About Susan

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Farewell to 2007

My last artistic performance this year was another tough classical number, but thankfully the acting was as important as the technical demands so I tried my best to portray a doomed heroine bidding her King a last farewell. The story is from the revered Chinese opera "Farewell My Concubine" and is a tale/legend well known to many Chinese.

The English description on the program was as thus: "Outside the tent, Chu native songs blare in the night/Enemy surrounds encampment on all sides/Farewell, my lord; I depart to lessen your burden/May you regroup soon to fight for your kingdom." Of course, the ill-fated King is doomed. I'd think that after your one true love has killed herself you'd lose your own will to live, much less try to fight your way out of a terrible situation. I'm well aware that many stories in history tell similar tales. The devotion is admirable, but it doesn't make me feel any better! I cried the first 10 times I watched the original dance tape and I only hope I was able to move at least one audience member.

By the way, the sword I used is a Wushu competition sword, meaning it is meant for martial arts and much heavier than a theater sword. It is weighted very nicely, but I actually cut myself on it a few times and had somewhat unfounded fears that my right arm would gain more mass due to constant practice (sword technique was much more challenging than I'd imagined, surprise). Thank goodness I never nicked my neck during the final scene in rehearsal or performance. And without further ado, here's to more dancing in 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's the Holiday Season

The holidays have come and with them come parties. Happily for me I got to dance in some of them this season! A highlight was the Microsoft SPICE party at the Asian Art Museum, courtesy of the lovely and most capable Renda Dabit, founder of Henna Garden Events and Entertainment. I truly enjoy working with her and hope to continue to have the honor to do so in the future. Other events included a party in Fremont, where I even received a "Certificate of Excellence" for my performance presented by the Mayor of Fremont and a cultural representative of China based in San Francisco. What a blessing it is to be dancing. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Moon Harvest Festival

I had the pleasure of performing at the Moon Harvest Festival in Cupertino last month, and the Singtao Newspaper folks even interviewed me regarding my dance as the costume is rather different than what many expect for a "Chinese dance." I explained that this dance originated from the Yi people of the Yunnan province and that I was to portray a girl giddy with anticipation about a tryst with her lover.

I realize that I have much more to learn about all the different cultures of China, and what better way to do it than through learning various dance styles? If it weren't for folk dances, to this day I wouldn't even know about the Uighur, Yi, Dai, and other cultures. There are many I have yet to even discover. Secretly, I'd really like to learn a spirited Mongolian dance where I mime riding a horse and shooting arrows (at targets, not people), etc. That'd be a good challenge!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chinese New Year Came Early

This costume made me feel as if it was Chinese New Year, with its bright colors and flashy handkerchiefs. I'd never learned how to use the "pancake" handkerchiefs until this piece, and the wrist-twisting movements are certainly much harder to grasp than they appear. I have a constant issue with keeping my wrists loose while holding onto something (must be from my tennis team days), so it was a particularly challenging learning process. The dance itself is non-stop action, and full of fun. I liked to pretend that I was a giddy 12 year old on New Year's Day when dancing it. Come to think of it, maybe I looked more like a firecracker -- you know, one of the many that are strung together to produce a spectacular series of festive crackling and popping effect? Ha! Let's hope I don't pop off the vine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Singtao Dance Competition - 3rd Place!

It's been busy, but after a hiatus I'm happy to update! Over Labor Day weekend I competed in the first annual Singtao Dance Competition. Somehow I'd made the cut to Finals and considering the caliber of the other dancers I was definitely nervous. I told myself that it was another chance to get out there and share what I've got, and for me to enjoy being on the stage ... I had to tell myself that a lot :) It was nervewracking, though, for several reasons:

1. The stage was elevated, open on all 4 sides with audiences on each. No reassuring back curtain. During series of turns it became a sea of faces!
2. The stage was small. I had to figure out how to show a lot of explosive movement and not jump, roll, or fall off of the stage.
3. The stage was slippery. In an effort to counteract this I bought a bottle of clear soda to wet my shoes with. I opened the bottle and it exploded everywhere right before the competition!
4. I was to go on first. Never a great thing in competitions, so I'm told.
5. It was my first dance competition.

Coming away with 3rd place was a real honor. The other competing dancers were top-notch and I never thought I'd have this kind of opportunity. My genuine goal was to dance Dan Jiao well enough to make myself happy, and I did. Even my coach said I did better than he thought I would, and he *never* says anything like that! Hooray!

Monday, July 9, 2007


I was handed a badge that read 'Entertainer' when I checked in at the IIT 2007 Global Alumni Conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center, and after I'd changed into my costume (above) and put on my stage face I realized that I was indeed there as an entertainer. I suppose I could call myself a dancer, but status as an entertainer never really crossed my mind. Sometimes dance is an elevated art form, and at other times it is just fun for all. I remind myself that even art began as entertainment in some form. Somehow, the terms have evolved such that one could argue that art is not merely entertainment. I don't mind either way, as long as I get to dance.

The stage was slippery and I thought I'd fall for sure, but thankfully everything passed without incident. After some rousing numbers by Indian dance troupes, 'Moonlit Pond' was introspective and quiet. There was a hush as the lights faded above me at the end and I was gladdened to hear soft noises of appreciation before the applause began. What a wonderful feeling.

And after that ... Free food in the green room! Meat lasagna ...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Can Dance Overcome Political Origins?

I've danced in pieces that smacked a lot of Mao (you know, the Cultural Revolution), and perhaps they're even the same versions that he had performed in the streets to distract onlookers from the torture happening just yards away. You can imagine that makes me feel pretty strange. Oddly, after I learn the choreography and make some jokes about being good barefoot peasant girls looking towards a bright future, everything feels fine. I work hard, enjoy the dance and somehow the audience is all right with it, too. (That, or they're not talking.)

Perhaps it's permissible to simply appreciate the dancing for what it is, despite its less than innocuous origins. I still have mixed feelings about it, but I feel more comfortable about it these days. I hope audiences will find dances like this enjoyable, when they're presented as just that -- dances.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Trouble with Photos

I missed the photo shoot for a this number (which is quite artistic and therefore not a classic crowd-pleaser for gigs -- that's too bad, because it's a real killer!), so I had to find a corner in my house to get some photos taken. As you can see, the electrical sockets and wall border add an oh-so-excellent touch, so we had to choose one to digitally alter to better effect. The one the director ended up choosing isn't my favorite shot, but it's fine with me. The performance is what counts.

This dance is kind of an introspective, a tour de force of the various female roles of traditional Chinese opera. It's extremely athletic and challenging on the acting side as well. It took me awhile to not feel like I was going to pass out after the first half of the choreography, yikes! Ever since learning this dance I vow to watch the Beijing Opera live one day. The tumbling is one thing but believe it or not, acting like an old Chinese woman (lao dan) is extremely difficult! I hope I'll have the chance to rehearse and perform this again in the future to see how much more nuanced I can make it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I Am a Dancer

I've finally buckled down and created a little page where I can proudly proclaim that I am a dancer. It's a hard path to take and I have no illusions of how it could have been had I not had some savings and a scholarship when I packed my bags for New York City. There are countless talented artists out there, and I wish them every success. I wish to dance to move people, whether it makes them happy or causes them to reflect on their own lives. I dance to know that I'm not just living, but that I am alive.