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Asian Media Access

Project Resonate
A Dance Drama reflecting COVID impacts on BIPOC communities
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The Origin

As the COVID-19 virus spread across the world, an increased number of people of Asian heritages in Minnesota, and more broadly, in many other parts of the U.S. have reported experiencing racism over the past two years.  Because COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, some people felt justified in spreading xenophobic messages that blames people of Asian heritages for this deadly virus. The anti-Asian racism we face only escalated as national leaderships continued to use terms like “Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu Virus” toward Asians. Racist actions ranging from using xenophobic and racial slurs, to refusing customer services, to deadly physical assaults had all increased.   

To combat the racial hatred, Artists from Asian Media Access and Pan Asian Arts Alliance come together to create a new Dance Drama – “Project Resonance” that showcases the cross-cultural beauties, and how BIPOCs supporting each other and surviving the pandemic together with cultural resiliency.   “Project Resonance” is a collaboration between African American and Asian American artists to jointly create diverse music and dance pieces to reflect COVID-19 impacts on the BIPOC communities, and to organize the “Resonance” dance drama, to support cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, in order to mitigate the pandemic conflicts and support intercultural harmony. 

The Team

Producer/Director: Ange Hwang

Lighting and Technical Director: Stephen J. Lu

Composer and Guzheng Musician: Jarrelle Barton

Choreographer: XueFeng Lee

Costume Designer: Andreanna Yang

Talents: Unity Dance Company with the Lead Dancers – Anna Thao and Sean Thao

The Process

The Dance Drama “Project Resonance” has previewed at the 2022 May Songkran Festival at the State Capital, and debuted the whole show on July 11th, at the prestigious Grand Rapids’ REIF Performing Arts Center.   

As a journey going through the Pandemic, the composer Jarrelle Barton has composed new music, to highlight the pandemic impacts on families, and incorporated 3 new Guzheng music in reflecting the composer’s experience with COVID: from just learning about COVID, not paying much attention, to realizing the disaster it created; to feeling angry and frustration; then learning to adapt, and end with appreciation and hope for all of us.

Then the Choreographer XueFeng Lee has taken the music and choreographed multiple dances to thread a dance drama together, to better reflect different stage of struggles among BIPOCs, and end with a positive note – as a unified message – wearing the mask to protect yourself and protect the community. 

Not only was the music were beautifully played, and the 22 dancer ensemble from the Unity Dance Company clearly illustrated how pandemic progressed as virus evolved, along with sacrifices of many, to where we are now – a new normal.

One of the dances he created was to highlight the struggle of Asians during the Anti-Asian hate crimes. Dancers used traditional body movements like twist, tilt, round, curve, lookup, stoop, turn, roll, etc., to express emotions of being labelled and pushed way.   Choreographer XueFeng Lee truly treasured the opportunity, and said:

“This is a great honor to work with a multicultural artist’s team to put the piece together to reflect our pandemic struggles, and I also incorporated some anti-Asian hate elements in it, scenes like where member seeking help, but others trying to avoid her.  I am glad many audiences have picked that up through the movements.”

Another beautiful dance he used the time ticking sounds to showcase the urgency and how virus’ mutation and replication.  The finale came with the live performance of the newly created Guzheng piece “Dancing Phoenix,” accompanying the last dance piece – “Our Fight, Our Success,” that emphasized the inner spirits of resiliency and recovery, and successfully closed the show with such a positive note.  

Our composer Jarrelle Barton has also reflected his journey through the creation to production,

“I have created 3 new Guzheng pieces for the dance drama “Resonance,” they are – Breathe; Dancing Phoenix ; and Ode to a Wish.  My idea is using “Breathe,” very quiet with slower beats, to show people adapting to the pandemic. “Dancing Phoenix” is stronger in rhythm to show the fighting spirit; and end with peaceful “Ode to a Wish.”  But to my surprise, the Choreographer, XueFeng chose Ode to a Wish to highlight the birth of the virus, reflecting it perfectly in such quiet,  unnoticeable place where the virus grew.” 

Throughout the whole performance, dancers not only needed to showcase the techniques of Asian fusion dances, but also to perfect their moral characters and willpower in order to portray the fundamental inner meaning of “Resonance,” to appreciate the collective power working together to bring a better tomorrow.

Below are the Dance LineUp:

  1. Guzheng Opening
  2. “Our village, our lives”
  3. “Birth of the Virus” with new guzheng music creation “Ode to Wish”
  4. “Affected”
  5. “Seeking for Answer”
  6. “Sorrow”
  7. “Ritual Ceremony to Chase away the Virus”
  8. “Time is Ticking, Virus Multiples and Spreading”
  9. “Virus Celebrating its Victory”
  10. “Finding Solutions – Resuming the Balance – Yin and Yang”
  11. “Resurrection”
  12. “Virus Mutation – Virus spreading widely to Children” with new guzheng music creation “Breathe”
  13. “Our Fight, Our Success” with new guzheng music creation “Dancing Phoenix”
  14. “Finale: the Key Success – Wearing Masks”
  15. Guzheng Closing
  16. Final Bow

After the show, audience has opportunities to share their reflections and appreciation of such high quality show, truly reflect everyone’s journey through the pandemic.   The Producer/Director, Ange Hwang has appraised all artists and dancers to create such successful show, she indicated:

” That is a truly Resonance spirit – where people of similar frequencies come together, and the output is not a simple sum of individual work, but exponential.  Such RESONANCE empowers all of us to live in harmony with each other. Resonance can be very useful in creating the dance drama, but it can also be troublesome; if resonance is at an unwanted frequency, it can lead to disaster. In order to create the harmony, our Artistic Team has to be all on the same wavelength to create powerful harmony for our audiences.  And I believe we have successfully done so.”

WE HOPE our newly created dance drama RESONANCE CAN help slow and REVERSE THE ANTI-ASIAN TREND, and to highlight the beauties of cross-cultural collaboration/understanding to support inter-cultural harmony.   

The Dance Drama will be presented one last time at Oct. 23, 2022 4:00pm – 5:00pm during the Taste of Asia with free admission, at Union Depot, St. Paul downtown.  Join us to experience this communal journey through the pandemic.

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