Performing Diaspora 2016

SAMMAY & dana e. fitchett
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CounterPulse is proud to present Performing Diaspora 2016, featuring works from two emerging, radical Bay Area choreographers, Samantha “SAMMAY” Dizon and dana e. fitchett. SAMMAY’s silbihan is a multimedia dance theatre piece that reflects on personal experiences of first-generation Pilipina-American daughters and their migrant mothers from womb to present day. An intimate investigation of the (dis)connections between mothers and daughters of the diaspora through the lens of religion versus spirituality – this piece serves as a portal to pastpresentfuture dialectics as well as a bridge for (re)awakening the maternal bond. dana e. fitchett’s unending represents fitchett’s work to create space for individual and collective authenticity and reject oppressive narratives particularly within the current reality of Black life in America.

Performing Diaspora is a seven-year-old artist residency program of CounterPulse that focuses supporting artists that are drawing on tradition in new and radical ways to be responsive, inclusive, and supportive in driving equity. The CounterPulse Artist Residency & Commissioning Programs offers emerging, local performing artists space and the technical and administrative support to create new work, carving space for experimentation and risk-taking by lifting many of the responsibilities of self-production.



Samantha “SAMMAY” Dizon’s silbihan is a multimedia dance theatre piece that seeks to reflect on personal experiences of first-generation Pilipina-American daughters and their migrant mothers from the womb to present day. This piece investigates the (dis)connections between mothers and daughters of the diaspora through the lens of religion versus spirituality – centered on the daughters’ discovery of the babaylan: a woman who serves the community through her role as a folk therapist, wisdom-keeper and philosopher; provides stability to the community’s social structure; and can access the spirit realm and other states of consciousness (Strobel).  

In collaboration with Joshua Icban (composer/musician), Solitaire Miguel (documentarian/media artist), Gregory Manalo (cinematographer), and JoAnna Ursal (choreographer/performing artist) – silbihan will be an orchestration of pastpresentfuture dialectics as Sammay unravels what the Pilipina migrant mother could embody had she not been born into a colonized country of Catholicism, under the spell of amnesia from Spanish occupation and US imperialism. Would the relationship between mother/daughter be an opportunity for shared feminine and spiritual ideals had she not been coerced to do away with her native traditions? Are mothers and daughters open to healing intergenerational trauma and retroactively celebrating the indigenous spirit as a way of life? On the contrary, are there postcolonial values which have been passed down that shine light on an alternative yet sustainable way of being in this 21st century navigation?

As a rooted millennial constantly navigating back in time to what once was and still ought to be – Samantha “SAMMAY” Dizon encounters the challenges of uniting the two generations into meaningful exchange and understanding. Through one-on-one interviews with five mother-daughter pairs, Sammay will uncover untold herstories and realize possibilities for the future. Just one of the many daughters redefining what ‘fulfillment’ in contemporary American society looks/feels like, Sammay is building a bridge for ongoing dialogue and intentional redirection for the maternal bond through investigative performance. Photo by Baltazar Jonnel Dasalla

Follow along Sammay’s process on her residency blog >>


L to R: Devon Fitchett, Dana Fitchett, Photo by Jorge Galvez


dana e. fitchett

Approaching movement and drawing alike with staunch commitment to maintaining authenticity, dana e. fitchett carves new space within the oppressive societal context of 21st century USA. Patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism reign supreme, but dana uses her artmaking to reject imposition of the dominant narrative, give herself space to be, and give others permission to do the same. While ballet training in her formative years emphasized severe limitations on movement, Black social dance spaces later offered dana liberation through permission to access her full range of motion. This interplay of structure and freedom drives the thinking behind unending.

The East Coast soulful house music club scene is about love and freedom and is the space that dana credits for teaching her to dance. While the scene hosts a vast sample of the population, it is undeniably a historically Black American tradition. Here, people come together to connect, release, celebrate life, and be in community, but through collective individual expression via authentic movement.

Influences from these two drastically different dance cultures have resulted in a consistently textured but constantly evolving movement vocabulary that draws from both lineages but mimics neither.

unending draws inspiration from these musings of individual and collective identity, as well as from the current reality of Black life in America. The work is inspired by the complex and compelling conundrum that commitment to unadulterated individuality can both facilitate and obstruct progress toward oneness and universalism. With a focus on pure movement exploration through timing and patterns, dana makes observations, suggestions, and inquiries about the ways we relate to one another and ourselves at the sites of identity and relationship formation. Photo by Jorge Galvez, Pictured L to R: Devon Fitchett, Dana Fitchett

Follow along dana’s process on her residency blog >>

About Performing Diaspora

The work of Performing Diaspora artists is not easily categorizable, and the ways in which their work draws on or is rooted in tradition may take many forms. In this current moment we are interested in supporting artists that are drawing on tradition as a radical way to be responsive, inclusive, and support equity. We find ourselves with questions around how tradition can be a tool of anti-capitalism, anti-boarder control, anti-police violence, anti-homogenization, or anti-erasure. However, we are also interested in exploring beyond the polemic set by the frame of ‘anti.’ Therefore, we are also curious about how tradition is a tool of evolution? How is tradition alive? How does tradition move across space, time, boundaries and border? This residency seeks supports artists whose work carries the story of a previous life and lands it in this time and space. In a time when record numbers of refugees seek asylum and the erasure of people of color’s experiences and lives is visible than ever, the stories we carry in our minds and bodies are all the more important. What is your story of change?

This program is made possible by support from the Ken Hempel Fund for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

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December 1, 2016 @ 8:00 pm
December 4, 2016 @ 11:00 pm
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