Gin Dance Company (GDC) is a Metropolitan DC/Northern Virginia based performing arts modern dance company. Founded in Reston, Virginia in 2011 by Artistic Director Shu-Chen Cuff, GDC performs works that uniquely reflects the rich Asian Dance heritage and Eastern philosophy blended with Western fluidity of movement and culture.
Once again, Gin Dance has been selected to perform at the annual Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival, where they will bring original and new works to the Festival under the title Introspections.
This year’s Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival kicks off the Atlas Performing Arts Center 10th Anniversary. The Festival aims to bring a diverse line-up of the best DC area arts and artists to the H Street stages of the Atlas.
DCMetroTheaterArts’ David Siegel spoke with Shu-Chen Cuff about the return visit of Gin Dance to INTERSECTIONS. First, though, since often asked, why “Gin” as its name? Here is the answer from Shu-Chen Cuff herself.
David Siegel: Why do you like to perform at the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival?
Shu-Chen Cuff: It’s a phenomenal festival with over 100 performances featuring 400 artists. It showcases music, dance, theater and film work. The audience gets to explore all different disciplines of performing arts; they intersect each other in one festival. It’s a spectacular celebration of arts. The Gin Dance Company is thrilled to be part of it.
What will audiences see at GDC’s Introspections?
In Introspections we will be featuring Gin Dance Company (GDC) original works Solitaire, Motion in String, and Lost and Found.
I had the privilege of collaborating with the talented visual arts artist, Teri Ann LaBuwi. I love how Teri’s unique artistic vision is expressed in her paintings with such organic layers of shades and colors. Sometimes her works seem abstract, but when you look closely, it somehow all seems so clear. This will be a wonderful experience for the audience to see how a story gets developed and watch it unfold in unison with two very different art forms illustrating how the arts and humanity are intrinsically connected…I hope leaves the audience uplifted and inspired.
Please tell us about the new GDC dance works? Also, how do you select music to accompany a dance?
The idea of our newest work Solitaire actually came from watching news stories of individuals being bullied or picked on for being different; the isolation and depression one can feel at those periods in their life. I want to send a message that instead of empowering others to make you feel bad about yourself and feel like you’ve been left out for being different, find the true YOU. Stand up for yourself. Solitaire is about having your own voice, identity, and thoughts; being proud and loving of who you really are.
The inspiration for Lost and Found came from a personal experience. I was working 24/7 nonstop. I have a desire and excitement to build a great performing arts company. The workload was getting heavier and heavier. I became a working machine that never shut down. The exhaustion caught up to me and I started to wonder… Am I enjoying this or am I becoming a slave of my life. I knew I had to make some changes. Lost and Found reflects how we can be living such fast paced busy lives, chasing dreams. Thinking that once we catch our dream, we will be happy, only to learn that we have forgotten to live in the present…to see and appreciate what’s in right front of us. If we would only take the time to live in the moment, we would realize that our dreams and true happiness may already be so close.
Music was the inspiration for me to create Motion in String. When I first heard the music that is a recomposed score from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Season by Max Richter, I was immediately drawn into the melody; translating them into movements. I love when that happens. These distinctively different pieces of music are modernized contemporary works yet underneath still maintain the classical feel. The music led me to create divergent dynamics and connections of the movements along with the relationships between the dancers.
Which usually comes first, the choreography or the music?
For me, the music comes first. Once I have the idea and score for the work, I let my vision of the dance and the melody of the music over flow in my mind and let that power move my body and my feeling and from that it helps me to develop the character. In order to create a dance, I need to fall in love with the music first. Music is the reason that I dance and create. The choreography is the embodiment of the music.
What do you want audiences to feel as they take in your new works?
All three new works have very thoughtful meanings; they get delivered through different emotions and energy. There are moments of seriousness, there are moments of fun, there are moments of searching, and there are moments of humor. We hope the visual and emotional impact will inspire the audience to interpret their own story and ideas. We hope to leave them with a deeper desire to look into and understand their purpose in life and the path they are on.
Introspections will explore our basic human need to connect with those around us and the importance of being in the moment to live truly fulfilling and meaningful lives as they look within themselves – thus Introspections.
Gin Dance Company performs Introspections on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 5 PM at the INTERSECTIONS Festival at Atlas Performing Arts Center’s The Theresa and Jane Lang Theatre – 1333 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.
In The Moment: An interview with Choreographer Shu-Chen Cuff of the Gin Dance Company on Appearing at Intersections at Atlas in 2015 by David Siegel.