photo by Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


We had a photo session with the amazing Robbie Sweeny again.
Dead/Alive will premiere in February 2012, but I'll show sneak-peak of the process this coming Wednesday and Thursday at Garage. 
Ronja Ver, the unparalleled Finnish-born dancer will appear on video. 
Get your tickets in advance, these shows will sell out! 

For tickets and info visit

Dead/Alive is about dealing with mortality. It's going to be ugly: pain and loss. In the end everybody will die. What's not to love? Ronja Ver (on video), Emily Leap (on video), Minna Harri (live) perform.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Uncanny Colours

Aged four or five I sneaked into the walk-in closet in my maternal grandparent’s house. Really a narrow and deep storage room it housed seasonal clothing currently not in use, piles of folded sheets, boxes with linen handkerchiefs (some with vintage cartoon prints), long forgotten fur hats, silk gowns last worn a quarter century earlier. I think I was told not to go there, but I went anyway. I was very quiet and made sure not to make a mess.
Center of the floor there was a hatch atop an earth cellar. I had no intention of going THERE. I had been warned against it, but that was really not necessary. The cellar was a dark and murky place, chilly and small. You had to hold an electric torch to find the right jam, bottle of sherry, or the bag of potatoes you needed. I had often seen my Grandma open the hatch, then lean it against the wall while she climbed down the ladder a few rungs. She directed the flashlight with the other hand. She was always fast. (She is always fast, whatever she does.) Ostensibly I had to keep an eye on the hatch so it wouldn’t bang close. Probably she appreciated the company, the connection to other people while down in the cellar.  
The most magical thing in this secret room was a ball of yarn that my Grandma had around that time. She had a broad, shallow basket where she kept her yarn and mending needles. (She never knit.) I crept under the hanging winter coats and saw the basket. And there was a round, perfect thing of unidentified nature. I took it out and brought it to light for inspection. I had never seen anything simultaneously so vibrant and so unreal. It was wool, but I had never seen the color before. It seemed to radiate, to suck the now grey environment into its own universe. There was plenty that looked familiar, but unmistakably it was not that familiar thing. It wasn’t blue. And it was not green. I found it breathtakingly beautiful.
Recognizing familiar in something new and strange is uncanny. I later asked my parents about it. It was dark turquoise. They found it nothing special.
No colour combination has ever sucked me into beauty the way green and blue juxtaposed does. You’d think that’s everywhere in the nature. Maybe that’s why.
There used to be a whole theoretical construction in Western art criticism that defined shape and line as rational or related to concept, to the male principe. Colour was irrational, emotional, physical, feminine. Of course, the idea of intellect, emotion and somatics being separate entities or forces in humans has turned out to be an illusion - as is the division between feminine and masculine. Understanding the uncanny of a colour entails acknowledging the conceptual nature of our perception of it.
Laura Arrington has been working with the colour teal lately. She clothes dancers in teal leather pants. She covers guitars, megaphones and large areas of fabric in teal sequins. She paints everything else she gets her hands at, teal. For me no other color like that to mark the remove from everyday. The shade of teal she has chosen is flat. Not the deep, vibrant turquoise of my childhood, but the blunt, opaque teal of inexpensive man-made materials. 

Facing something unrecognizable while acknowledging its familiarity is uncanny. 

Apart from choice of shade, the strategy Arrington employs here is excess. Everything must be painted same colour. You don’t much see that in the wild. Objects are not decorated with a few sequins just so here and there, they are doused in sequins. The actresses don’t just let their tears roll down, they SCREAM and trash around on the ground shooting with fire arms. This excess swells inside a spectator from unknown sources opening the places I did not know I encompassed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Soloists and Moving Masses

Being involved in two separate creative projects simultaneously is good. TOXIC and Things are in many ways each others opposites, doubles.

TOXIC is an ensemble piece in the meaning that there are no soloists. There is a continuous movement between a choir and a group of dancers. Performers keep switching and swapping roles. Things, on the other hand, is performed by a bunch of soloists that sometimes involve themselves in duets and group scenes. Considering the basic concepts in these two pieces it makes sense.

