About Susan

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Almost Year-End

Once again the holidays are upon us and I while I finally have a chance to breathe a little bit after traveling in Asia, I still have much work to do in terms of dancing. I've been asked to dance several holiday events, but honestly this is a bit of a challenge because I find myself quite sick with the cold! I already have performances lined up for January through March, and although it will mean a lot of hard work I am glad to have these opportunities.

I discovered that this photo was published in the newspaper about one of my dancing performances. The red kerchief in this moment symbolizes marriage portent as the girl peeks out from the kerchief at her intended and then hides her face behind it once more, too shy to look any further.

Here's to happy times and to not being sick - All the best this holiday season!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dancing on the Road

It's tough keeping limber and in good condition while traveling for work, but nonetheless every night thus far for the last 2 weeks I've been stretching and doing whatever tumbling I can in my hotel room. I'm in my third city in as many weeks and I hope I stay healthy, but the travel and hectic work schedule is getting tougher on my body. There is a Shanghai Dance Academy graduate who is willing to give me class so I am looking forward to that when I land in Shanghai.

While in Beijing, I was able to catch two performances by the Beijing Dance Academy graduates as well as from the Military Arts Academy. These dancers are absolutely stunning. They inspire me to continue to work harder and to strive for more strength, better technique, and most important, they make me remember the passion I have for everything that I do.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Giving Ballet a Try

I've recently rediscovered ballet, which I grew up watching extensively. Thanks to YouTube, I've been able to find many recent clips of brilliant dancers as well as dig up dances I'd watched as a child and loved so much. Ravel's waltzes are so romantic and beautiful. Even though Chinese classical dance is based on the same fundamentals as ballet, there are slight differences in emphasis. I've been inspired to try and take some classes to work on my technique. I'm a bit nervous, but taking ballet can't be bad! (This photo is not of ballet; I'm in costume for an Uighur folk dance but I decided to have some fun and jump for the photographer.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back to Basics

After a busy summer of performances, I've tried to focus on bringing it back to the barre and have been paying special attention to where it all comes from - technique. It's definitely the hardest part, to me the most mundane and yet cherished hours spent in my life. Sure, I may dread certain skills and feel ill after the 6th cycle of turns or having been upside down for awhile, but without work there is no improvement. At least that's what I keep telling myself when I think I can't go any farther and my teacher says I look like I've taken a shower (ie I am very, very sweaty).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing Olympics Have Begun!

As the SF Bay Area is quite diverse and has a vibrant Chinese community, there were many celebrations surrounding the Olympics. When the Olympic Torch came through San Francisco, I was invited to perform in the closing ceremonies. Sadly, this was canceled outright due to security issues. While I'm glad the Torch was safely escorted, I am still disappointed that those gathered didn't have a chance to view it.

I felt a bit better after I performed for the Chinese Consulate and its distinguished guests in San Francisco several weeks later, and even had the opportunity to hold one of the torches used! Of course the flame had long moved on, but I was thrilled nonetheless.

Last night, I performed for an outdoor telecast of the Opening Ceremonies thanks to NBC, Singtao, and Redwood City. It has truly been an honor to be part of these festivities.

Best of luck to all the athletes in the coming days and weeks!

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's Over! (for now)

I've just finished a spate of performances and while I'm relieved it's over - I'm quite exhausted - it was quite an experience. I danced at a private event in San Francisco working with Renda from Henna Garden, trading sets with a Mongolian contortionist and a spunky plate spinner. The stage was tiny and at least 3 feet elevated off the ground, and I was worried I would fall off during the spins and jumps. Thankfully, everything went all right, and the satays the kitchen brought in for us were delicious.

Over the weekend I danced in two full-length shows, in which I was in what felt like every other number, each with a costume change. Thankfully, I was able to get onstage in time for each one. Unfortunately towards the middle of the second to last piece, one of my long water sleeves got caught under another dancer during a series of tight jumps and rolls, and my arm is now bandaged and swollen. At least I made it through the rest of the show and for the finale, but the pain was (and is still) intense. I hope I heal quickly enough in time to perform for the Bay Area celebration of the opening of the Beijing Olympics this coming Friday.

