What is the role movement plays in religious rituals? Can the artistic process create a safe space where the essences of different spiritual orientations can be revealed? Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) will mark its 10th Anniversary in the City of Brotherly Love by exploring those questions and more in their latest work, Faith Project/The Door. That exploration, which included work with multiple spiritual communities across the city will culminate in a World Premiere performance March 22-24 at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street. Tickets are $20 to $40 and are available online at www.kyld.org, at the door, or at the Prince Theater box office.
Faith Project/The Door, choreographed by KYL/D Artistic Director Kun-Yang Lin, features a sparse score and sound design by Composer/Sound Designer Cory Neale. Award-winning, multimedia designer Jared Mezzochi has sat in rehearsals and designed projections that will interact with the dance artists. The piece is performed by the multi-ethnic, spiritually diverse KYL/D ensemble. This highly physical and still new work will contemplate the relationship between religious practice and contemporary dance.
“We are seekers, driven by a curiosity and a need to understand the world in which we live and what our particular practice of dance has to contribute to the issues and environment of today. When we observe movement in the story circles and further explore in creative process, it is more than the forms and shapes. We are sensing the undercurrents and cross-currents of invisible energy — patterns that inform how and why we move and, in turn, how we relate to the world through our bodies,” said Kun-Yang Lin.
For this new, abstract dance work, the company collaborated with noted scholar/philosopher/dancer Kimerer LaMothe, who works at the intersection of dance and religion and who has written extensively on how the body can be a vehicle for spiritual practice. LaMothe, who has been blogging about the story circles on Psychology Today, structured story circle conversations that the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia helped to organize with members of diverse faith communities. At each circle, LaMothe and the company explored different ideas. The circles used natural phenomena as a jumping off point for movement and to look at how people change within the movement. The circles also brought stimuli from different religions together (examples: Christian hymn singing, Muslim Call to Prayer, the sitting in silence of a Quaker Service, and the stories of a Santeria Priestess). The group found the divine in those moments and moved toward those similarities in dance. At those community events, participants engaged in physical improvisation and call and response activities with the artists involved in the project. This was designed as a creative incubator for the piece.
The project is an interrogation of the relationship between religious practice and contemporary dance, inspired by the company’s recent investigations in HOME/S. 9th St. and KYL/D’s CHI Awareness Practice as a cross-religious, spiritual discipline. Lin, working in partnership with LaMothe, set out to probe the core questions of how dialoguing around religion enables us to know what contemporary dance can be, and how dancing enables us to know what religion is and can be. HOME/S. 9th St., examined conceptions of “home” as informed by stories of the immigrant community along the S. 9th St. corridor where KYL/D’s dance center, (CHI Movement Arts Center), is located. HOME illuminated for Lin certain parallels in his journey as an immigrant through “in-between spaces”, and also revealed the urgency of exploring faith that is central to the work. In sharing attributes of “home,” story circle participants often invoked their practice of faith, while Lin and many ensemble members spoke of the grounding power of dance.
Within the exploration process, the community was introduced to Lin’s CHI Awareness Practice, a core artistic value and a foundation of the company’s training. CHI Awareness Practice is Lin’s framework for cultivation of the whole dancer and person, and it conceives of “CHI” as metaphor for the interdependencies of self, one’s community, and larger society. The embodied exercises of CHI Awareness Practice focus on movement in relation to breath and energy (“chi” in Mandarin), and can be easily adapted for community participants. Dancers often describe CHI Awareness as a spiritual practice: this project allowed Lin to test if it translates as “spiritual” to different believers.
Finished Kun-Yang Lin, “The sensory awareness and intuition that we seek to heighten in our practice help uncover energetic patterns revealed in the story circles. I want audiences to experience the art form that arranges patterns of abstract movement (contemporary dance) as a vessel for enhancing their own understandings of meaning/mystery/the sacred and ways of transcending differences. We hope that this work heightens a sense of self-discovery and an appreciation for how contemporary dance intersects with notions of religion and spirituality and their relevance to our lives today.”
