Asia Society Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Beate Sirota Gordon (1923-2013) with an Afternoon of Performances and Remembrance, April 28 at 1:00pm

Beate Sirota Gordon

Asia Society present an afternoon program celebrating the life and legacy of Beate Sirota Gordon, former Asia Society Director of Performing Arts (1970-1991) and former Japan Society Director of Performing Arts (1958-1970). The program will feature live performances from Eiko and Koma, Margaret Leng Tan, Yin Mei, Ida Ayu Ari Candrawati. Yass Hakoshima, Guang Yu Fong Sachiyo Ito and Ralph Samuelson. Speakers include Raphael Mostel, Joel Sachs, Richard Schechner and Alan Evans. Video tributes will be screened from the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court and artists Yoko Ono, Robert Wilson, Sin Cha Hong, Ohad Naharin, Yoshito Ono and Somei Satoh.

Beate Sirota Gordon was an Austrian-born American performing arts presenter and women's rights advocate. Raised in Japan, she was part of the team that worked under Douglas MacArthur to write the Constitution of Japan after World War II, and is hailed as a feminist heroine in the country for her role in writing women’s rights into the document.

During her time as Asia Society’s director of performing arts and then later as director of performances, films and lectures, Gordon made it her mission to introduce North American audiences to the best performers Asia had to offer.

Gordon’s travels in search of authentic performing arts from Asia took her to such remote areas as Purulia in West Bengal, India, and Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia, where she sought out indigenous performing artists to bring to universities, museums, and other cultural venues in New York and across the United States and Canada. Over the years, Gordon produced nearly 40 tours from numerous countries in Asia. These performances were seen throughout the United States, introducing many Americans to Asian performing arts for the first time.

“Beate brought some of the most important traditional artists from Sri Lanka, Burma, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, among others" said Rachel Cooper, Asia Society's director of global performing arts. "She sought out the most authentic and exceptional artists. She worked with scholars who she commissioned to write about and contextualize the work, allowing audiences to gain a greater knowledge about these art forms.”

She is perhaps best known for her work, in her early 20s, as an interpreter on General Douglas MacArthur's staff during the United States' post-World War II occupation of Japan. Gordon is credited with having written women's rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and is to this day recognized as a "feminist heroine" in the country.

“Beate was iconic—from her work on the Japanese Constitution to her groundbreaking work bringing performing artists to audiences across the U.S. during her time at Asia Society,” Cooper said. “She is famed in Japan for her work with MacArthur, and had a major impact on Asian performance, from traditional Burmese music and dance to Butoh-esque contemporary Kazuo Ohno. She also influenced American artists such as Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Julie Taymor and Robert Wilson. She will be remembered for inspiring a generation of artists and audiences on two continents.”

“It's hard to think of anybody who's had a greater influence in opening American eyes to Asian cultures and values,” said Robert Oxnam, former president of the Asia Society. “She brought the greatest dancers, musicians and actors from cultures across Asia to American audiences who had never seen or appreciated them.”

This program is part of President's Forum, endowed by a grant from the Hazen Polsky Foundation. 

Celebrating Beate Gordon will take place at Asia Society’s Lila Acheson Wallace Auditorium on Sunday, April 28 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Asia Society is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City. This event is free but reservations are recommended. For tickets and details, please visit or call 212-517-ASIA. The program will be live webcast free at at 1:00 pm ET. An invitation-only memorial at 5:00pm will also be live webcast. Read more about her extraordinary life here.

Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonprofit nonpartisan educational institution. Through exhibitions and public programs, Asia Society provides a forum for the issues and viewpoints reflected in the work of Asian and Asian American artists, and in both traditional and contemporary Asian art and in Asia today. Asia Society is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City.

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