Upcoming Meeting/Speaker07 July 2014

Rachel Cooper - Director for Cultural Programs and Performing Arts, Asia Society

Rachel Cooper – Director for Cultural Programs and Performing Arts, Asia Society

Rachel Cooper

Director for Cultural Programs and Performing Arts, Asia Society 

Rachel Cooper has been at the Asia Society since 1996 and is the Director for Cultural Programs and Performing Arts. She has extensive experience in the presentation of traditional and contemporary Asian and Asian-American performing arts and the development of interdisciplinary programs. Recently, as part of the programming at the Asia Society, she presented Parisa, the renowned Iranian singer, Houmayun Sakhi and Mahwash, master Afghan musicians that included lectures and performance, and Khazakh epic singer Almasbek Almatov. and a twelve-city tour Dance:the Spirit of Cambodia, with a company of forty one artists from Cambodia and a contextual web site of the same name; and an eight-city tour by India’s famed Chorus Repertory Theatre of Manipur directed by Ratan Thiyam. Current projects include a three-part program titled  Sufi Traditions and Music: New Interpretations of Transcendent Vision with Iranian singer Shahram Nazeri, Pakistani singer Abida Parveen and Pakistani-American singer Salman Ahmad.

As part of her work at the Asia Society, she commissioned, produced and presented over fifteen new works including In What Language, a theatrical work for music and spoken word by composer Vijay Iyer and poet Mike Ladd; The Floating Box: A Story of Chinatown a chamber opera by Jason Hwang; 18 Songs of a Nomad Flute: The Story of Wenji a bi-lingual opera by Bun-Ching Lam and Xu Ying ( with the Hong Kong Arts Festival);  Forgiveness, a music theater work conceived and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, in collaboration with composer Eve Beglarian, and Noh master Akira Matsui, and Empty Tradition/City Of Peonies with Chinese choreographer Yin Mei and Indonesian composer Tony Prabowo., I-Land with Keo Woolford and Robert Uno,

Ms. Cooper was the Associate Director of the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance where she assisted in establishing the Center and implemented phase one of the Asia Pacific Performance Exchange project.  In this capacity, she worked with performing artists from China, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam, India and Indonesia. From 1988-1993, she directed the Festival of Indonesia In Performance program which brought twelve traditional and contemporary performing arts groups from Indonesia to tour and perform in the United States.  In twelve separate tours, over 180 artists performed in 30 states around the United States. She worked as an advisor on several television documentary programs, including the eight-part PBS series DANCING, which focused on the role of dance around the world; and Distant Lives, a PBS documentary on Balinese music and dance. She is currently an advisor for the National Dance Project, as well as Libraries on Fire a film series that looks at history through the eyes of elders of traditions in Asia.

Ms. Cooper is the co-founder, former director, current board president of the San Francisco-based Balinese music and dance company, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, which has been presenting the arts of Bali in the United States since 1979. Ms. Cooper did her undergraduate and graduate work at UCLA in Ethnic Arts and Dance Ethnology. She lived in Indonesia for six years from 1983-89. She is the recipient of the 2006 William Dawson award for Programming Excellence, an ‘Izzy’ (Isadora Duncan) award for the Festival of Indonesia, a Rockefeller grant for choreography, and the Clifton F. Webb award for film. Ms. Cooper is an advisor for the National Dance Project and the co-chair of the Arts Presenters annual conference for 2005 and  2006. She is the president of the board of directors for Gamelan Sekar Jaya. She was awarded the 2006 Dawson Award for sustained achievement in performing arts programmatic excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP)

Her talk at Rotary will introduce us to cultural diplomacy through the arts of Asia.


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