New York City 2015-17
It is towards the end of the semester. Our bodies are exhausted from many hours of physical training, accumulated day after day since September. And while training, our minds have been pushed to high level of concentration in order to perform, to renew ourselves and to continue learning. It is really challenging. We need to manage ways to keep dancing with our fatigue, working with our limits all the time. We need to learn to take care of ourselves and continue to work in a more sustainable way.
Dance is fleeting. It doesn't last. It is gone the moment after it is performed. But dancers train so many years to master dancing. Sometimes I think dancers are completely crazy! To dedicate their lives to this ever changing form of art. To be willing to go through so much discomfort or pain for something that we can not keep. But maybe that is the beauty of dance, that it doesn't last, that it can not be replicated. It is always in the moment. In dance, we are forced to work with this unceasing change of conditions, but I think life in general also. We learn to live while learning how to dance.
Dancers learn to work in the present moment: with the body, the space, the time and the people. They need to master working with the present moment because each time the condition is different. Dance always arise from the present condition. When we are tired, we still need to show up at the rehearsal. When our body is sore, we still need to continue practicing the routine. We still dance, and we dance with whatever that is given to us. We experience it with different physical challenges, moods, musics, weathers, etc. We constantly find ways to adjust ourselves, mentally and physically.
The nature of the body is with limit, however it is not fixed, it can be changed over time by slowly trying to go beyond the familiar. In other words, the limit is a temporary illusion. Yes, it is there because when we over work, we can injured ourselves. But if we work smartly, we can expand our limits over time. Often, it is our mind that prevents us from going beyond the familiar because we have never experienced it before. But that is not our true capacity. In dance, in the highly repetitive practices, we try to go beyond the familiar everyday. That is the purpose of training. It is not just physical training, but also mental training, to be open to creating new space in the mind.
Dancers are artists ad athletes together. I admire the physical and mental strength developed over years. I also admire the openness, flexibility, determination and imagination. With these qualities, they are able to transform abstract ideas into visible forms through their bodies and expressions.
The art form is the body, which we also live our life with. The boundary between dance and life is sometimes blurred. When does the dance stop, and life begins? And are the challenges or limits we face in dance very different from life? Dance IS a part of life.
For me, dance is also a spiritual journey. Because on this journey, one inevitably learns about the reality of how we exist, by observing and working with the mind and body. We find the secret of the universe right here within ourselves. And we dance with it. Our mind is constantly shaping our body and shaping how we experience the world. In dance we manifest our state of mind. And through dance the mind sees itself playing and dancing.
Movement is in us.
It is in our breath, in our heartbeat.
It is the blood flowing through the body.
It is in our gaze, our touch.
It is the imagery appearing in our mind.
The sound vibrating on our skin.
The thoughts rising and falling in space.
We are movement, and movement is dance.
We are dance.
Life is a dance,
We only become aware of it.
We become aware of the movement of life.
It is not something we do or create,
It is always there.
We dance with it,
we dance with our dance.
NewSteps Choreographer Series. Chen Dance Center, N.Y.C.
May 19th - 21st, 2016
This dream space, happening on the stage, in the movements of the body, in my mind's eyes, is a magical dance.
Every night, there was a moment when I was standing behind the black curtain, waiting to go onto stage. A moment while the theatre is charged, all senses are so clear, the mind is so sharp, and the body is ready to explode with energy.
I feel a great deal of gratitude just to be able to arrive to this moment. After many hours of rehearsals, thinking, trying, changing, experimenting... we have a piece of work. And now in this moment, it's not about that, it's not about how well you have made the piece. It's now the time to let go and dance.
It's a time of offering my entire 'being' to the audience. I feel there is nothing of myself left behind. There is nowhere to hide but to give it all.
One of my teachers said that 'The stage is a sacred space.' And I think it is, in many ways. We are so fleeting. Our conditions are so changing, as a performer, as a person. We can not replicate what we had done better before. In these moments on the stage we have no choice but to surrender to the present moment, to give our present moment. That is special.
There were many many people in my heart when I was standing behind the curtain. I dedicated this dance to you all. Thank you for being the audience in my heart, for bringing me to this moment, to this place.
Movement Practice as Ritual
Something simple, something everyday, something familiar but never the same.
Physical movement connects you to the present. It takes practice to stay present.
Movement is changing. To practice movement is to practice changing, to be familiar with changing.
We already live in movement in everyday life. We are the movement. When practice movement, we practice living, consciously.
To become familiar with movement is to become familiar with our habit in life. To practice movement is to recognise our habit. When we become aware, there is opening to change. It is an opening to be stronger, clearer, to be flexible, to be free.
WestFest Dance Festival. Site-Specific (Rooftop) Performance.
April 30, May 1, 2016
6 months ago, a classmate from my Graham Technique class came to me after class, and asked me "Would you like to dance together?" She came from street style dance and I come from Qi Gong background. We met here in N.Y.C. at the Martha Graham School. For a couple of years I have prayed to dance and collaborate with someone with a different training and movement background. So this was the day that "Someone" showed up! Her name is Mayu Shirai.
