Dana’s Ambassadors


Local Dance Troupe Marks 15 Years of Cross-Cultural Movement

Launching the Kennedy Center’s 2007-08 modern dance season this month is local legend Dana Tai Soon Burgess (DTSB) & Company, a dance troupe that quickly transformed from its grassroots beginnings 15 years ago into an international touring enterprise.

The upcoming production on Oct. 12 and 13 will premiere “Chino Latino” (Chino means Chinese in Spanish), DTSB & Co.’s first venture into portraying the intersection of Asian and Latin communities throughout the Americas.

“The rhythms and movement vocabulary for this new work are a celebration of this synergy,” said Dana Tai Soon Burgess, company founder and artistic director. The work is inspired by Burgess’s own life as an Asian growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as the company’s recent trips to South America.

Over the years, DTSB & Co. has also enjoyed its role as cultural ambassadors overseas, exploring the fusion of different cultures through movement in tours that have been supported by the U.S. State Department. This past summer, the company embarked on a rare dance tour of the Middle East, performing and teaching master classes in Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt, as well as Ramallah in the West Bank, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem.

“Foreign and global relations begin with one-on-one experiences,” Burgess said. “The larger political construct of how countries interact with each other, the ultimate way we perceive and understand each other, starts with individual contact.

“Movement is universal,” he continued. “How close a person stands next to another, whether people handshake or kiss, how quickly a person walks down the street, all relates to movement. Communication through movement is a great way to begin a global dialogue.”

“Chino Latino” diverges from DTSB & Co.’s usual fare. Instead of synthesized Eastern (Asian) and Western (American) perspectives, it explores the synergy of Asian and Latin cultures and is more upbeat than Burgess’s previous works, which tend to have an Asian-inspired, sinuous, tai chi feel.

Comprising four festive sections, the piece combines Latin, modern and Asian movements set to traditional South American music from the 1920s through the 1950s, referencing Asians living in South America. However, the company’s signature Asian and martial arts movements are also included, Burgess noted.

Although many of DTSB & Co.’s members are Asian American, “Chino Latino” will feature company dancer Tati Valle-Riestra, who hails from a prominent Peruvian family. As such, Peruvian Ambassador Felipe Ortiz de Zevallos will serve as the honorary chair of the Kennedy Center premiere.

The Kennedy Center program also will include excerpts from other Burgess works, including “Mandala,” inspired by the company’s State Department visit in 2000 to Pakistan; “Tracings,” about Korean immigrants; “Images from the Embers,” a wartime love story; “Khabet,” a solo piece based on a 12th-century Egyptian poem; and “Fractures,” about a man letting go of one woman as he gravitates toward another.

The production coincides with DTSB & Co.’s 15-year anniversary—a milestone few local companies reach. To celebrate the occasion, DTSB & Co. scheduled 15 events at 15 venues in and around the city throughout 2007, culminating with the Kennedy Center performances in October.

In addition, having just returned from their summer trip of performing and teaching in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, the company will embark on a State Department-sponsored tour to India this December.

Chino Latino Oct. 12 to 13 Kennedy Center Terrace Theater intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway, NW Tickets are . For more information, please call (202) 467-4600 or visit www.dtsbco.com.

About the Author

Lisa Troshinsky is the theater reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.