Performing Diaspora 2018 artists Melissa Lewis (顾眉) and Cynthia Ling Lee on Cynthia’s work, Lost Chinatowns. Original conversaiton on Oct 27, 2018 Melissa Lewis: I love hearing about how your work began. Can you share the story of where things started with this piece? Cynthia Ling Lee: It all started with the search for groceries. Asian […]
Five Feet Dance
About This Artist
Clarissa K. Ko is the founder and Artistic Director of Five Feet Dance, a dance company in San Francisco. Most recently presenting works at SAFEhouse Arts, Little Boxes Theatre, and LEVYsalon. She is an arts educator and choreographer. Ko is a MSEd Learning Design and Technology candidate at Purdue University and received her BA in Performing Arts and Social Justice (Dance) from the University of San Francisco. She is on faculty with ODC’s Youth and Teen Program, Performing Arts Workshop, and HeartBeat Dance Academy. Her choreographic and teaching endeavors are inspired by community-based practices that encourage individuality and agency. fivefeetdance.com
Marysa Robinson is a graduate of University of San Francisco with a BA in Performing Arts & Social Justice and a certificate in Theatrical Tech & Design. She has worked as a director, performer, musician, and sound technician. This fall she completed Syracuse University Tepper Semester’s Casting Apprenticeship Program, working at Tara Rubin Casting. She is currently lives in New York City and works as a casting assistant for Jessica Daniels Casting. She is an advocate for increased diversity and representation, art that pushes boundaries, honest storytelling, and raw portrayal. Her work is a tribute to her grandmother, Jane Kowata, always.
About This Project
Five Feet Dance presents (de)classified, a multidisciplinary performance of ancestry, culture, and change; (de)classified honors the Asian American experiences that our media and documentation of history have overlooked. It is radically created in collaboration with Asian American women rooted in examining their cultural evolution growing up in this country. In order to move forward in this deeply divided time, we reconcile and heal from our pasts.
With a cast from various cultural backgrounds, upbringing, and ages, the company delves into what it means to be Asian American. Looking through the lenses of their own individual experiences bridging what is often two culturally polar worlds. Noticing how they have navigated the two worlds in the past, as well as how they navigate them now, a community and process of support and healing is built.
“Sometimes there are no solutions or answers. Only stories and the space to hold them. To be listened to, to be really heard — it is radical; it is personal and political for me…Unpacking my stories to refresh and re-render my identity on my terms. “-Melissa Lewis, company collaborator.
Five Feet Dance is partnered with StoryCorps in San Francisco, an organization whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories to form relationships between people and create a more just and compassionate world. Together they have interviewed the cast to save these voices and individual stories within the organization’s archives and the Library of Congress. It is important for these individual stories to be regarded as unique and significant in their own right. As what often happens in Americanized movies, television, and conversation, these experiences are rarely presented or, if they are, grouped together and potentially stereotyped. This project provides an opportunity for these particular collaborators to speak their truth and perhaps for others to see their self, their two worlds, reflected in it.
Performer bios (in alphabetical order):
Jazlynn Eugenio Pastor is a current Senior at the University of San Francisco majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program. Growing up in Los Angeles, Jazlynn first started dancing competitively in Hip-Hop. When she moved to San Francisco, she discovered Philippine dance. Through this form, she has been able to explore her Filipina roots, preserve her culture, and learn how to tell stories through performance. By following her passion, she is currently the Cultural Director of USF Kasamahan, a Public Programs Intern at the SF Asian Art Museum, and member of Parangal Dance Company.
Joyce Lien Kushner is second generation Taiwanese, born and raised in SoCal. Her dance training includes jazz, ballet, tap, Graham, Limon, and Horton. In 1989, Joyce earned an Economics/Business B.A. at UCLA, graduating Magna Cum Laude. While in Los Angeles, Joyce danced with Modern City Repertoire Dance Company and taught at California Dance Center. Now in the Bay Area, Joyce continues to dance, choreograph and teach. She has guest taught at City College of San Francisco and is currently on faculty at Geary Dance Center and Peninsula Dance Academy. In 2015, Joyce co- founded TILTshift Dance Theater, serving as Artistic Director.
Kathleen Moore has been performing in the Bay Area since 1977. She was a founding member of Oblong Rhonda and TRANSIT Dance Companies with whom she performed for a total of 14 years. Kathleen has been honored to appear in work created by M. Koob, Barbie White, Emily Keeler, Lenwood Sloan, Sonsheree Giles, Pearl Ubungen, Jennifer Minore, Natalie Greene, Kristen Greco, Donna Bias, Clarissa Ko, Sienna Williams and Lara D’Emilio. Kathleen has been the Administrative Coordinator of the San Francisco Arts Education Project since 1994. She is a native San Franciscan.
Malia Byrne holds a Bachelors Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies with a Dance minor from Chapman University. She is interested in the ways in which those studies intersect, and creating work that examines those connections and parallels. She currently works as an artist facilitator for Skywatchers under the direction of Anne Bluethenthal, and as an apprentice for Kristin Damrow & Company.
Melissa Lewis moved from Massachusetts in 2010 to study in the Performing Arts & Social Justice Dance Program at the University of San Francisco. Since then she has visited her 105y/o Chinese grandmother weekly, made coffee to support dancing professionally, and found a personal film photography practice. She is a company member of detour dance, working with Arletta Anderson/Adam Smith, and has a short dance film (titled ‘pretty clean’) to premiere next year. The sardine is her most recent project.
Nina Wu is a learning game designer by day with a serious side hustle in dance. In addition to Five Feet Dance, you can find her dancing with Mix’d Ingrdnts, Sarah Bush Dance Project, and Duniya Dance and Drum Company, as well as creative collaborations with ragbag. Nina studied Math, Visual Art, and Education at Duke University. Her pursuit for adventure took her from teaching 4th grade, to working in an NYC art gallery, to now designing math games, dancing all the while.
Cover photo: Jazlynn G. Eugenio Pastor, Melissa Lewis; Photo by Afshin Odabaee. Artist photo: Melissa Lewis; Photo by Afshin Odabaee
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