Shu-Chen Cuff and Gin Dance Company Return to Atlas Intersections Festival with ‘Next’

Shu-Chen Cuff and her Gin Dance Company are returning to perform at the celebrated DC Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. “We are thrilled to be part of the 10th anniversary of the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival and sharing our very special production Next,” said Cuff, Gin Dance Company founder and artistic director. “We are excited to be returning to this wonderful annual event for the 6th time to share our art.”

Shu-Chen Cuff and Gin Dance Company will premiere "We, The Moon, The Sun" during the 2019 Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. Photo by Ruth Judson/Gin Dance Company.
Shu-Chen Cuff and Gin Dance Company will premiere “We, The Moon, The Sun” during the 2019 Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. Photo by Ruth Judson/Gin Dance Company.

For this year’s Festival Cuff, originally from Taiwan, has choreographed two new works as major segments of Gin Dance’s overall production of Next. One new piece is a unique cultural experience entitled “We, The Moon, The Sun,” an Asian culturally influenced work combining Chinese opera movements with Asian philosophy and blended with modern dance. The second premiere will be “Infinity,” a dance piece motivated by a desire to embody timelessness and perpetuity. Gin Dance will also perform audience favorite dance pieces such as “200 Feet,” inspired by the teachings of the author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” Jack Canfield.

David Siegel: What inspired you to create “We, The Moon, The Sun”?

Shu-Chen Cuff: “We, The Moon, The Sun” was inspired by a Buddha quote: “Three things cannot be long hidden, sun, moon, and truth.” From that, I began to explore the idea that we are one. Our energy flows together constantly and we are all interdependent, just as the earth, the moon, and the sun all depend on the other. The sun creates different energy and scenery on earth, sunrise, midday, and sunset. It fertilizes the earth and it creates all life on our special planet. The sun and the earth can never be hidden. The moon is the driving force for all the rhythms and cycles of nature. It is connected to the oceans of our planet earth as well as the water in human bodies. The moon produces no light of her own. It shines by the sun. It relies on the sun’s light to reflect her image to reality. The moon also can never be hidden.

Please tell me more about Asian cultural influences for “We, The Moon, The Sun.”

“We, The Moon, The Sun” has a tremendous Asian culturally influenced idea behind its creation. From the music to the dance, to the costumes, this work is filled with rich Asian art forms. The music is played by koudi (Chinese flute), pipa (Chinese lute), guzheng (Chinese zither), and taiko (Japanese large drums). The costumes are Chinese dresses with a hint of modernized design.

With our community’s and society’s changing demographics, it’s important for us all to be open-minded and educated regarding different cultures, histories, and arts. That way we can understand, respect, love, and support each other more as we go through life. I’m passionate about my Asian roots and am so grateful to have the stage to express the Chinese culture through the dance art form.

Shu-Chen Cuff and Gin Dance Company will premiere "We, The Moon, The Sun" during the 2019 Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. Photo by Ruth Judson/Gin Dance Company.
Shu-Chen Cuff and Gin Dance Company will premiere “We, The Moon, The Sun” during the 2019 Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. Photo by Ruth Judson/Gin Dance Company.

The messages and the images represented in this piece–the moon, the sun, and the earth–may sound so beyond what we can control. However, if we interpret and apply the same principles presented, but scale them down to the circle of our own lives, we realize that we are all tightly dependent upon each other. So, let’s be kind, be supportive, be honest, and be grateful.

There are seven dancers in “We, The Moon, The Sun.” The dancers are Hannah Church, Michelle Conroy, Shu-Chen Cuff, Na Dai, Alison Grant, Julia Hellmich, and Elizabeth Watson.

What inspired you to create “Infinity?”

It was following the passing of Arthur Mitchell, the legendary American ballet dancer, choreographer, and the founder and director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, last year. I read so many touching messages posted by my former dance instructors, colleagues, and friends on social media. They were sharing their amazing experiences and memories of learning from Mr. Mitchell. They posted how he influenced their early (dance) development and deeply impacted their lives in so many different ways. I can’t help to think about many other extraordinary dance masters, who had touched so many lives and left such impact on the world. I was inspired to develop what is now “Infinity.”

How would you describe “Infinity” as a dance work?

“Infinity” is the embodiment of timelessness and perpetuity. This contemporary ballet piece flows back and forward with endless energy, feelings, and thoughts with eloquent classical music, “Adagio for Strings,” composed by Samuel Barber and conducted by Leonard Bernstein with New York Philharmonic. “Infinity” is my expression of the thought that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, but our journey to learn, grow, give and love continues well beyond our limited time on this earthly plane. Further, we don’t have to be some important or famous person to be of great influence to others. If we are just the best we can be, are kind, and share with others, the goodness will keep going on in perpetuity through others.

There are seven dancers in “Infinity.” The dancers are Hannah Church, Michelle Conroy, Na Dai, Alison Grant, Julia Hellmich, Courtney Lapenta, and Elizabeth Watson.

Anything else you would like readers to know about “Next” at Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival?

It’s our great pleasure to invite you to enjoy this diverse, innovative, and vibrant performance. Forget everything you know or you don’t know, come with an open heart and mind, you may just find answers you are seeking.

Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival plays February 21 to March 3, 2019, at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. For tickets to Gin Dance Company’s “Next,” to be performed on February 23, 2019, call the box office at (202) 399-7993, or purchase them online.

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David Siegel
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on DC Metro Theater Arts, ShowBiz Radio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with the American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.

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