Every now and again we are privileged to have an experience that makes such an impact—sometimes good and sometimes hard—that it shifts how we see things. Whether it’s a dance work that shatters assumptions, a new relationship, an unexpected challenge or a visit to a far-off land, it changes the lens through which we process the world around us.
My shift recently came with a trip to Beijing, China, where I represented Dancers’ Group during the last leg of a series of educational exchanges conducted in China through a partnership with Bay Area-based ZiRu Dance, with the support of the U.S. State Department. I witnessed master classes taught by Karah Abiog, director of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program and supported the dancers of ZiRu performing in a mid-sized theater in Beijing. The company went on to perform in several other cities in China while I returned to San Francisco.
If you follow news coming out of China, it won’t surprise you to hear that things there are growing at an extremely rapid rate. It has long been the world’s fastest growing major economy, averaging 10% GPD growth for the past 30 years (thanks, Wikipedia) and Beijing alone is home to over 21 million. The scale and rate of expansion is nearly unimaginable, with entire subway lines popping up seemingly overnight and visual art galleries the size of multiple football fields emerging in a heartbeat.
And while there is an abundance of classical dance forms in China, it was my observation that the dance community there was surprisingly modest when contrasted with sheer numbers in so many other arenas. That is likely beginning to change— new university dance programs are cropping up right and left— and for now, I was left feeling fortunate to be a part of a dance community that is large and diverse. Through the lens of this recent trip, it became incredibly clear to me just how much rich cultural history and thrilling innovation resides here in the Bay Area.
And so it is our pleasure to include in this joint July/August issue of In Dance, a celebration of our breadth. We feature four artists and companies working in a huge range of dance forms. RAWdance is presenting its 10th anniversary season of athletic contemporary dance. Frequent contributor, Rob Taylor, writes about the Diamano Coura West African Dance Company’s July performance honoring the life and work of Nelson Mandela. We interview Kinetech Arts, a forward-thinking collaboration of dance artists and technologists, and Korean sound and movement artist Dohee Lee reflects on ritual and myth in contemporary performance. Add to that dance education, tips on garnering press and cultivating relationships with funders, and an interview with the organization behind The Flight Deck, a new performing arts space in Oakland, and it has never been more true: the Bay Area is bursting at the seams with dance.
As the summer continues, I hope that you have opportunities to explore facets of our dance ecosystem to surprise, amaze and inspire you. And if you’re lucky, shift the way you see the world.