Major support for Faith Project/The Door has been provided by The Pew Center or Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers is a professional contemporary dance company located in South Philadelphia. Hailed for its superbly trained dancers and inventive choreography, the internationally-active KYL/D probes at the limits of national identity. Drawing upon Eastern philosophies while expanding the perimeter of contemporary dance, Artistic Director Lin’s zen-inspired practice of dance manifests in lush works of poetic sensibility that The New York Times says, “create and inhabit worlds of their own.” Lin draws upon multicultural insights from his ongoing research throughout Asia, creating a personal movement language that is an unexpected hybrid between Western and Eastern cultures, suffused with strong spiritual underpinnings.
KYL/D has performed around the world, including at the Tanzmesse International Dance Festival (Dusseldorf), Busan International Dance Festival (Korea), Jogia International and AsiaTri festivals (Indonesia), Festival Internacional de Danza in Queretaro (Mexico), Victoria Theatre (Singapore), HsinChu Performing Arts Center (Taiwan).
In the U.S., KYL/D has performed at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, Interlochen Festival, Columbia Festival, Kaatsbaan International Dance, Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, Dancing in the Streets Festival, the Painted Bride Art Center, the Annenberg Center, the Kimmel Center, the Forrest Theater, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, and Philadelphia’s City Hall.
KYL/D has been supported by numerous funders including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the William Penn Foundation and a USArtists International grant from MidAtlantic Arts Foundation, as well as support from the U.S. Department of State.
Kun-Yang Lin is founding Artistic Director of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (“KYLD”) & Co-Founder of KYL/D’s CHI Movement Arts Center in Philadelphia. Taiwan-born Lin is an artist-educator who dances in the spaces between East and West, the visible and invisible, innovation and tradition, the individual and collective. Among the primary impulses nourishing his artistry are Buddhist and Taoist world views and the internal energetic flows of many Eastern arts he has practiced over the years including tai chi, chi gong, calligraphy, meditation, and Chinese opera movement. These experiences are filtered through extensive training and performance experience across a broad range of contemporary dance techniques and improvisation practices, framed by ongoing cross-cultural research in dance as a medium for the integration of body, spirit, and mind. Lin’s journey as an immigrant navigates tensions between his traditional roots, his contemporary interests, and his embodied research, which informs his view of dance as a calling that transcends labels, shapes, and movement.
Before moving to the U.S in 1994, Lin toured internationally with London’s Transitions Dance Company, working with numerous post-modernist choreographers. In the U.S., Lin performed in iconic American modern dance companies including the Martha Graham Company and worked with post-modernist choreographers including Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown, Lynn Shapiro & Paula Josa-Jones. He has been called “an extraordinary dancer” (New York Times), “theatrical visionary…outstanding choreographer and compelling performer” (Philadelphia Inquirer).
Lin has been on the faculty of The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, H.B. Actor’s Studio, Peridance International Dance Center and the Limon Institute and he offers master classes and workshops throughout the U.S. and abroad including Mexico, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Korea, Cambodia, and Taiwan. Currently, Lin is Professor of Dance at Temple University. Lin received his MFA from New York University’s Tisch School and his BFA from Taiwan National University of the Arts.
KYL/D’s Dance Artists:
Liu Mo, Evalina Carbonell, Weiwei Ma, Annielille Gavino, Nikolai McKenzie, Grace Stern, Keila Perez-Vega, Frank Leone, Francis Markocki, Kyan Namazi, Barbara Craig (apprentice)
Kimerer LaMothe: Scholar and Thought Partner
Kimerer LaMothe, PhD is an advocate for dance. As a philosopher and scholar of religion, author of five books and myriad articles, LaMothe investigates the values that undergird modern western culture’s perceptions and practices of dancing. As a dance artist, she creates opportunities for people to experience dance as generative of human knowledge. She communicates this message through a monthly blog at Psychology Today.
