Eastbound: Just How Far East?

April 11, 2010

On April 3rd, the Asian-American Dance Troupe (AADT), filled Lowell Lecture Hall with its annual Asian dance spectacle, Eastbound. Hosts Evan Covington ’12 and Sisi Pan ’11 added humor throughout the show by competing to see who was more Asian. Covington, who is black, and Pan, who is of Chinese descent, tried to upstage one another while sharing their substantial knowledge of East Asian culture. Despite this amusing display, the show was not always comprehensive and original. Although Eastbound had much to offer in the way of colorful costumes, technical ability, and genre fusion, it sometimes fell into repetitiveness, and failed to represent many East and Southeast Asian dance traditions.

The show began on an energetic note with “Fire,” a modern fan dance which was also performed earlier this semester at Cultural Rhythms. The beautiful red, yellow, and orange costumes, which created vivid imagery of flames, combined with graceful modern dance technique and traditional Chinese fans to wow the audience. Both Kevin Shee ’11 and Timothy Kim ’10 performed virtuoso acts including leaps, pirouettes, and handstands, while the troupe maintained synchronicity with their fan movements.

Next came the more relaxing “Wind in the Willows,” a slow dance about the approach of springtime that fused modern dance with Chinese watersleeves. Once again, the dancers managed to perform fluidly while not losing control of the long sleeves. Other highlights were “Mountain Ballad,” a fusion piece incorporating dances from multiple ethnic groups in Southwest China, some of which use skirts and bells reminiscent of South Asian dance; and “Sorry Sorry/Insomnia,” a fun and well-executed K-pop (Korean pop) hip-hop dance.

However, after the first five dances, things began to get repetitive. It seemed like every dance either had Chinese fans or watersleeves. “1943,” “Ta Ge,” “Songs of Tibet,” and “Moonlight” all contained one of these elements. Although each dance might have stood out in a shorter program, they were forgettable in such a lengthy production. The most redundant dances were “Frost” and “Sol-Liloquy”. Neither of these pieces distinguished themselves from previous pieces: “Frost” was “Fire” in blue and with slower music, and “Sol-Liloquy” was “Sorry Sorry” with a plot line that was overshadowed by repetitive dance moves. “Frost” needed new movement, and “Sol-Liloquy” would have benefited from a more creative and visible storyline.

While Eastbound gave many diverse representations of dance across China, it did not adequately represent the many cultures of East and Southeast Asia. Besides China, only two other countries were represented: Korea and the Philippines. On top of this, all of the Korean dance pieces were hip-hop/pop dances. Not to say that hip-hop isn’t an important part of Korean culture–some of the best breakdancers in the world are Korean–but Korea also has traditional dance styles that were not featured. The Harvard Philippine Forum made a guest appearance; but other major Asian countries, such as Japan, Vietnam, and Mongolia, were not represented at all. This may well be due to the larger Chinese/Chinese-American and Korean/Korean-American population on campus and in AADT, but as Eastbound claims to showcase dance from across East and Southeast Asia, they should strive for a more thorough representation of the region’s nations and cultures.

Overall Eastbound 2010 was a stunning spectacle of precise, well-executed choreography and beautiful costuming. If Eastbound limits repetitiveness and increases diversity, it will be an even stronger show in future years.

–The Harvard Art Review Dance Board

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