Gin Dance Company Takes a ‘Look Beyond’ at Atlas Intersections (photos)

The Gin Dance Company of Northern Virginia took the stage at the Intersections Festival at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., on March 5 with a program of new dances under the leadership of its founder and artistic director, Shu-Chen Cuff. The program’s title “Look Beyond” could serve as a metaphor for the Washington performing arts scene as it slowly emerges from the deep sleep of the pandemic.

“My hope” says Shu-Chen, “is that our production can give people a hope, a vision of the future and inspire them to set new goals during tough times. To ‘Look Beyond’ the difficulties currently being experienced and find ways to conquer the challenges and keep moving forward.”

Exactly two years ago — on March 11, 2020, to be precise — Covid-19 became real for so many of us. On that day, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak an official pandemic. The NBA suspended its season. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive in Australia. Sadly, nearly one million Americans are now no longer with us. “When the Covid shutdown happened we had to cancel our full evening length production in October and the Reston Multicultural Festival in September of the same year” commented Shu-Chen. “It’s been such a journey to prepare this production. We conquered the challenges of rehearsing via Zoom for over a year.”

Last year’s Intersections Festival, which prides itself on providing a ready platform for various local artists and ensembles, had to be cancelled. Added Shu-Chen: “Since May 4, 2021, we have been back to in-person rehearsals and training in the studio. It’s been so wonderful to dance together and feel each other’s energy even though we had to keep our masks on to stay safe and healthy. It’s all worth it!”

As a special tribute to the people of Ukraine now battling for their freedom and their lives, the company invited the Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble to open the program with a set of two Ukrainian folk dances.

“We were devastated watching what has happened in Ukraine a week before our performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center,” Shu-Chen said. “We wanted to pay a little tribute to show our support and respect of the Ukrainian people. We reached out to Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble, a local Central and Eastern European dance company with several Ukrainian dancers, including two who are from Ukraine and who still have families there. Further, we will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the performance to provide support to Ukrainian refugees.” A large blue and yellow Ukraine flag appeared behind the Carpathia dancers as they took their final bows to loud applause. “Dance brings all of us together during the good times and tough times,” added Shu-Chen.

Shu-Chen Cuff was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where she established a well-rounded background in dance with training in ballet, modern, Chinese opera movements, and various Chinese folk dances. Her choreography incorporates elements of each of these styles. Shu-Chen currently serves on the faculty of BalletNova Center for Dance, The Washington Ballet School, and the Metropolitan School of the Arts.

As Shu-Chen tells it, her original birth name was Shu-Gin. However the spelling was corrupted by immigration authorities to read Shu-Chen. When forming her dance company in 2011, she decided it was time to bring “Gin” back into her life.

Gin Dance’s first piece, “Aspire,” was inspired by the new 50-foot steel sculpture “Buoyant Force” by Sue Wrbican recently installed at the Reston Town Square Park in Reston Town Center, Virginia. It expresses through movement Shu-Chen’s concept that “when life circumstances overwhelm and submerge us, our spirit will lift us from our darkest days and aspire us to new heights.”

“When the Wind Blows” was the title of the second dance. “We often try to plan out our life, trying to calculate everything to make sure things go the way we want them to. However, far too often, that’s just not the way life unfolds. Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and let the wind take us,” said Shu-Chen.

The finale of  “The Golden Time” took the audience back to Shanghai, China, during in the 1920s and 1930s, where “ladies from families of wealth and power were among the first women in China who were allowed to freely leave the confines of the home for study, work and pleasure.” 

The performers for Gin Dance Company were Hannah Church, Shu-Chen Cuff, Michelle Geoghegan, Christina Gleason, Julia Hellmich, Joni Keaton, Maia Potok-Holmes and Rebecca Voulgarakis. Choreography and costume design by Shu-Chen Cuff. The performers for the Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble were Julie Ascik, Natalia Bogdanova, Lena Galperina, Richard Hansen, Steve Horoff, Yaryna Onufrey, Wesley Reisser and Patrick von Suskil.

Shu-Chen and her Gin Dance are now “Looking Beyond” to November 12, 2022. “We are super excited to share all new works at the Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia.”

View a slideshow of Jeff Malet’s photos from the Gin Dance Company’s performance of “Look Beyond” at the Atlas Intersections Festival by clicking on the photo icons below.






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