LaMothe earned her Masters in Christianity and Culture from Harvard Divinity School, and her doctorate in the Modern West from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University, while also studying modern, ballet, Haitian, and Kathak dance.
In 2005, she moved to a retired dairy farm in the rolling hills of upstate New York with her husband. Here LaMothe, while continuing her dance practice, and giving birth to her fourth and fifth children at home, dedicated herself to writing three books that would establish the importance of dancing in relationship: to our bodily desires; to parents, partners, progeny, and to the natural world, respectively.
While living on the farm, LaMothe remains active in the academic world, writing articles for journals and anthologies, as well as giving lectures and movement workshops at institutions including Williams College, Syracuse University, Columbia University, Dominican University, Oneonta State University, University of North Carolina, Green Mountain College, Long Trail School, and St. Johnsbury Academy. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal for Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities. Kimerer is also completing research on her next scholarly book, Ecstatic
Dance: Practices of Bodily Movement in the World’s Religions.
Jared Mezzocchi: Multimedia Designer
Jared Mezzocchi received his MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts at Brooklyn College. He is currently on faculty at University of Maryland, College Park, where he leads the projection design track in the MFA Design program. He is a resident artist at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in DC and has directed and/or designed at theaters across the U.S. and in Europe including designing for Big Art Group and their productions of The People (San Francisco CA), The Sleep (Berlin, Germany, and NYC), Cityrama (Torino, Italy), SOS (NYC, Vienna Festival). Jared made his off-broadway debut at Manhattan Theater Club with his projection design in VIETGONE, written by Qui Nguyen and directed by May Adrales. Regionally, Jared has also worked at Arena Stage, Studio Theater, Theater J, Centerstage Baltimore, Olney Theater, Everyman Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, South Coast Rep, and The Wilma.
In 2012 he received the prestigious Princess Grace Award, the first projection designer to be honored with this national theater award. In 2017, he received the first Lucille Lortel Award for the category of Outstanding Projection design (Vietgone, Manhattan Theater Club). Alongside the Lucille Lortel, Mezzocchi was also a recipient of a 2017 Obie Award, and 2017 nominee for an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Drama Desk Award. In Spring 2017, Mezzocchi was accepted as a fellow to the MacDowell Colony.
Mezzocchi grew up in Hollis, NH, where his mother still lives and where he will make his summer home as Producing Artistic Director of Andy’s Summer Playhouse. He has been a regular artist at Andy’s since 2009, directing such original productions as The Lost World, The BFG, The Block and others. His production of The Lost World, written originally for Andy’s, won Best Original Play in the NHTA Awards and just received its DC premiere at University of Maryland in 2015.
Cory Neale: Sound Designer/Composer
Cory Neale is an architect, bassist/composer, and sound designer from Philadelphia, PA. He is a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University School of Architecture. He is resident composer and sound designer for Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and Birds on a Wire Dance Theater, and works with a variety of artists across the media spectrum, including the Walnut Street Theater, keila cordova dances, Krista DeNio/Echo Theater Suitcase, and as producer for Earthdance’s E|MERGE Interdisciplinary Collaborative Arts residency.
Cory’s experience spans many genres including jazz, hip-hop, experimental, classical, and pop music. He has collaborated with a variety of artists including music ensembles, dance companies, film directors, shadow puppetry and live sculpture, circus arts, and as technical consult for stage productions. Cory was the recipient of the American Association of Community Theater Sound Design Award in 2011 for Bootless Stagework’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, and a 2015 Rocky Award recipient for collaborative contributions in the Philadelphia dance community. He is a member of the bass section for the Abington Symphony Orchestra.
The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia
The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia advances mutual trust, understanding, and cooperation among faith communities, in order to work together for the common good of the region. The Center provides a diverse array of programs and offerings to youth, adults, congregations, and businesses aimed at promoting interfaith learning and engagement.