GW dance students crowded Lincoln Theater Nov. 5 to see a two-part show led by GW associate professor of theater and dance Dana Tai Soon Burgess. His D.C.-based, Asian-American modern dance company, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company, is renowned for Asian-inspired works and visual clarity. It is currently celebrating its 12th season.
GW dance majors, minors or students enrolled in one or more of the various classes in the Theatre and Dance department had the opportunity to purchase tickets to the show through their professors.
“I think it is exciting to see how GW students are not only able to embrace the curriculum at GW, but also venture outside and further explore our GW dance community because they are the dancers and choreographers of the future,” Burgess said.
“It’s incredible that we, as GW dancers, are able to surround ourselves with and learn from the best of D.C,” said Hayley Cutler, a freshman intermediate modern dance student.
“I saw several moves we learned in class,” said another student, freshman Mark Prysler, whose professor, Connie Lin Fink, was one of Burgess’s performers.
“Our teacher gives us a lot to aspire to in the classroom,” said freshman Sarah Martin. “I was amazed to see such small movements conveyed.”
The show opened with four solos mirrored after works of Michio Ito, the first Asian-American modern dance choreographer. They were “Pizzicattie,” 1916, an Ito signature solo, “Tone Poem I,” 1928, a representation of humanity’s struggle and final acceptance of the forces of nature, “Tone Poem II,” 1928, a representation of humanity’s inherent need to question authority and societal structures, and “Ave Mari, 1914,” choreography created at the Dalcroze Institute. The solos incorporated what Ito called his “Dalcrozian musical roots” and “East-West minimalist aesthetic.”
The second portion of the show, “Tracings,” is a homage created by Burgess through his family’s memories of leaving Seoul to start a new life in Hawaii. Burgess performed in the piece, and his mother made an appearance while family photos were projected over the stage.
“The audience can relate to ‘Tracings’ because everyone has gone through immigration,” Fink said. The show was first commissioned by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and the Kennedy Center’s “Etcetera” series.
“It is a series of danced memories, interconnected by threads of emotions that ebb and flow. For me, ‘Tracings’ is a prayer, which I present to honor those brave Koreans who embraced the unknown over 100 years ago and whose journeys have now become a vivid part of our American tapestry,” Burgess wrote in the playbill.
Burgess holds a master of fine arts degree from GW. He teaches five different dance classes at GW, where he stresses the importance of simple movement.