A fellow dancer caught me in a strange moment during a photo shoot - I look a bit ghostly! I'm dressed as an Uighur girl, and as my Ukrainian friend Olga said, it looks like I could be Uzbek, too.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Today is Qi Xi - Make a Wish!

Today is Qi Xi or Tanabata (七夕)! This translates to “the evening of the 7th” or “evening of the sevens” and is the day that Chinese and Japanese commemorate the meeting of the stars Altair and Vega - 牛郎 and in Chinese, 彦星and 織姫 in Japanese. The legend I grew up with is that we remember the Cowherd and Weaver Girl who met and fell deeply in love, so much that they neglected their duties to the Sky King (the Universe) – he no longer had new clothes she made, and the cows strayed all over the heavens. The two lovers were punished by complete separation, but it is said that once a year, they would cross the stars to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month. How sad!

When I lived in Japan, I wrote wishes on little strips of paper (短冊) and affixed them to bamboo branches. Today, I’ll write one too, although I have nowhere to affix my wish except to the refrigerator …

Even though the piece in the photo is not specifically about this story, the theme of love is ever present throughout dance as a form of culture. Here is a Dai girl of the south, dancing in the warm rain while awaiting her lover.

May all your dreams come true!

Dancing for the Sichuan Earthquake Effort

Several weeks ago I was asked to participate in a dance competition and I came out with 1st Place for my division - it was a more low-key competition, which felt nice. My main motivation was that the proceeds would go to the earthquake victims in Sichuan, China. I'd already donated to Red Cross China and worked on projects that would hopefully help people trying to find their family members who were missing.

The photo above was taken during the competition; the dance is titled "Untamed Yi Girl" based on my take on the original Chinese title - I'd suggested 'Tameless' for 'Untamed' - to me, it speaks to the unique beauty of freedom. Basically I am a wild tomboy in the woods who, at the end of the dance, reveals a feminine side to her personality. At that point, I remove my hat to let my hair tumble down my back. While audiences tell me this is a very striking gesture, it has been a source of anxiety for me - during rehearsals my hair has come out of the hat prematurely! Thankfully performances have been fine.

Monday, June 30, 2008

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

The final weekend of the SF Ethnic Dance Festival's 30th Anniversary season is over! I danced in the inaugural 4th weekend performance, 3rd in a lineup of 9 offerings of diverse dance styles. My fellow dancers and I have performed this piece before, but never with such great lighting, such an expansive stage (it meant dousing our shoes in kool-aid before showtime, as we slipped all over the place during rehearsals), and such an excited audience - Thanks for everyone's support! It was a long 3 or so days of practically living in the beautiful but drafty Palace of Fine Arts theater, but I had the chance to meet many amazing dancers, musicians, and tech folks. I'll have to write more about it soon, but right now I admit I'm exhausted.

The photo is the work of RJ Muna, and it belongs to World Arts West. Jenny, Christina, and I went up early in the morning to the Mission for the photo shoot in February after we'd been chosen for the festival. It was cold and rainy, and we were all sick. Somehow it turned out pretty well!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A TV Filming and Another Mind Expanded

In March there was a flurry of performances as well, including a special event at a museum. A crew from the local ABC television station even came to shoot my dress rehearsal of a piece I was preparing for performance the same month. A short clip of it was used for a program called "Profiles of Excellence" which was exciting. It showed me executing a series of turns, my big red skirt flying. When I saw the spot the first day it aired I thought my movements looked a little too tight, but apparently the producers liked it well enough. After my run-through the day of shooting, the ABC folks were completely surprised that my Yi folk dance was Chinese at all. "Wow, I never would have thought that these kinds of movements were in Chinese dance," one of them said. I'm always thrilled when I get someone to say that! Chinese dance is so many things; I learn something new at every turn and I love it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Belated New Year!

Hello! I've been terribly remiss in updating this blog, but the hiatus doesn't mean I haven't been dancing! Actually, I've been quite busy. In February, I helped the San Francisco Symphony welcome the Year of the Rat by dancing for patrons in the post-performance celebration. I also danced for KCNS' Chinese New Year Celebration TV Special, and performed in various other community events. New Year's always brings such an atmosphere of excitement; it's not just about bunches of beautiful flowers and sumptuous feasting. Spring is in the air and hope surges anew. I feel so lucky that I was able to participate in so many wonderful events this year. Happy Year of the Rat!