SANCTUARY (KUN-YANG LIN/DANCERS): Sanctuary for those who know pain

Photo credit: RobLi Photography
Photo credit: RobLi Photography

A non-profit dance company in South Philly, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) presents SANCTUARY at the Prince Theater from April 27 through 29. As the title implies, what is offered inside the theater is a sanctuary for those who carry pain, struggle, or need a safe space to express and share those feelings with someone who understands and embraces them.

The first half of the program is “One-Immortal Game”. Kun-Yang Lin, the artistic director and co-founder, choreographed the piece inspired by a chess game that overlaps the world of politics and the art of dance. Wearing simple grey tunics and tights, Shaness Kemp and Liu Mo bow to each other, take a seat on cubes, and start a game of chess. The two players are joined by dancers and the stage turns into a chess board as dancers become the chess pieces.

Lin’s choreography is a bridge between East and West. While the movements show elements of modern ballet, each movement is based on the method of T’ai-chi. The unique breathing methods of eastern medicine and martial arts are introduced in his dance style, which let the dancers and the viewers feel qi—energy—around and inside the dancers.

A duet by Liu Mo and Nikolai Mckenzie presents a classical chinese dance.  Mo was trained at the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. He spins and jumps, using one long cloth as an extension of his arms, sometimes sharp like a whip, other times gracefully like a petal floating in the air. The dance is deeply philosophical and inspiring.

The second half of the program drops a bomb of a reality that is hard to face. Titled “Sanctuario”, (Spanish for sanctuary), the dance is a requiem for those who were slaughtered at the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and also for those who are vulnerable and suffer from discrimination, isolation, and violence because of who they are.

The piece starts as young lively dancers enjoy the moment at a club—their sanctuary and safe space—releasing the stress and oppression that they face in the outside world. With a snapping loud sound their movements suddenly change to stilted ones as if they are exposed. Then the gunshot reverberate in the theater.Dancers crawl on the stage and run around in fear and shock.

Lin provides a strong message with three beautiful duets by two male dancers, then by two pairs of female dancers. Genders and races mean nothing to the true affection and love among people. But unreasonable and meaningless ignorance tears us apart and destroys us. The dance is painful and hard to watch, as it is intended to be. It exposes viewers to the violence, pain, and sorrow minorities are exposed to, and which viewers might never experience otherwise. Sobs and gasps fill the theater.

This is a reality that we need to face, think about, and talk about.

Any form of arts can be beautiful and moving, and express the thoughts and feelings of artists. Art can also be a means to confront and combat issues of our society. KYL/D’s SANCTUARY is one of those art pieces that has the power to start discussions on those issues we may miss or not pay attention to in our busy everyday life, in the safe sanctuary—the theater—where we are allowed to share moments and opinions.

[The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut street] April 27-29, 2017;

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