What I did on summer vacation

“My family lived in Frankfurt while it was being bombed…”

“He didn’t want us to learn German.”

“Back in Nagasaki where the fellas chew tobaccy.”

The above are pictures and phrases that came out of a performance I was involved in, called “The Mapping Project,” which had its premiere in June at the San Francisco International Arts Festival. The performance was a collaboration between Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater, Element Dance Theater, the musicians Theresa Wong and Ayako Kataoka, visual artist Ilya Noe, and myself (working conceptually, and with animation, visual installation and video projection). With so many people involved, it could have easily been a disaster, but everyone got along, and peoples’ roles were pleasantly fluid. Ayako was running sound, and she also danced; Theresa played live cello on stage; ideas for projected images evolved out of physical work that emerged from rehearsals; text and choreography was created by the dancers — we even had a portion of the audience set up in chairs on stage, right in the middle of things.

The piece itself involved the crossing of borders, and memories of travel. Navarrete x Kajiyama developed work around the crossing of the US/Mexico border, and Element Dance Theater developed work about the dancers’ histories, going back two generations, to the displacements of the Second World War. Segments overlapped and spilled into each other, the historical stories sometimes interrupted by the silent, urgent activities of dancers slipping in and out of the shadows, trying to evade apprehension, or frantically cleaning, mopping up other peoples’ dirt. The two strains of displacement bounced off each other in interesting, suggestive ways. We had a piece of stage setting created by Ilya Noe, the bare frame of a house that was assembled, shuttled around, and finally disassembled over the course of the evening — its malleability and transparency underlining how provisional the concept of “home” can be.

I set up a blog for the project, that has many more images, including images of several digital prints that were hung as part of the performance, paired with some of the dancers’ family stories (they came from very different coordinates — one had a grandfather who was in the Nazi army, one had grandparents sent to a Japanese Internment Camp in Arkansas, and so on).

A short review of the piece was posted on critical dance, as well.

Hopefully in the near future I’ll have time to post a few video clips…

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