Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company

Images by Jeffrey Watts

"Diverse and Universal Roots" 

When then-National Portrait Gallery curator Amy Henderson organized the ground-breaking 2013-2014 exhibition "Dancing the Dream" with Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company in residence at the museum, she told Smithsonian Magazine that she "sought to spotlight dance as an art that illuminated America’s diverse and universal roots". 

DTSBDC performing "Hyphen".  Image from Laura McDonald.

A Korean American, Burgess has always treated the quest for identity as a central theme in his choreography. One of his earlier works, “Hyphen,” concentrated on “the identities of the Asian-American, the Hispanic-American, the African-American and so many other individuals searching for a sense of belonging within our ever changing cultural landscape.” But the final work he choreographed for his NPG residence, “Confluence,” reflected a different sensibility. This work, says Burgess, explores “the psychological terrain of brief encounters” to reveal “an underlying inter-connectedness.” When I asked him if this new work was influenced by America’s increasingly diverse population, he said, “Yes, I think the cultural terrain is changing as is my company’s focus. Somehow I feel that my aesthetic is embracing a much larger vision of humanity’s shared emotional journey.”

(Emphasis added. Source: smithsonianmag.com)

Choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess

Image by Mary Noble Ours

Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company is Washington, D.C.’s premier contemporary dance company, founded in 1992 by dance maker Dana Tai Soon Burgess.  Burgess has been described by Washington Post dance critic Sarah Kaufman as “not only a Washington prize, but a national dance treasure” and “poet laureate of Washington dance.”  He is the Smithsonian's first-ever choreographer in residence at the National Portrait Gallery.

Having grown up in Santa Fe as the son of an Irish-Scottish-German-American father from upstate New York and a Korean-American mother from Hawaii, Burgess has a personal interest in issues of identity, immigration, belonging and cultural acceptance, as seen in such works as “Becoming American,” “Hyphen,” “Island,” and “Chino Latino.”

The choreographer has served for 18 years as a U.S. State Department cultural ambassador, traveling with his company to Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Korea, Latvia, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, and the British Virgin Islands, among other places.  (The company includes dancers from diverse backgrounds – Colombian, Chilean, Filipino, Irish, Korean and Peruvian).

Burgess has performed and taught all over the world.  Closer to home, he is chair of The George Washington University’s Department of Theatre and Dance and founder of the DTSB Dance Company’s Asian American Youth Program, which mentors D.C. high school students of Asian heritage.  Burgess and his company have received numerous awards including the Pola Nirenska Award and Mayor’s Arts Awards.

Burgess's portrait has been displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, alongside modern dance pioneers such as Merce Cunningham, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, and contemporary masters Twyla Tharp and Mark Morris, during the 2013-2014 "Dancing the Dream" exhibition.  Another photograph of Burgess was also exhibited at the gallery as part of the 2012 exhibit, “Asian American Portraits of Encounter” by artist CYJO.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dana_Tai_Soon_Burgess and DTSBDC.org)

Image by Mary Noble Ours

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