Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Christopher Steven Quiocho and Jackie Ni'i perform in "A Soul Vision," choreographed by Traci Lynn Chun.

A return to dancing

UH-Manoa dance student Traci Lynn Chun
goes back to the ensemble for "Footholds III"

"Footholds III: Fly High Fall Silently"

Where: Ernst Lab Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa

When: 8 p.m. tomorrow through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $9 general; $7 non-UHM students, seniors, military and UH faculty and staff; $3 UHM students with valid spring 2003 ID -- available at the theater one hour prior to show time

Call: 956-7655

Dance mirrors life for University of Hawaii-Manoa dance student Traci Lynn Chun. Last month, she made her debut as a choreographer with "A Soul Vision," a representation of "a lot of things that were going on in my personal life" that was presented as part of "Footholds II: Young Choreographers on Stage." Tomorrow night, she will step back in the ensemble to help present fellow student Jennifer Butler's choreography in "Footholds III: Fly High Fall Silently."

"I feel really confident being on the stage, moving my body and doing whatever it is I feel, but putting myself on the other side of the stage (and choreographing other people) was a totally new experience for me," Chun said backstage at Kennedy Theatre recently.

Chun started work on "A Soul Vision" in August for presentation in April -- a much longer gestation period, she said, than the "normal, two-month choreography" process. Although she was developing the movements to reflect deeply personal experiences, she wanted the finished piece to be broader in terms of visual presentation. Chun sought out student dancers with different backgrounds -- a male, a "Japanese local from Hawaii" and a Caucasian and two Asians from the mainland. Valerie Gee, from San Francisco, had ballet training but was new to modern dance. Dancer-actress Helen Lee, born and raised in Chicago, had impressive credits locally as an actress and for her work incorporating dancers in nonmusical theater. Lee became Chun's unofficial mentor for the project.

"It was a really different experience for me because I've never really worked with people from different parts of the country, but I wanted dancers from different backgrounds, different styles and experiences, not just the (local) Asian. With the help of Helen, I saw that (my piece) was really memory clippings from my past and everybody's past coming together to create a broad range of vision."

Chun is shown above left, with the dancers Nii, Quiocho and Valerie Gee and in the back row, Helen Lee and Janie Ewing. All performed with Chun last month at Spring Footholds.

The biggest challenge she found was explaining what she had in mind and how she wanted to use it as the basis for the dancers' movements.

"I had choreographed a couple of pieces before but never to this extent, to where it was a group of dancers that I wanted to take deeper (than basic stage direction). Most of the time, I'm not a verbal person -- when I go on stage it's, 'OK, this is what I have to show to the world,' but how do I show people what I want them to know without actually doing it? I didn't want them to be a cookie-cutter image of me and my style, but for them to take it and give their own interpretation."

Chun says that she found it helped her to be involved in two other projects as the debut date of her own big piece was approaching -- she was preparing for a program at Marks Garage in addition to rehearsing for "Footholds III." She adds that Lee helped keep her grounded and avoid excessive second-guessing as the piece came together.

"Helen has been an instrumental part of me realizing that what I created is something to be proud of. It's my words, my dance, my movement, but is also captures the (other) dancers' pasts and their personal experiences. All of us came together as a group to say something from me and not just put pretty pictures on stage."

The 21-year-old Chun plans to take at least a year off after she graduates in August. When she continues her formal education, she hopes to find a school where she can both continue her dance studies and also study landscape architecture or interior design.

Besides the potential financial advantages in preparing for other careers, Chun says there's an artistic connection between the two. "They're all about shapes and lines."

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