January 21, 2022 No Comments khpblack News
Dance That Reflects My Roots in the South
Written by Lisa R. Chow |
 Artistic Director of Desert Dance Theatre |
 Board President of the Arizona Dance Coalition | 1/21/22


Late November 2021 Dian Dong, Associate Director and Education Director for H.T. Chen & Dancers in New York, contacted me about presenting Box Dance, an excerpt from South of Gold Mountain in Desert Dance Theatre’s 2022 educational program. The excerpt is about the Chinese grocery stores in Mississippi and the story about my family history — a part of American history unknown to many and rarely taught in the schools.
It’s not the first time I’ve worked with H.T. Chen. I was an original cast member of H.T. Chen and Dian Dong’s South of Gold Mountain. When I first heard about the project, they had already researched and started to develop the dance for a couple of years or so. I reached out to H.T. and Dian to offer my help as a consultant. They had forgotten that I was from Mississippi and immediately insisted that I had to perform in the piece. At my first rehearsal for South of Gold Mountain, I was surprised to see on the cyc, a projection of my grandfather’s store — the Joe Gow Nue in Greenville, Mississippi. It was kismet.


Some background…
My connection with H.T. Chen & Dancers actually goes back to 1999 when H.T. was the Artistic Advisor of A3: Asia, Arizona, and the Arts for ASU Public Events. I was an original AZ cast member and the community rehearsal director of H.T. Chen & Dancers’ Bian Dan that premiered at ASU Gammage in 2000. Bian Dan are the bamboo shoulder poles used throughout Asia to carry heavy loads. In the work, the bamboo poles are symbolic of both burden and strength, representing the mixed cultural burdens shouldered by immigrants and their children as well as their integrity and endurance. Addressing the acculturation and the generation gap, Bian Dan featured twenty-five local residents — Chinese seniors, children, and local dancers.



Later, H.T. invited me to bring my choreography to be a part of in the Ear to the Ground dance series at the Mulberry Street Theatre (NY). In collaboration with my husband, Step Raptis, we premiered a quartet dance piece, No Time Out, original music, plus a duet danced in silence — Discussion. 

Desert Dance Theatre (DDT) wrote a grant a few years later to acquire an excerpt of H.T. Chen’s Warriors of Light — the journey to obtain peace and enlightenment. In 2004, as both companies were approaching their 25th Anniversary, Warriors of Light was performed in its entirety with a combined cast from both companies. The joint collaborative concert, Looking Back: Dancing Forward was presented by DDT at the Chandler Center for the Arts.


DDT invited and presented the full length South of Gold Mountain at the Tempe Center for the Arts in March 2015. The full length work is an interpretation based on the images and oral histories of the Chinese that settled in the southern states prior to WWII. It pays tribute to the livelihoods of Chinese grocers, laundries, restaurants, and those who persevered to quietly make a difference in the communities they lived in.



Video Clip of South of Gold Mountainhttps://vimeo.com/chendancecenter/sgmtrailer


What’s happening now and in the near future that may be of interest to your school/community…
H.T. Chen & Dancers will be sending one of their dance members, Gary Champi, to set Box Dance on DDT dancers the weekend of January 29-30. Later this Spring, H.T. Chen & Dancers will be coming to Arizona to perform in a joint educational presentation with DDT, focused on the history of the Chinese American experience. We are hoping that there will be interest in bringing this presentation to schools and communities throughout the Valley. This presentation will be the perfect educational program to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month during the month of May, recognizing the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.


If interested in bringing this cultural diversity presentation and/or a master class to your school or community, please contact me at gro.ertaehTecnaDtreseDnull@asil or call/text 602-740-9616.


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