I enjoy so much dancing with her. I love that she always dances from her heart. And because we came from different movement culture and background, she continues to inspire me with how she moves, how she expresses herself through dance. Most of all, there is a kind of smile that I see when she is dancing, so bright and radiant. It moves my heart.
We have been meeting once a week or more in the last few months to dance together. We had rented a tiny studio in Brooklyn, which was actually a "dressing room". We had gone to outdoor sites like Central Park to dance with hilly spaces and winding trails, to Hudson River Park to dance with the river, and to Mcgolrick Park to dance with tall trees and fresh smells of leaves. We had gone to Brooklyn Bridge to watch the skyline. We also have the luxury of rehearsing on the top floor studio space of the WestBeth building, with high ceiling and beautiful windows. All the practices had become memories in our body that later transformed into a dance "City Walk", which we performed on a rooftop space overlooking a majestic view of N.Y.C and the skyline.
What I find most fascinating in all this is the journey we made together: The time we spent at each site, feeling the place and moving in it. The time we danced near each other, sensing our energies, learning from each other's different movement qualities. So much giving and sharing happened, and so much opening into new possibilities.
We performed last weekend on the rooftop, under lovely sunshine and under raindrops. A friend asked me "So are you happy about it?" I said "Yes." For the reason that we tried something we had never done before and made it to the end. For making a rich journey into dance with a very unique friend. For meeting the unexpected, challenging and difficult, and still enjoying it.
歸零。Returning to Zero. (English below)
Today, have you returned home?
Rest in the mind's home, returning to zero. Rest the mind and body, returning to love's home.
Do you know where is home?
Do you know your way home?
The road home is simple, natural and joyful.
Come home in movement.
Come home in stillness.
Home is also between movement and stillness.
Life is between movement and stillness.
I'm resting at home.
Dancing on the rooftop
Researching ideas on-site/about-site
How to dance with the magnificent view?
1. Using the elements from the space
2. Dance "with" the space
3. The dancers are "a part" of the space and landscape
What are the elements that inspire us to move here?
1. Shadows and lights
2. Horizontal line of the skyline
3. The grids of the city, and grids of the tiles on the rooftop
4. Vastness of space: the sky and the river
5. The calm, relaxed and meditative quality of rooftop, makes it a place away from the busy life on the ground level.
Imageries in mind while being on site:
1. The moving statues on cathedral
2. Another way of seeing: Looking up/looking down. Rooftop as a mini version of the city.
3. Meditative state of dance, quiet and inward but also clear and strong.
4. A dialogue of dance between the 2 dancers.
5. Personal story of being/living/moving in the city
Rehearsing all over the city as part of the site-specific movement exploration:
1. Absorb energies and ideas from different sites. Use this as source of choreography.
2. Build connection and sensitivity between the 2 dancers.
3. Practice recording, photographing and editing.
4. Incorporate writings to document the creative process.
5. Create publicity materials.
6. Explore possible music for the final show.
I was sitting in the park resting. In front of my eyes were a few pigeons walking together, playing and chasing. I watched how they follow each other, how they change direction. It is what we called "birding" in dance. This inspiration of moving together comes from the natural habit of birds.
It is fascinating to see the space between them when in movement. It is like there is a biological mechanism to keep the space in between, even when changing direction. They maintain the connection but with great sensitivity so they would not crash into each other. They soar together as a whole.
We see this beauty of nature. We recreate this beauty in dance. We live this beauty in life.
Dance as Ritual
Dance to me is a ritual. It is a pathway to connect to myself, to who I am, to the nature of my being. I love to dance.
It might not be the same reason for others. Sometimes dance is a product, it is a goal to be reached or to be completed. But for me, dance is a journey.
When dancing, I am on the path of my spiritual journey. It is very personal, subtle and mysterious. It is a ritual of transformation where I dissolve into space. In this space I am connected to the deepest consciousness.
I say that through dance I am connected to myself, but perhaps in better words, through dance I am able to lose myself.
Dance is a journey to experience the ever changing nature of our being. Dance is life in conscious movement.
1. Feeling the music: How does it move you physically and emotionally? What kind of movement texture it translates into the body?
2. Figuring out the counts: How to break down into sections? How to use the counts for timing for movements to arrive or to appear?
3. Layers of instruments: Look for layers of instruments in the music, listen to each layer and use each layer for different characters.
Arriving to the beat
Example: The Faithful Walk. Choreography by Jia-Wei Zhu
The tree variations. Short and long developments both need to arrive at precise counts.
Prayer to Sacred Space
I am home when I arrive here.
I am standing here on this floor where many dances have been danced, where many inspirations passes through the body like electricity, where we shake the whole world and we shake our beings, where we surrender ourselves to the unimaginable.
