“Another highlight was Gabrielle Nomura’s 'Farewell Shikata ga nai,' ... The Japanese drum ensemble in the background created a rich, rhythmic structure that created an aura of unrest throughout the work. At the same time, the dancers’ intricate formations and effortless balletic movements provided an effective contrast.” - Seattle Dances
“As the the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, we couldn't be more pleased to support Gabrielle’s new work, which is both an artistic endeavor, as well as a community-building project with a strong social justice statement.”
"Choreographing the dance piece is one way of coming to terms with what happened to Nomura's family and the Japanese American community during the Japanese American incarceration in World War II."
Gabrielle Nomura Gainor's dance/theater/taiko piece Farewell Shikata ga nai was made possible by generous grants from the Office of Arts & Culture | Seattle and by Seattle JACL. The work premiered in spring 2014 at the 92nd Annual Japanese American Citizens League Banquet at Seattle University (March 21), and was then performed at Relay Dance Collective's Beginnings (April 11-13) at Theatre Puget Sound; the Cherry Blossom Festival (April 27); API Heritage Month in Seattle Center (May 4) and culminated in a final performance and panel discussion at Wing Luke Asian American Museum (June 7).
A mother and her child straight out of the 1940s wander on to the dimly-lit stage, fearful and bewildered, carrying their belongings en route to an internment camp. Shortly afterward, a woman in modern-day dress follows in their footsteps, as if she is searching for the path her ancestors took. What follows are a series of small-group dances and acting scenes that tell the story of a time that the U.S. government has since deemed “a failure of political leadership” and the result of “racism and wartime hysteria.” The dramatic and highly-entertaining zenith of the piece comes from a large group dance performed to the thrilling and thunderous sound of Seattle Kokon Taiko. At the end of the piece, the audience meets the modern-day woman yet again, understanding now who she is; as her ancestors swirl around her as if in a dream, she reconciles a painful experience in her community with compassion and love, paying homage to the struggles of those who have passed on before her. Poignant blues music combined with audio of a former internee, John Nomura (the choreographer's grandfather), sets the emotional tone for the finale.
Learn more about "Shikata ga nai"
Instead of protesting Internment, many of the people who were forced to live behind barbed-wire thought it was important to demonstrate loyalty and compliance to the U.S. government. The attitude many of them felt about their situation could be described as Shikata ga nai meaning "It can't be helped." Today, 70 years later, this fifth-generation Japanese American dancer and choreographer is no longer bound by the same social and cultural values, the same moral dilemma that caused members of my community to utter that phrase of resignation. "While honoring my elders' patriotism, as an artist, I feel empowered to speak my mind about this dark moment in history," Nomura says. "I hope that my piece will make viewers think, reexamine what it means to be an American, and re-invest in freedom and justice for all."