I chose to choreograph and perform a freestyle dance for my creative response to the Sovereign Intimacies exhibition which you can watch on Gallery 1C03's IGTV Channel. I began the process by building a moodboard which I like to incorporate when I carry out creative projects. This is a strategy I was introduced to when I recently participated in a multi-storytelling program and it is really neat! In this case, I looked through photographs from the exhibition and was inspired by several pieces that were on view at Plug In ICA. In particular, the pieces I took inspiration from are Hassan Ashraf and Annie Beach’s Heart Berry Kief, Ayumi Goto and Peter Morin’s Gift – 遠⾜ (Ensoku) - Away, and iris yirei hu’s weaver girl limns two rainbows. When creating this piece I wanted to focus on elements and movement that people who are non-dancers may not pick up on. Sovereign Intimacies features work by collaborators who are Indigenous and artists from the diaspora. The show made me reflect on the intimacies I share between people outside the diaspora of my ethnicity and how I connect with the Indigenous communities in my life. The various talks throughout the exhibition have also contributed to my thought process while prompting my own discussion with myself as an artist who is a cis-gendered woman of color.
For my freestyle I considered the clothing I wore, the background I am dancing in front of, and the intention of my movements. I did not want to make it an overcomplicated piece. I believe in the simplicity of movement, of being there for yourself and not for others. After all, you own your body and you have autonomy over it. Freestyling is a way to let go of constraints that bind us to a strict routine and, instead, just letting your body move the way it wants to. I think that, in many ways, it is a powerful and freeing movement that grants you the ability to show how you feel in the moment. Thinking back to the intentions of the artists who presented their works in Sovereign Intimacies, the artists also embodied a sense of ownership through their creative work. For example, Hassaan and Annie’s work used language to take back their mother tongue and own it rather than seeing it as an obstacle. This was such a powerful way to decolonize the system.
Image: Hassaan Ashraf & Annie Beach, Heart Berry Kief, 2020, paint, stickers, glitter on wood. Photo: Marco Muller.
The song I used for my freestyle is by H.E.R. and is called “I can’t breathe.” It talks about the injustices experienced by Black people and the relevance of how the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to change that. I chose to wear a dark sweater with the BLM logo on it which has Korean writing. Translated from Korean to English, the text means roughly “Black lives are precious” which is very fitting for the song lyrics and my freestyle. As you listen to the lyrics one of the lines I found powerful was when H.E.R. sings “How do we cope when we don’t love each other? Where is the hope and the empathy? (Yeah) How do we judge off the color? The structure was made to make us the enemy (Yeah)”. Those lyrics for me relate to some of the themes in Sovereign Intimacies and contributed to my freestyle process. I also wore a mask to incorporate how the Covid 19 pandemic is a global health crisis that has also amplified racial inequities and sparked dialogue around racism and white supremacy.
In this freestyle but also in my overall dance journey, trying to find yourself and what defines you as both a creative and as a human being can be challenging. The Sovereign Intimacies exhibition has actually given me some inspiration for both dance and non-dance ideas which has been very humbling. Especially during these hectic times I’m grateful to still be active and creating content when life seems to have become such an overwhelming string of events. I hope that my creative response not only encourages you to delve into the practices of reclaiming your own cultural heritage but also discovering the unlimited boundaries you have when creating or looking through art in a new light.
Dana Lance (She/Her) is a Filipinx/o/a and Japanese dancer who likes to incorporate elements of art with anything and everything creative and experimental. Her interest in the visual and performing arts started as long ago as she can remember, from being in choir, to trying guitar and piano before settling on dance in her junior years. Her commitment to recognizing her cultural roots and integrating that into her dance has pushed her to advocate on issues such as mental health, decolonization within the Filipinx/o/a/ and Japanese diaspora and implementing an anti-racism practice in all foundations.