Let me introduce myself. I’m Lucy Rupert, the artistic director of the local dance company Blue Ceiling Dance and a writer. I will be interviewing the dance companies participating in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival and publishing them over the coming weeks. Below is my first interview, I hope you enjoy.
Today’s piece is my interview with Alaine Handa, the founder of A.H. Dance Company,and choreographer of the piece Chameleon, the experience of Global Citizens that they are bringing to the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, which runs from July 6 – 17, 2011. The work investigates the experience of home amongst those who have found many geographical homes throughout their lives
You can also find out more information about their Toronto engagement through this post on their blog.
See below for our conversation:
LR: First could you tell me a bit about your path in the dance field?
AH: I started dancing at 4 in Indonesia. I remember when I was 8 I played the part of a rice grain. I carried a grain of rice and we swayed from one side of the stage to the other whenever a magical bird passed us.
When we moved to Singapore I became interested in tap and jazz and took up figure skating, training long hours until I broke my ankle and it was recommended that I take ballet again to strengthen my ankle. The following year I started choreographing for the dance shows at school and by the end of high school, I knew that I wanted to major in dance at college, to pursue choreography and start my own dance company.
Igraduated from UCLA with a degree in World Arts & Cultures with a Dance Studies Concentration. We approached dance and dance-making as a way to bring change in the world.
LR: How did you get to the point of creating Chameleon?
AH: When I first started college, I attended Pitzer College in Claremont, CA – a small college in a small town. I had quite a bit of homesickness, culture shock, and reverse culture shock when I went to visit “home” for the first time after living in Southern California. I fell into a deep depression and felt out of place all the time.
I applied for a transfer to UCLA my 3rd year thinking that a change of environment will uplift my mood. During that transitional summer, I spent a lot of time with an old friend who was in Southern California. I told her what I had been feeling and she recommended that I read David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken’s book on Third Culture Kids. She said that what I was feeling was normal and that there were others like us. That book almost immediately brought joy and tears in discovering there were others like me.
I kept a journal and wrote poetry, prose, and drew my experiences out and brought these inspirations to the studio. I wanted to embody my experiences as a way of therapy for myself at first. Then, I wanted to create a community of Third Culture Kids and a way for us to tell others our stories. I created a Livejournal and Facebook Third Culture Kids groups. The very first draft of Chameleon was part of my senior project at UCLA.
When Barack Obama was elected President –he is a Third Culture Kid and members of his cabinet were also fellow Third Culture Kids — I knew the time was ripe to return to the project. I discovered that literature, research, and online communities have quadrupled since I started my research in 2003.
LR: Can you define for us the Third Culture Kid (TCK)?
AH: A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is someone who has grown up in different cultures and belong to all of them but also not fully able to belong. The TCK is a chameleon, fitting in and being the outsider looking in at the same time. Not fully grasping the concept of home from the physical sense. Instead home becomes a memory, a feeling, and the emotion of being at ease wherever you are.
LR: In the early 20th century many Europeans felt this same sensation, particularly in the inter-war years when borders and “nations” were changing rapidly and dramatically.
AH: Third Culture Kids around the globe share these sentiments regardless of age, race, heritage, geographic location, and socio-economic status.
LR: Chameleon’s integration of jewelry design is very intriguing…
AH: I met the jewelry designer through my friends’ online Third Culture Kid magazine called Denizen. She came to several rehearsals, I interviewed her for my TCK film and then she started designing. The prop pieces she created are architecturally complex; it was challenging to create pieces large enough to be seen by audiences in a mid-sized theater and flexible enough for the dancers to use.
LR: What was your choreographic process like?
AH: We spent a lot of time writing, drawing, improvising on the emotions and experiences of what home means to them. Every person had a different take. From the drawings, we came up with [movement] phrases and then like a jigsaw puzzle, I put them together. We taught each other our phrases so that we can be like Chameleons, trying different “homes”.
LR: It seems a common theme in many dance works recently. Our homes are becoming regions defined by the heart rather than border. Thanks for the interview Alaine. Have a great run at the Toronto Fringe Festival!
– Chameleon, the experience of Global Citizens will be playing in Venue 8 – Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse
– Showtimes are as follows:
Fri, July 8 10:30 PM
Sun, July 10 7:15 PM
Tue, July 12 6:30 PM
Wed, July 13 4:00 PM
Thu, July 14 11:15 PM
Fri, July 15 Noon
Sun, July 17 5:45 PM
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows