Press Kit

"When Dreams are Interrupted..."

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Photo credit: Theresa Thadani. Dancers Sharon Sato,
Ruth Ichinaga and Arisika Razak in Purple Moon’s
“When Dreams Are Interrupted…”

Press contact:
Lori Higa


Site-specific work-in-progress takes place at historic Julia Morgan-designed Japanese YWCA in San Francisco’s Japantown Sunday, May 3, 2 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— In her latest work with Purple Moon Dance Project, founder and artistic director Jill Togawa, in collaboration with fellow accomplished Bay Area artists, conjures up the “interrupted dreams,” stories and memories of Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated in camps during World War II.

“When Dreams Are Interrupted…" invites us to witness the profound imprint of the mass evacuation of Japanese-Americans during the war -- and the rupture of a community,” says Togawa.

The work-in-progress begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 3 and is open to the general public. Sliding scale donations are welcomed, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
A suggested donation of $15 is for reserved seating. The completed work is slated for two weekends in October in Berkeley.

The multimedia work-in-progress is inspired by Togawa’s discovery of the moving story of the Nakazawa family, previous owners of her home, in what was once a thriving Japanese- and African-American neighborhood in south Berkeley. The family, along with their Japanese-Americans neighbors, were forced into an internment camp in 1942. The Japanese garden with redwood tree that the Nakazawas planted was left untended. The redwood tree still grows today, both a monument to the pain suffered by, and symbol of the strength of the Japanese community.

Togawa is a fourth-generation yonsei from Hawai’i whose own connection to the internment is personal—her mother and grandparents were among 1,200 Japanese brought over from Hawai’i to be confined on the mainland.

The Nakazawas’ story has inspired Togawa to create a work that pays tribute to the “interrupted dreams” of Japanese-Americans. The performance examines the mark they left on the neighborhood, evokes personal recollections, and opens up a space for healing and understanding in the present day.

For this piece Togawa collaborated with Bay Area artist Ellen Bepp, musicians Claudia Cuentas, Laura Inserra, Grammy nominee and shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) master Masayuki Koga, and dancers Ruth Ichinaga, Michelle Fletcher, Arisika Razak and Sharon Sato. Both Bepp and Ichinaga have connections to the internment. Members of Bepp’s family and Ichinaga herself were incarcerated in camps.

“Re-imagining Pieces of Japantowns,” a panel with historians, experts and internees considering the intersection of art, history and memory, and a reception will follow the performance.

With this production, Togawa comes full circle. Her first commission, by the late jazz composer Glenn Horiuchi, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans. Togawa has formed relationships with Berkeley Methodist United Church, Preserving California’s Japantowns project, and big band musician, author and historian George Yoshida, to gather background, collect personal reflections, connect the dots and authenticate historical details of the work.

“When Dreams Are Interrupted…” is made possible through the support of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, California Council for the Humanities, East Bay Community Foundation’s East Bay Fund for Artists, GFTA/SF Hotel Tax Fund, Horizons Foundation and individual donors in the Purple Moon Galaxy.

Community supporters include Asian Improv aRts, Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC), Berkeley Methodist United Church (BMUC), Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC), Japantown Task Force, Kimochi, Inc., Nihonmachi Little Friends, and Preserving California’s Japantowns, a project of the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council.


Purple Moon Dance Project explores the continuum of intimacy between women and illuminates less visible, and unheard stories from our communities, through the integration of non-western and western dance forms and aesthetics, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Our mission is to contribute to transformation, peace and healing in society through the medium of dance.

For the past 10 years, Purple Moon has developed holistic programs through its Community Arts & Health Education programs, primarily for women of color with life-threatening illness, elders and individuals in recovery, using dance and movement to heal.

The programs are held in conjunction with the Latino Commission of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Chinatown Public Health Center and Shanti's LifeLines and are funded in part by: Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the California Arts Council, Horizons Foundation, Johnson & Johnson Society for the Arts in Healthcare Partnership, SF Arts Commission, Grants for the Arts (GFTA)/SF Hotel Tax Fund, The California Endowment and The California Wellness Foundation.

For more information or to volunteer, donate and sponsor, call 415-552-1105, email:, or go to Purple Moon Dance Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

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Artist Bios

Jill Togawa, artistic director, is an accomplished dancer and choreographer whose career spans more than 30 years. She has added to her Western dance training (B.A. in dance from the University of Hawai’i) by studying traditional Japanese, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and Hawaiian dance. She has worked with the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York, Asian American Dance Performances, Virginia Matthews Dance Company and numerous other choreographers in San Francisco.  Togawa has received three California Arts Council residencies, an individual artist commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission and a residency from the Gaea Foundation. In 1992, she founded Purple Moon Dance Project (PMDP) and as its artistic director her work has been presented in Hawai'i, New York, throughout California and the northwest, New Mexico, Michigan, Indiana, Vancouver, BC and Beijing.  The New York Times has called her work “radiant;” the Los Angeles Times describes it as “diversity made physical;” and Togawa has been honored by the Commission on the Status of Women for her commitment to community building.  Togawa is the choreographer of “When Dreams Are Interrupted….”

Ellen Bepp, collaborating artist, is a visual and textile artist, as well as principal taiko (Japanese drum) performer with Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble.  She has studied at the Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts in Berkeley as well as art and textiles in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Japan.  She has previously collaborated with Togawa and PMDP in recent productions TransMissions (2006) and Mahina (2007).  Exhibitions, collaborations, and commissions include (among others) “Issho/Together: Japanese American/Japanese National Artists in America 1941-Present,” Meridian Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2004); and “Ghosts of Little Boy, Artists for Peace,” National Japanese American Historical Society Peace Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2005). Bepp created the visual arts installations for of “When Dreams Are Interrupted….”

Principal/guest artists (dancers):  Michelle Fletcher has an MFA from Florida State University and has danced for Dan Wagoner, Gerri Houlihan and Benoit Pouffer.  Ruth Ichinaga, 74, has studied improvisational dance with Terry Sendgraff for 10 years, and has studied and played taiko for 12 years.  Arisika Razak is an African-American performance artist who has performed nationally and internationally as a solo dancer, choreographer, guest lecturer and workshop leader, with work featured in the films A Place of Rage and Fire Eyes.  Sharon Sato studied music at the University of Oregon and has performed with the Pearl Ubungen Dancers and Musicians and with Theatre Artaud.

Musicians:  Claudia Cuentas is a multi-instrumentalist, bilingual storyteller, youth educator and performing artist with Samavesha.  She studied at the National Music Conservatory of Lima, Peru, the Tamalpa Institute and the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).  She has performed in several projects with renowned Bay Area artists such as Anna Halprin, Soto Hoffman, Barbara Borden, Lucia Comnes and Lulacruza.   Her musical approach is a somatic experience, where movement, sound and story are interconnected.  She currently works with immigrant women, children and families in San Francisco and East Bay communities using music, theater and drama therapy to teach diversity and wellness.

Laura Inserra is a multi-instrumentalist, performer, composer and teacher from Sicily.  Her style is a fusion of different musical genres from the classical to the electronic.  “My vision is to unite in one time and space different art expressions and to create an occasion for both performers and audience to immerse themselves in that which is being created.  Samavesha is the current manifestation of this understanding.  Samavesha is a sanskrit word for divine union, perfect merging of consciousness.  The word holds a double meaning/power:  to immerse yourself in something and already to be immersed in it.”

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