Attack with Fluidity – Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company Celebrates 20 Years of Dance-Making


"Becoming American" Photo Credit: Zain Shah

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company attacks choreography with poise and fluidity. They celebrated their 20 year anniversary April 5th and 6th at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at George Washington University, the same theatre where they first began their artistic journey. In a four-piece concert, part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Burgess uses his contemporary style fused with multimedia art to frame the societal and cultural themes of identity, constriction and betrayal. A celebrated DC artist, Burgess makes each element of the theatre – lighting, music, costume, space and movement – work together towards clear concept.

The solo work “Khaybet,” performed by dancer Connie Lin Fink, is a beautiful and desperate elegy of a woman in restricted surroundings, told from beneath her rust-colored veil. Bathed in a path of orange light, only her arms are visible. The Gregorian Chant-like song of male voices is the impetus for each caressing and maternal motion dotted with militaristic and warrior stances. Never stepping beyond the boundary of her pool, she finally lifts her veil and walks beyond the stage into the light.

A hyphen is a connector and a separator. In “Hyphen,” dancers are outfitted in deep gray with a black line dividing the chest. It opens with the dancers using choppy hand motions that cup around the face to hide their identity beneath. Burgess captures the uncertainties of being identified as an Asian-American, latching on to two cultures simultaneously, as well as portraying a struggle between the surface identity versus the internal identity. A formal bow before moving in spurts of disengaged combat – a moment of Tai Chi broken by folding in on oneself – all the while, the dissonant tones of heartbeats and echoes blend uncomfortably. A 1950s-esque TV set is rearranged periodically, as if to find a better signal. The black and white fuzzy images of buttoning a shirt or a face spliced into two images capture identity confusion. Much like a skipping DVD, the dancers stop, go, pause and play – in an endless monotony, finishing with the filming of a dancer’s face, de-hyphenated.

Playing into a more accessible theme, “Fractures” is a love-triangle played out in angular movements and desperate reaches, in which each of the three dancers is a broken piece of the puzzle. As the husband divides his heart and gives a piece to his wife and the other to his lover, all that is left is the question of whether a fracture is really enough. The emotional turmoil is a believable portrayal, both facially and physically.

Closing with their new work “Becoming American,” Burgess elopes with the piece on a Dorothy in Oz tale, where the female dancer descends from her cloudy Geisha screen into Americana. There is no yellow-brick road in this portrait, but Burgess uses white-washed stools, dishes, suitcases and boxes, as well as a masked Greek chorus and Kabuki-like shuffling to show the disorienting path of this Asian girl’s journey towards fulfilling the Pleasantville couple’s expectations to conform. The most disturbing sequence is the ESL class, when a lesson on learning the “S” consonant has all the hissing qualities of landing in a snake pit. Each episode is spun together by a phrase from the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Clinging to her identity, she sweeps across her heart, grabs a piece of what’s inside and folds it into her lap, just as a projected picture frame captures the picturesque American family, generously opening their arms to their Asian-adoptee, but never adjusting the seesaw of understanding. For more information about Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company, please visit their website.


Capital Funk Dance Auditions Sunday, September 5th

Capital Funk hip hop dance team is holding auditions this Sunday, September 5th. Third year veteran Brad Sickels took the time to tell danceDC a little bit more about the group and what dancers can expect from Sunday’s auditions.

According to Brad, Capital Funk has been one of the most enriching experiences of his life and practicing with the team is always the highlight of his day. “It’s great to be part of a well-respected and FUN team that is really making a name for itself in the East Coast dance scene,” he said.

Who is Capital Funk?

Capital Funk is a group of extremely talented, dedicated and off-the-wall dancers. “Cfunk” as we call it is a giant family and anyone who joins is immediately adopted into that family whether they like it or not.

Capital Funk was created by a group of George Washington University students and is based at GW. However over the years, the team has opened its doors to the amazing talent of the DC community. Our team is now made up of about half GW students and half DC/MD/NOVA locals, which makes for quite the interesting dynamic. We perform frequently in the GW arena but have successfully branched out into the greater DC area. We also travel to compete all over the East Coast.

What type of dance do you do?

We’ve got so many talented individuals on the team whose styles range from botting and locking, to vogue, Baltimore club and house.We try and keep things fresh and evolving and it’s always been important to us to encompass different dance styles and techniques.

What dance background do most of your members have?

Everyone on our team is so incredibly different. For instance, there are several members on the team who are classically trained in modern and ballet and have been dancing since they could walk. We have dancers who have been doing hip hop for years, and have trained with amazing choreographers and instructors. But then, you have people on the team like me whose first time ever officially doing hip hop was at the Capital Funk audition. Capital Funk is unique in that we don’t ask for a dance resume at our auditions. We don’t require extensive training. We value talented dancers who are passionate about dance and our leaders realize that can come in ANY shape or form. We value diversity in every meaning of the word.

Where and how often do you perform?

Traditionally, our Fall season is comprised of local performances. These can include GW basketball games and events, local universities’ talent showcases/competitions, and promotional events. We spend a lot of the Fall term training, learning and growing together as a team.

Our Spring semester has traditionally been our competition season. In the past we’ve done two to three major competitions in the Spring, traveling to Boston, New York and New Jersey. We also hold our annual Showcase at the end of the Spring season. For this Showcase, we invite local dance crews and artists, as well as talent from other East Coast cities. Our Showcase has been very successful, bringing in a crowd of over a thousand last year.

Where and how often do you rehearse?

We hold regular practice two to three times weekly at a variety of locations. We rehearse at GW and also at DC Dance Collective in Friendship Heights.

What can people expect from the auditions?

They can expect to have a lot of fun! Auditionees will learn two combinations from different choreographers, and then perform them in small groups for the captains. Each group will include at least one Capital Funk member so you can ask for help and rehearse with them.  We then have an informal freestyle cypher, where dancers are given the opportunity to show off their own styles.

Any words of advice for people trying out?

I’d say take a class or two just to fine-tune your pickup. The best way to progress as a dancer is to be constantly learning. Joy of Motion has some pretty tight classes and DC Dance Collective offers a few varieties of hip hop.  Maybe spend a little time with your headphones in just free-styling. Our auditions are fun so be ready to have a good time!

The Deets

  • Capital Funk
  • Fall Dance Auditions
  • The Marvin Center Grand Ballroom – 800 21st Street NW; Washington, DC 20052
  • Sunday, September 5th at 6:30pm
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