Dance professor wins citywide award

An assistant professor of dance at GW was given the D.C. Metro Dance Award for outstanding overall large producion last month. The professor, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, also choreographs and directs for his dance company, Dana Tai Soon Burgess and Co.

“It doesn’t change what I think about art, but it’s a nice pat on the back for a work created last year and it was a big surprise,” Burgess said. He received this award for “Images from the Embers,” a dance performance about love and death during war. The production debuted at Lisner Auditorium in 2006, and has since been presented to audiences all around the world.

This is Burgess’ fourth time winning the Metro Dance Award. He has also won two D.C. Mayor’s Arts Awards. The awards celebrate and promote excellence and diversity within the D.C. dance community.

Burgess has been dancing for 25 years and said it was his father who originally inspired him to pursue dancing at what would usually be considered a rather old age to begin.

“I did martial arts as a kid – when I was growing up from 8 to 16 – and Dad said ‘Why don’t you start a dance class?'”

Burgess said dance can be transformative for people of any age.

“Anyone can start dancing at anytime in their life . Burgess said. “An adult can start dancing when they are 50 years old and a young student can begin dancing at 6 or 7 and the journey is just different, but it definitely moves the spirit and changes the quality of your life.”

Burgess and his company will perform at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 12 and 13.They will perform parts of “Images from the Embers,” as well as others dances such as “Mandala,” inspired by a visit to Pakistan, and Tracings, inspired by his family history of Koreans coming to Hawaii in 1903 to work in the plantations.

“Dana is such a good manager regardless of the dance aspect,” said Sarah Halzack, a 2006 GW alumna who now dances in Burgess’s company. “He is good at maintaining a constant vibe among the dancers and the company . and I look at that and I see that that is the model that I would like to have in my life, in any personal or professional situation”.

Burgess is one of three full-time dance professors at GW. There are about eight part-time dance professors. He teaches intermediate and advanced modern dance and choreography.

“I am proud and happy that Dana has received this recognition of his powerful and provocative work as a choreographer,” Leslie Jacobson, chair of the theater and dance department, wrote in an e-mail.

“He’s the reason why we’ve all become the dancers we have,” senior Cara Zimbalist said.

Candidates are nominated by the general public between June and May. The nominees are then compiled into a ballot which is given out to practicing dance artists who choose the finalists.

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