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The Hyphenated Dancer - Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company - "Hyphen"

by Marian Horosko
March 11, 2009
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU
566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Sq South)
New York, NY 10012
212-279-4200
Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company - www.dtsbco.com
Sometimes, an evolution in dance is quiet and profound. Martha Graham's "Lamentation," (1930), a solo expressing grief in which she sat barefoot on a bench from which she never rose, costumed in a tubular shroud that covered her body and head. It is still a challenge to any modern dancer who attempts the work. It created wonder and a stir.

And so, with little fanfare but a hefty reputation, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co came for a single performance to the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on March 11 in "Hyphen" and a mixed program from their repertoire. The company of 11 dancers brought a battery of video and multimedia artists, costumers and their, director, Korean-American Burgess, who is modern dance trained and was a student of the first famous Asian-American choreographer, Michio Ito (1892-1961), a charismatic performer and teacher. At the turn of the century, the Asian
influence in costume, scenery and movements were all the rage in the vaudeville circuits, silent films and fledgling modern dance companies, that eventually entered as a separate camp.

(Try this: glide along the floor in a bare-foot walk, with your big toes raised. You have made a Graham entrance from her Asian vocabulary.)

Today, modern dance, along with ballet, has become the language of the hyphenated-American performer. Burgess, with his Washington, D.C.-based company, in his 17th season, has melded his company and his art with subtlety and restraint, as befits an amalgamated evolution.

The program at Skirball consisted of "Chino Latino," in four sections to contemporary Latin music from China, Japan Lima, and Japan. "The Last Emigrant" a non-raucous work about lost identity, was followed by "Khaybet," based on an Egyptian poem. The last work was Meditations" originally commissioned by Ballet Memphis, a peaceful work was presented before "Hyphen," Burgess's new work using television-sized videos onstage as performers, as well as wall-covering images. It is a complex work about searching and self-consciousness. Asian props are onstage in the form of lacquer baskets and ceremonial vases, never letting the audience or performers forget who they are…hyphenated, introverted, without artifice, and no longer isolated but at one with everyone in art.

Although all this may appear hard on the dance audience to understand, the superb level of the dancing of each performer is reason enough to acknowledge that this is a major company, with a soft but urgent message to unite in our sameness and not in our differences.
Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company's 'Hyphen' Dancers: Sarah Halzack, Shu-Chen Cuff, Jennifer Rain Ferguson, Tati Valle-Riestra

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company's "Hyphen"
Dancers: Sarah Halzack, Shu-Chen Cuff, Jennifer Rain Ferguson, Tati Valle-Riestra

Photo © & courtesy of Mary Noble Ours


Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company's 'Hyphen' Dancers: Shu-chen Cuff, Sarah Halzack

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company's "Hyphen"
Dancers: Shu-chen Cuff, Sarah Halzack

Photo © & courtesy of Mary Noble Ours

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