I'm wondering if the choice in its egalitarianism - in both cases - is very Finnish. And then again, maybe it is more symptomatic of the arts in our time. Contemporary performing arts rarely contain large supporting troupes anymore. A soloist doesn't need them when they have the audience to relate to. A group of people forming a backdrop for the individual artist would be redundant. (Obviously I'm sidestepping possible practical reasons, like physical resources, here.)

At this point the idea of a large 'corps de ballet' behind soloists becomes fascinating again. Class and narcissism are seen very differently from 100 years ago - or are they?

I hear that locally Catherine Galasso is experimenting with a big supporting group. I haven't seen that work yet, and don't know about the underlying ideas, but I suspect it will be interesting.

Monday, May 16, 2011


We are looking for curious, generous participants for Dance Camp, an experimental dance incubator to be held at The Garage (975 Howard) from 10am-5pm on Saturday July 9th, 2011.

Dance Camp follows the model of an unconference: it is a flat hierarchy where all participants both lead inquiries and support those of others. Dance Camp is not about sharing what you have made in the past or generating something for immediate performance, but about taking the risk of really going into a new idea. Participants bring preoccupations, fixations, questions, and curiosities --- be they about choreography, dramaturgy, writing, curation, or generating material --- and explore them with other generous folks through short discussions and workshops. Think of it like a collaborative mini-residency.

The deadline for Dance Camp applications is Friday June 3rd, 2011. We are looking for people at all stages of their careers, who are doers and talkers, who are excited about their own work, but also willing to invest in the processes of others.  All camp-ers are expected to stay for the full day.
To apply, please send :
1) a short statement about something you have been exploring in your own work, and how you might want to share that inquiry by testing it with others
2) a previous or ongoing work that you would like to share with the organizers (online links or attached documents much appreciated; email if you would like to send a dvd).

There is no fee for Dance Camp. 

Kate Elswit (Something Modern / Stanford University)
Minna Harri (Minna Harri Experience Set)
Petra Kuppers (The Olimpias / University of Michigan)
Joe Landini (The Garage)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Some photos of TOXIC

Robbie Sweeny, a brilliant San Francisco based photographer took some pictures of a TOXIC  rehearsal last week. Check out his other work as well, I really like it.
TOXIC, of course, will premiere on June 10&11 at Garage.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

International Home Theater Festival

This March I'll be showing new work during the International Home Theater Festival. This fine event was conceived by the Berkeley based writer and performer Philip Huang last year. Makers create an event in their own homes and invite the public to participate or witness.

What I am most excited about is the opportunity to think of a performance event in a new context. The architecture is decidedly different from a theater or studio space. There will be no built divide between audience and performers. What will that mean in terms of performing? Will I acknowledge the closeness and intimacy by peeling down layers of performative state - or will I rather go further into the realm of representation?

The intimacy of a private space that becomes semi-public space for a moment is an enticing opportunity. This will surely effect the experience for all parties. For me as a choreographer this is a chance to build a more immersive experience than in a performance space. The structures, sounds, smells, lights and knick knacks of a private home will become a part of the work and start interact with it both loaning meaning to it, and taking meaning from it.

I have no way of knowing what the audience expectations will be, but it will be interesting to experience the encounter. I'm composing audience surveys, and I find it thoroughly exciting!

Philip Huangs's idea is to empower artists to take initiative. Philip wants to set our minds free from third parties; this might mean institutions, funds and curators whose intervention is often seen elementary for the process of making and distributing art. His Home Theater Manifesto urges artists to make art in whatever circumstances they find themselves, with the resources they do have. A work of art doesn't become more worthwhile if it has been funded or produced by a third party - by someone outside the artist themselves or the immediate audience. This second year of its existence Home Theater Festival will go international. Events are scheduled to take place in Australia, Japan, North America and Europe.