Dance Professor Dana Tai Soon Burgess' dance company unveiled its newest piece, “A Portrait of George Takei.” The 5-minute performance is the latest from The Dana Tai Soon Burgess Company’s year-long video series paying tribute to the social justice icons from the National Portrait Gallery’s on-going exhibit, “Struggle for Justice.” As the first-ever dance company in residence at the Smithsonian Institution, the Company is committed to gracefully magnifying still works into powerful interpretations of the very real struggles these heroes faced.
“George Takei is a personal hero of mine,” says company’s Founder and Choreographer, Professor Dana Tai Soon Burgess. “I’m grateful to him for his ceaseless determination to shine the light on injustice - whether it’s LBGTQ advocacy or his own experience in the Japanese-American Internment Camps as a youth. George is a true champion.”
In August of 2021, the two men met up at the National Portrait Gallery to see the newly added portrait by Grav Weldon of George Takei releasing butterflies at the site of the former Japanese American internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, where he was imprisoned as a child. They discussed the significance of the butterflies, the atrocities that occurred and the feeling of liberation. It was this conversation that inspired Dana to choreograph this work to the emotionally moving Clair de Lune by Debussy and utilizes the beautiful skills of the entire Company: Christin Arthur, Joan Ayap Jaya Bond, Ian Ceccarelli, Christine Doyle, Sidney Hampton, Felipe Oyarzun Moltedo, Aleny Serna, Adolfo Matto Traverso, Aaron Mancus, and Valerie Peña.
“George talked about American families being sent to camps with as much as they could put in a single suitcase,” adds Dana. “There’s a lot to unpack there - the feeling of being betrayed by your own country and yet, trying to carry on with your family in a foreign environment that just isn't home.”
The Company’s “Struggle for Justice” video series has featured icons such as Marian Anderson, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Chief Justice Earl Warren. The series has been embraced by a global audience with hundreds of thousands of viewers from 6 continents. More video portraits will be released soon: Dustin Lance Black and Rosa Parks.
Now in its 29th season, Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company is a preeminent modern dance company based in Washington, DC. The Company repertory focuses on identity in the context of historical events and personal stories, thereby connecting the shared human experience and showcasing cultural confluence. The members of the Company best reflect this mission as they themselves come from multicultural and diverse backgrounds. You can read more at dtsbdc.org.