‘Dancing Moons Festival’: A celebration of AAPI artistic vision in ballet

Elaine Kudo (R) demonstrating her new duet with Oakland Ballet dancer Lawrence Chen. photo by Graham Lustig

Elaine Kudo (R) demonstrating her new duet with Oakland Ballet dancer Lawrence Chen. photo by
Graham Lustighttps://www.nichibei.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Elaine-Kudo-demonstrating-her-new-duet-with-Oakland-Ballet-dancer-Lawrence-Chen-2.jpg

“Dancing Moons Festival,” hosted by the Oakland Ballet for the second year in a row, opened March 17, in collaboration with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The program features dances choreographed by all-Asian American Pacific Islander choreographers, and the world premiere of “Exquisite Corpse,” a merged ballet program co-choreographed by Phil Chan, Seyong Kim and Elaine Kudo.

Exquisite Corpse is a game where players take turns drawing one part of a figure on a piece of paper, then folding it down so the next person does not see what the former person has created until completion, creating a combined work of art in the form of a co-created drawing. Drawing on this concept, Chan, Kim and Kudo each created a solo (head), ensemble/group (torso) and duet (legs) to create a combined program of nine different dances.

Kudo, choreographer, has had an illustrious career, having been a ballerina with American Ballet Theater, Twyla Tharp and other ballet companies. Even as an experienced choreographer, Kudo stated that she had never done a dance collaboration quite like this, sharing, “At first I was wondering how three choreographers from very different backgrounds would create this together, but somehow it all came together into a ‘beautiful corpse.’”

Kudo’s pieces are all memorable, each very different in tone and emotion. Kudo’s “head” piece is particularly striking, being choreographed as a trio instead of a solo, and she “created a three-headed monster of sorts,” according to Graham Lustig, artistic director of the Oakland Ballet. Set to classical music by Bach, the three dancers’ movements play off of one another while clearly being bound together, playfully switching around like a mind that can’t decide.

Those who attended the “Dancing Moons Festival” at the OACC got to view the performance surrounding a 360-style stage, and audience members got to experience the entire performance in a close proximity that is almost unheard of in traditional ballet.

The range of emotion expressed through this show is amplified through the diversity of the dancers who told emotional arcs that evoked intimacy, intensity, unity and even humor. Audience members got to see every movement and facial expression, giving the audience the feeling of being truly immersed in the performance.

By inviting and bringing together all-Asian choreographers, Oakland Ballet’s “Dancing Moons Festival” celebrates Asian artists, by bringing them squarely into the forefront and giving them the platform to create and express any story they want through the traditional, yet at the same time boundary-pushing artform of ballet.

“Dancing Moons Festival” will play April 7 at 7:30 p.m. and April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Presidio Theatre – San Francisco at 99 Moraga Ave. in San Francisco. For more information, call (510) 893-3132. To purchase tickets, visit https://oaklandballet.org/dancing-moons-festival/.

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