I also dance on this floor, in this sacred space. I join all the dances before me and after me, we meet here on this floor.
Choreography Notes for "Home"
A piece co-created with Mayu Shirai in N.Y.C. in 2016.
How are you? Who are you?
Where do we find inspiration?
What is moving your heart?
Pay attention to you life. You are living in many inspirations, the only difference is whether you notice them or not. Ideas are there waiting for you. You just need to listen. They are always whispering to your ears. 靈感耳語。
How does the visual inspiration transform into movement? The art of creative meditation by first "swallowing"!
What is within you already? Do you know yourself? In your body, in your mind, in your secret library?
How is your body? Do you know your beauty?
Playing is a key.
Mayu has a dance background in street dance, hip-hop, battling, etc. The first time we met up in the studio, we thought why not use the structure of battling and improvise? We played some music we like from our iphones and just start. We take turns, one begins to dance, and the other observe. We feel each other with our entire being while observing, appreciating the other. We take this as our inspiration to the next improvisation.
It is like a dialog. We talk to each other through dance, through playing. We have known each other, but we meet again in dance, where so much more can be expressed, directly through our hearts. It is very uncomplicated for us, we simply be, because dance is the language that we are born with.
How did we decide the music?
We both felt like we could articulate better with this music. We both feel connected to it. There are clear phrases in the piece. It is like telling a story when we dance with this music.
What is "Home" to you?
Inner landscape. Collecting imagery from life.
Moving from the heart, not form.
The beauty of repetition. Discipline in studio practice.
Dancing together while being ourselves.
Developing the two characters: The dreamer and the dream.
Talking costume. Color palette and fabric.
Talking sets. Connecting to inner landscapes. Working with technology, film/video/editing, photography, etc.
Knowing you again. Recollecting who we are through writing bio.
Figuring our the counts. Creating in mind a dance map.
Developing the two characters: The dreamer and the dream.
Why are we doing this?
The Art of Repetition
We spend weeks and months in the studio rehearsing The Appalachian Spring by Martha Graham. From learning the background story, to learning the characters, movements, spacing, music, timing and how to dance together as a whole. So many details are there, in order to bring a piece work together. So much is needed in us, especially in working with each other.
What changes as we progress in this repetition of rehearsal? What are the difficulties?
What happens to us and to the piece when we actually perform it to the audience?
What is different now when we dance it again after more than a month of not rehearsing it? What is there? How is the experience different this time?
Why do we need repetition? In dance or in life?
The Invisible Spine
Practice with "imagery".
Meditation of Light in Dance
Pain has become my friend since I started training in dance.
We spend many hours a day training. When we do this continuously, we begin to understand the limits of our body. Knowing our strength and weakness. But the purpose of training is to go beyond the limits. We go to the place where we feel uncomfortable. We meet out fears and work with ourselves in this uncomfortable place. This is where we also find our strength.
Pain is wonderful. Whenever we go beyond our limits, we meet pain. For example, the muscles are not familiar with the intensity of training. It burns, it gets sore, it bruises. It is also a safety net, preventing you from injury.
In the sensation of pain, we become very alive and alert. We are changing actively, every muscle and every molecule is engaged. Every moment there is a little death and a little birth. It is transformation.
Pain brings new balance of life. Don't be afraid of pain. Work with pain. It is similar to mental pain, it brings us focus again, on what need to be let go in our mind and in our beliefs. Through this we become fresh again.
Seeing How You See
What you see is a reflection of your mind. The same city can seem beautiful, cold or crazy stressful at different times. The same coffee can taste sweet or bitter on different days.
Are you aware of how you see? What kind of mood filter you see with? What kind of preconception you see with? What is the basis of the person seeing? What is seeing? And if you see this, you become fully responsible of how you see. Moreover, how you feel. You can change it at any moment, by realising that you are the dream and the dreamer.
There are no shortcuts to anything. It is by practicing and practicing that you become the master of what you practice.
In practice you begin to understand who you are. In the beauty of repetition, and in the constant flow of changing conditions, you see the strengths and limits of yourself. And you work with it.
In practice, you see the patterns of behaviour. There you have the opportunity to cultivate or to change it. How and what you practice makes "you": all the little bits that had accumulates in the mind stream during practice, that had gone into your body and into the life you live in.
We are always practicing. Only we are aware of what we practice, and makes conscious choice to do the right practice. Or we are controlled by the the unconscious pattern that we fall into, again and again. If we observe ourselves and see how we are in this moment, we can find traces of the past practices, however strong or weak, whatever kind, or lack of. It is completely visible. We just need to observe and see. Our life is of many accumulation of practices. When we change the practice, the life will change. We will transformed. It is simple cause and effect.
There is nothing impossible through practice. It takes time, so be patient. Just do the work and keep doing. Time will show. You can never lie about practice. It is not outside of you, what you can gain. It is you. What you practice will always shine through your presence. You can always go deeper. You can always observe and change. But keep practicing. That is the secret of practice.