I've done rideshare driving in Los Angeles in order to earn a little extra money and to give me time to keep sorting out my photography career.  One particular evening I picked a passenger and struck up a great conversation. Alison was vibrant and deeply passionate. She spoke with me about her newly acquired job with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) in downtown LA. She was their new Director of Performing Arts and Community Engagement and she was very very eager to bring influential art and performance pieces to the Center and to share them with the greater Los Angeles community.

Something that excites me is the spirit of passion and passionate people. You can feel it when someone is truly speaking from their heart, and during this car ride Alison was truly speaking from her heart. You could feel it and I was enthralled. During the ride, she spoke of marketing and being able to really get the JACCC's vision out into the world in broader ways. I offered, "well...I don't know if it helps, but I'm a photographer." "Really?" I let her know that I had been freelancing for a few years and that events and performing arts were in my portfolio.Alison was excited and saw an open window of connection and offered me a very quick upcoming opportunity. The JACCC would be holding their Kotohajime event just three days after our meeting. Thursday---->Sunday. She asked if I was interested. 

This was another one of those moments to absolutely have a business card in hand and give it to Alison. Was I prepared that night? Of course not (it's really not funny anymore. I should always have cards on my persons). But I believe in God and His timing and that some things are meant to be. Though I did not have a card, Alison handed me her's prompting, "send me an email with some of your work and hopefully we can book you for Sunday..." I did just that, and before I knew it was headed down to the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. Life is full of cool surprises. I officially had a new client. 

What was the Kotohajime event? I learned about it in the days leading to the event and learned even more while covering it. I figured it was best to "borrow" the description of the Kotohajime event from the JACCC's Facebook page. In their words:

Every January, Little Tokyo becomes the center for celebrating the Japanese New Year in Southern California, with the JACCC heading up the festivities with programs that invigorate the spirit and imagination. Literally meaning “the beginning of things,” Kotohajime will celebrate the Year of the Monkey with the theme titled Hatsu-Yama or “First Mountain.” Curated by Artistic Director Hirokazu Kosaka, the original Kotohajime performance is a visual delight and artistic achievement, with dazzling performances and live music, accompanied by an award-winning set design.

Before the performance began, I arrived at the JACCC and naturally the entrance to the theatre is preceded by the JACCC plaza. It is a really wonderful outdoor public space which was completed in 1983, three years after the initial JACCC Center Building was completed in 1980. 

I was speaking with Alison, and getting to know a few other JACCC staff members, and starting to casually photograph the exterior space before the performance. Suddenly an image serendipitously (a word/descriptor I'm overusing for this post, but the appropriate one) emerged: a young man, not associated with the JACCC, decided to walk to the plaza this day with his cello. He simply sat down and started to practice. The children running and playing behind him was beyond fortuitous: 

That was one of the first images I captured for/at the JACCC and it was a very positive omen. I could tell this would be a very warm and friendly place to work. I was able to capture a few exteriors of the 880 seat Aratani Theatre as guests arrived before the performance:

It was eventually time to head inside. The program was filled with singers, dancers, buk drummers, and even a contemporary ballet group ranging from various backgrounds: Japanese, Korean, American and more. The show opened with snowfall over a lattice screen and I was transfixed from that moment onward...

A very well choreographed traditional Korean buk performance:

A delightful performance by members of the Colburn Dance Academy

It's hard to pick favorites, but possibly by favorite performance of the day: a solo Japanese dance by Bando Hidesomi

A musical selection leading into the program's finale by Opera Singer Soloist Keiko Takeshita:

Each year's Kotohajime celebration ends with The Rite of Purification. It is a Kyudo ritual in which a bow is shot and is followed by colorful paper streamers released from above signifying the start of a new year. Visually exciting and pleasing. Archer, Hirokazu...

After the performance, a few words from the JACCC board starting with JACCC President and CEO, Leslie Ito: 

Consul General Harry H. Horinouchi: 

Guests were asked to head over to the George J. Diozaki Gallery for a small reception with desserts and a few nice pieces of children's artwork on the walls: 


It was an incredible afternoon and evening and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to work with the JACCC. As you can see below or from the blogroll, it would not be the last time I worked with the JACCC in 2016. 

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