HOME PROJECT-IMMIGRANT JOURNEYS (KYL/D): Promoting diversity through identity at Teatro Esperanza

un-Yang Lin/Dancers performed excerpts of their piece HOME PROJECT-IMMIGRANT JOURNEYS at Teatro Esperanza
Photo by Rob Li

On Friday night Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers performed excerpts of their piece HOME PROJECT-IMMIGRANT JOURNEYS at Teatro Esperanza to cap off their week-long residency at Esperanza Academy. The work, which debuted in 2015, laid heavy focus on the concept of identity, individuality, and the personal stories that follow individuals as they immigrate from home to another. Throughout the 45 minute run time this theme was explored from a variety of angles which ranging from upbeat and comedic to slow, somber, and emotional, all of which was elevated through the impeccable technique and expressive performance of the dancers.

The sense of individuality and identity was portrayed in the work via a series of solos and duets set against a larger collective of dancers in the background. In this way, each dancer was granted a distinct identity through the choreography which emphasized their own unique personality within the work. The variety in movement styles on display further emphasized the individuality and personality on the stage. At one moment a slow, sustained duet could be taking place while later there would be a solo focusing on more pointed, direct, and mechanical movements. These contrasting movement identities served to escalate and develop the themes present and reminded the audience that the people on stage were not a homogenous collective but instead a gathering of individuals who are at the same time dependent and independent of each other.

There were moments throughout where it became apparent that in individuality there is isolation and that through that mutual isolation, common ground and acceptance can be found. This idea is what guides the conclusion of the work where the entire ensemble comes together in a moment of perfect unison showcasing the way in which a collective of individual experiences and stories can grow together, culminating in a larger sense of community.

Aside from the movement itself, the presence of the work at Teatro Esperanza holds a high degree of significance. Placing this work at the end of a week of classes, workshops, and guided discussions with the company provided the students of Esperanza with the opportunity to see practice become performance and to observe how he fundamentals they’ve been taught can evolve into something greater. It’s this degree of exposure that spurns young artists onward, providing the inspiration to stick with their craft and forge their own creative enterprises.

Keeping this in mind it’s easy to see how the forging of diverse artistic communities in high school aged students relates to the work on stage as it’s important to approach the development of these communities with identity and individuality in mind, as it’s through individuality that artistic communities flourish and grow. By the end of the evening’s performance it was clear

KYL/D had left an impact during their residency as the students led a standing ovation for the company as soon as the lights had dimmed.

The event capped off with a question and answer session with company founder Kun-Yang Lin and his dancers. This gave an opportunity for greater understanding between the performers and students as they were free to openly discuss the themes, choreography, and process behind the work. While much of the discussion was impactful, the quote that stood out to me as an impactful summary of the night’s events was when Kun-Yang simply said; “Dance is our common ground… so that is why we dance”. In promoting arts education through collaboration and expressive technique KYL/D is actively contributing towards building a healthier, more diverse dance community here in Philadelphia through the common ground found within the love for this craft. Looking back on HOME PROJECT with this in mind it’s easy to see how it was the perfect thematic fit for the evening, and how it places a hopeful lens on the future of diversity in the performing arts.

[Teatro Esperanza, 4261 N 5th Street] March 15, 2019; esperanza.us

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