Sunday, January 29, 2012
Saturday, January 28, 2012
After my first travels to Peru when I set repertory work on the ballet, I returned to create Accoralada or corralled to a live orchestra. It was my first experience with a full live orchestra, an experience which is almost unheard of anymore in dance in America due to cost limitations of the music union. I learned so much and even collaborated with a Japanese Peruvian visual artist on the set design. I was in a constant deja vu state in Lima because it felt so much like Santa Fe, NM where I grew up, also a colony of Spain, that I returned through two consecutive Fulbrights to make works for the San Marcos Ballet where I also taught modern dance. It is directed by a wonderful ex-pat named Vera Stasny whom after a Fulbright stayed in Lima. My company came down each trip to tour all over Peru. We have wonderful friends from Arequipa to Cuzco. I felt so strongly about the incredible artist there that we assisted in sponsoring the first tour of the National Ballet to the Kennedy Center and have hosted many Peruvian dance artists to DC since. I believe that the best American dance programs are reciprocal. Friendships should be maintained for years to come and so I am very proud of the company's continued relations with the Peruvian community of dance. The fundamental component of arts diplomacy is to create lasting friendship through which we can better understand a global perspective. I can honestly say that I am still inspired by Peru and our repertory work Chino Latino about Asian Latino immigration relationships is still one of my favorite works. It demystifies how Asian and Latin cultures have historically worked together and is set to historic music scores from all over Latin and South America that reference Asian communities living in Latin counties. No wonder my nickname as a child was "Chino"!
Friday, January 27, 2012
In 1999 these sites were under attack from militant Muslims. The art was considered a threat. I remember visiting a chained up museum of Buddhist art that had been recently looted by the Taliban. In the dark, using a flashlight to look at the works that had survived with a security team in tow, these ancient works unfolded before me. Pakistan's people are so diverse being at the cross roads of the East and West for centuries. Faces in the Swat Valley are informed by multiple Semetic tribes, the Chinese, Europeans and more.
I visited 6 dance artists in Pakistan. I choose not to name them to protect them. At the time under strict Muslim law, dancing was illegal but not always enforced as so. Dancers survived under the radar. I met with dancers, watched their choreography, exchanged ideas on art and even thoughts on the effects of the Partician on Katak which is a often thought of as a Hindu based form. My final artist exchange occurred near the tribal areas with a talented Katak dancer. In her home was a man recovering from a gun shot wound. He had been shot for dancing. He had almost died. He appeared to be in his early twenties and was very thin and weak. We sat together and I was so moved by the fact that they danced with the full fear of being killed for practicing their art. They believed so wholeheartedly in dance that it was tantamount to their own physical safety. I will never forget these wonderful dancers. It has stayed with me for years. Now when I hear a dancer question their belief in their work, their funding, their lack of accolades, and a plethora of other woes, these are the dancers that come to mind. How lucky we are to be able to dance freely and express ourselves openly. We have the freedom to build dances with a sheer sense of openness and to communicate our thoughts and ideas through dance to others. May we all find a place to dance with freedom and remember what a gift freedom of expression is and strive to help our fellow artists.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
The works that stand out for me over the last 2 decades that illuminate personal and historic displacement issues include: Tracings a recount of my own family's new American experiences in the Korean Hawaiian community of Oahu in the early 1900's, Island, the story of Chinese Immigrants trapped on Angel Island in midst of the Chinese Exclusionary Acts of the late 1800's, Hyphen which explores the reality of the hyphenated American identity with visuals by Nam June Paik, Charlie Chan and the Mystery of Love, an autobiographic story about growing up as a Korean American in a Latino community and most recently Becoming American, the story of one of our dancers Katia Chupashko who is a Korean adoptee. My goal has always been to create works that are poetic, allow for empathy and understanding while presenting a strong message about inclusion. I am often asked how have you survived and continued to grow as an artist when the field of dance seems to be moving toward commercialism, pyrotechnics and a failing hierarchical management? I always respond by saying
"nurture your own unique aesthetic, don't follow the norm but follow your heart and never forget that one of the greatest goals of art is to build bridges of universal understanding. This path is not easy or simple but it is rewarding and heartfelt. If your art cannot transcend cultural boundaries then go back to the drawing board until someone in DC or Lima, NYC or Chennai, Beijing or Quito can understand the emotional core of your art."
My goal is to have each audience member feel that images in my work resonate with them personally and move them to be more empathetic to the larger human concepts of journey and the physical and emotional struggle to find a place to belong.