Foreign Affair: Annielille Gavino-Kollman talks diversity and dance ahead of Fringe show FORE-IGN FORE-OUT

Fringe piece FORE-IGN/FORE-OUT brings together four choreographers—Evalina Carbonell, Melissa Chisena, Nikolai McKenzie, and Annielille Gavino-Kollman—interested in exploring different themes of diversity and human identity. Annielille Gavino-Kollman’s piece focuses on the immigrant experience and includes a cast drawn from diverse cultural backgrounds, all of which influence the music and movement of the work. Phindie talked Annielille ahead of the show. [CHI Movements Art Center, 1316 South 9th Street] September 16-17, 2016fringearts.com/fore-ignfore-out.

Photo: Blue Chemical Photography

Photo: Blue Chemical Photography

Phindie: What does the title mean to you?

Annielille Gavino-Kollman: For-eign/Four-out was a title 4 of us collaborators (Melissa Chizena, Evalina Carbonell, Nikolai McKenzie and I) agreed on. We initially came together to do a split bill to share the burdens of producing a show. After a few discussions, we realized that our works had commonalities which created the title. Nikolai’s work is on sexuality and gender identity, whereas mine is about immigration. We both have works on how it feels like to be on the margins. He, as a Jamaican and I, as a Filipino are both literally foreign and are “left out” as we neither fit “here or there”. Both Evalina and Melissa’s works are not subject heavy but are visually stunning and unpredictable. In a sense, their choices are foreign to the usual mainstream dance choreographic choices. This makes them a perfect addition to Fringe’s FORE-IGN/FORE-OUT.

Phindie: How did your piece come about?

Annielille Gavino-Kollman: I immigrated to this country some twenty years ago. As one might expect, over these twenty years, my relationship with my adopted home has evolved. I moved here alone, seeking independence and perhaps escape. It was a temporary stay for conservatory, with a plane ticket home in my back pocket, never used. After graduating I toured many of the country’s iconic cities and soaked up the freedom of youth. Then, somehow, ended up married in the suburbs away from everything I knew. I had a daughter, and generally lived life. At some point I had lived longer here than in my native, Philippines. The temporary adventure had become a journey home.

My relationship with home, has evolved. It hasn’t always been easy and there remain struggles with the culture here, as opposed to the culture there. These differences, and this journey, is what I wish to explore and the emotions it brings are what I wish to express. It is drawn from my personal struggles as an immigrant and my struggle to pass on my culture to my American daughter.
The actual starting point of the work was while residing in Virginia. There I experienced not so subtle prejudices and these became my impetus. To create a deeper work I’ve read into the history of American immigration. There I found the racial bias towards immigrants of color went quite deep and matched my modern, personal, experience.This research and experience are blended as the fabric of the piece. I have since, mixed in more current political themes and the work has grown.

Phindie: How has it developed since inception?

Annielille Gavino-Kollman: The work has morphed into many different versions. Whenever I work with new artists, the work changes. The current political sentiment of the time of creation also adds to the work. The first immigration work in 2014 addressed Arizona Senate Bill 1040, an anti-immigration legislative act that requires a law enforcement officer to detain, lawfully stop or arrest a suspicious illegal immigrant. My work then questioned, what does an illegal immigrant look like? This new work for Fringe 2016 has evolved since then, adding my latest source of material, Donald Trump.

Phindie: He’s making America great again! Your performers are drawn from diverse backgrounds, what were some similarities and differences among various immigrant experiences?

Annielille Gavino-Kollman: During the free write session which became the initial source of material, the word “melting pot” appeared in many of the dancer’s writings. The cast members agree that America was built by immigrants. We all discussed that we celebrate the diversity of this country. This helped me draw a picture of a traveling caravan weaving language, music and dance.

During the caravan scene, the accordion player asked, do you want me to play the mazurka song when the dance section ends? I replied, no play Djelem. , Djelem is a sad traditional Romani song about a journey to find home and their people. This is something many of the dancers in the cast can relate to. After our shared experiences of assimilating to Western culture, we find ourselves fitting in both worlds, but also not belong to any.

For the only caucasian male dancer, his experience is different. Now, we see him as the privileged White male. This is ironic because once upon a time in history, his ancestors were discriminated for being Jewish. He shared with me that Jewish is not a race but a religion. In that case, his ancestors were discriminated for having a different religious faith. Discussions about this in the creation was a learning experience for both myself and the artists. And I commend him for being so willing to play the role.

Phindie: Who is this piece for?

Annielille Gavino-Kollman: This is for everyone who enjoys diversity, parodies, political humor, dance and theater. This is for immigrants and for children of immigrants…which to me is pretty much all of America. This is for dance enthusiasts or anyone curious about dance.

Phindie: Do you have any other picks for this year’s Fringe?

Annielille Gavino-Kollman: I’m particularly interested in The Crossing. I curious how other artists weave socio-political statements with their medium. In the composer Ted Hearn’s, it’s music. As a dancer I like checking out other dance works…. Wise Norlina sounds intriguing as well!

FORE-IGN/FORE-OUT
CHI Movements Art Center
1316 South 9th street
September 16 and 17 at 6 pm and 9 pm
fringearts.com/fore-ignfore-out

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.