002), and Posture of Reality with Wu Man (2003). The Asian American Institute awarded Aoki the Milestone Award in 2007 for his contribution to Chicago-area arts. In 2010, he received the Japan America Society of Chicago’s Cultural Achievement Award as well as a 3Arts Artist Award. He received the “Living in our Culture” award by the Japanese American Service Committee in 2014 and the Jazz Heroes’ Award by the National Jazz Journalist Association in 2015. In 2016, his Miyumi Project ensemble was the official musical presenter for the unveiling of Yoko Ono’s “SKYLANDING” installation in Chicago’s own Jackson Park; which also resulted in the group recording the “SKYLANDING” album produced by Yoko Ono. In 2017, the group contributed their unique vibe to the soundtrack of the film documentary addressing the Japanese American Incarceration, “And Then They Came for Us”, and released the corresponding album: “And then They Came for Us – Un-American”. Additional accolades include Aoki’s own film “LIGHT”, which he directed, which was awarded the Best Experimental Film in the 2017 Canada International Film Festival. And most recently, he was selected by the Asian American Advisory Council of Illinois and received the Community Service Award from the Illinois Secretary of State; and he also received the prestigious Commendation for the Promotion of Japanese Culture from the Foreign Ministry in Japan, which is given to individuals with outstanding achievements in international fields, and acknowledges the recipients’ contributions to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries.

Reduction Ensemble

Tatsu Aoki’s Reduction Ensemble The original concept of Reduction was Tatsu Aoki’s creative response to the popular taiko drumming stripped of its musical elements, it argues for upholding the beauty in taiko performance and for its connectivity to aesthetics and musicality. The performative incarnation being realized annually for over 14 years at venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art as Taiko Legacy and Reduction. The Reduction Ensemble is the musical extension of this philosophy. A new configuration of one of Chicago’s traditional, experimental, and creative jazz music scene bulwarks, Tatsu Aoki’s Reduction Ensemble, synthesizes and weaves their vibe with the current member roster: Tatsu Aoki (shamisen/contrabass), Edward Wilkerson Jr. (saxophone, didgeridoo), Jamie Kempkers (cello), and KIOTO (taiko, tsuzumi).

Julia A. Miller

Julia A. Miller is a guitarist, composer, improviser, sound artist, visual artist, curator and educator. Julia specializes in synthesized electric guitar, performing as a soloist orcollaborator and with the band Volcano Radar, along with Elbio Barilari.

In 2011, a live recording of her solo performance on Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio Sunday Solos Series, “Solo Variations”, was released as a digital EP on the Chicago netlabel Pan y Rosas. in 2012, Julia was asked to participate in the $100 Guitar Project, a double cd release of improvised and composed short pieces by 65 different guitarists which was released on Bridge Records with proceeds benefitting CARE. Also in 2013, Volcano Radar released the digital EP “Refutation of Time” on Pan Y Rosas. Julia’s music has also been released on the Artco and Pilgrim Talk labels. Julia has been recognized by the blog Prepared Guitar

(, Many Many Women (, and Squid’s Ear, as well as the Chicago Reader.

Julia is Guitar Professor at Carthage College in Kenosha, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Sound at the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) in Chicago. Julia received a DMA in composition from Northwestern University in 2005.

Support for this performance

Special Thanks to: Grandmaster Shunojo Fujima, Kayako Kawaguchi, Tom Lee お父さん、お母さん、里奈 Millicent Drauer

Yu is funded By: ChicagoDancemakers Forum, High Concept Labs, Asian Improv aRts Midwest