The dance company of Dana Tai Soon Burgess, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s choreographer-in-residence, performed “We Choose to Go to the Moon” in the museum’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium on Wednesday, Dec. 12, and Saturday Dec. 15. The final performance will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 pm. Admission is free.
After the Dec. 18 performance, Burgess and guests from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum will make brief presentations and answer questions.
Inspired by the space race and President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech at Rice University entitled “We Choose to Go to the Moon,” the Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company developed this work in collaboration with NASA. The piece “explores the connection between humanity and space, touching upon America’s idealism around the space race, the mystery of the cosmos, and the fragility of life.”
The score features popular music from the 1950s and 1960s and incorporates the voices of scientists, an Apollo astronaut and a Santa Fe-based medicine woman. At one point, two dancers prance along with meteors to Perry Como’s 1957 hit “Catch a Falling Star.” Attendees may also recognize the vocalizations of Frankie Avalon, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
“We Choose to Go to the Moon” had its world premiere at the Kennedy Center in 2015. Burgess chose to bring it to the National Portrait Gallery this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, which was launched on Dec. 21, 1968, the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it and safely return.
View Jeff Malet’s photos from the Dec. 12 performance of “We Choose to Go to the Moon” by clicking on the photo icons below.