Fall 2022 In Dance

Published by Dancers' Group, In Dance is discourse and dialogue to unify, strengthen, and amplify.


P.18 Legends Walk Among Us

P.42 Afro-Peruvian Resilience

P.54 “Post-artum” Depression


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A BIG RIG OVERTURNED RECENTLY, spilling an estimated 300,000 toma- toes, massively jamming the freeway. “I heard it happened near Sauce-a- lito,” the traffic reporter quipped, “That driver should be canned.” (Thankfully no one was crushed). My first thought was, how can I incorporate this arrest- ing imagery into my welcome note? I love a mash-up. Roll out the red carpet for a Fall crop of articles that dance—in the juici- est, largest sense—between superstar celebrities and legends unknown. As guest editor, I invited an array of folks

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Performances to the Community Calendar Dancers’ Group promotes performance listings in our online performance calendar and our emails to over 1,700 members. Resources and Opportunities Dancers’ Group sends its members a variety of emails that include recent community

from the community to contribute essays about what is moving them in this moment. The result is a smorgasbord of pieces that provide food for thought and sustenance for the soul. As the writers sent me their drafts, I’m struck by possible “essay pair- ings.” Like with wine or food; complementary and contrasting combina- tions and flavors to heighten the enjoyment each component brings to the whole experience. In this issue you’ll find notes of released shame and embodied pride, mind altering in-between spaces, bridges to belonging, revered ancestry, entwined traditional and contemporary practices, healing nurses, gam- bling muses and parallel universes. You might consider pairing Dasha Yurkevich’s essay about discovering choreography with Brian Thorstenson’s essay about exploring new ways of writing. Then again—Dasha’s experience with ballet’s body-type rigid- ity may also pair well with Melissa Hudson Bell’s article celebrating Lizzo; Brian’s investigation of the space between dance and theater may com- plement Constance Hale’s article about gender fluid māhū people, or Ant- wan Williams’ reflections on feeling free/not free all at once. And there’s so much more on the menu—nourishing, refreshing, complex. Try them all! After you’ve had time to digest, drop me a line and tell me what moved you: richierowena@gmail.com . I’d love to catsup.

50/ A Sense of Belonging Among Ever-Changing Circumstances by Claudine Naganuma 54/ What is “Post-artum” Depression? By Parya Saberi, PharmaD, MAS, MFA 58/ Decolonizing Industries of Care: Nursing These Wounds by Joyce Lu 64/ Dance is in the DNA of the Universe by Oscar Peñaranda 69/ In Conversation with Tonya Amos and Sarah Bush by Andréa Spearman 72/ In Community Highlights and resources, activities and celebrations for our community—find more on dancersgroup.org

12 /A Movement of the Spirit by Brian Thorstenson 18 / Legends Walk Among Us by Liv Schaffer 22 / Stepping Into the In-Between by Constance Hale 28/ Every Second by Antwan Banks Williams 34/ Passing by Dasha Yurkevich 39/ Watch Out for the Big Grrrls by Melissa Hudson Bell 42/ Afro-Peruvian Resilience and

Dancers’ Group gratefully acknowledges the support of Bernard Osher Foundation, California Arts Council, Fleishhacker Foundation, Grants for the Arts, JB Berland Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Koret Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation and generous individuals.

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DANCERS’ GROUP Artist Administrator Wayne Hazzard Artist Resource Manager Andréa Spearman Community Resource Manager Shellie Jew Administrative Assistants Anna Gichan

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46/ Leaning into the Unexpected by Haley Baek

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12 LED TO NEW WAYS OF WRITING ? by BRIAN THORSTENSON In Dance | May 2014 | dancersgroup.org unify strengthen amplify unify strengthen amplify 44 Gough Street, Suite 201 San Francisco, CA 94103 www.dancersgroup.org I HAD BEEN SITTING WITH A QUESTION. What is a play? For a little over ten years writing plays was my main creative expression. I didn’t want to write another play. I wanted to start blank. Start with not knowing. Every character wants something. It’s what I tell my beginning playwriting students. That’s the character’s action. Replace action with need. Replace with desire, with longing. Dante called action ‘a movement of the spirit.’ What was going to move my spirit? I didn’t know. So I sat. I waited. A set of stage directions: Silence. A day? Two days? A week? or three? A year? Yes. Try a year. The phone rings. Or maybe an email?

A Movement

of the Spirit


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THE FIRST INVITATION . It was Erin Mei-Ling Stuart. ‘I’m work- ing on a new project. Would you consider writing for it? Could we meet for coffee to discuss?’ Yes! An easy yes. An immediate yes. A movement of the spirit. We met at a high table in the Church Street Café. I had worked with Erin when she was dancing with Stephen Pelton Dance Theater. I had seen the work of her own company EmSpace. I was a fan. Still am. Only more so. Erin had the characters, the structure, and the music for a new piece called Whether to Weather. She had, what a playwright would call,

approach from my normal process: start with some characters, a setting, and write the play chronologi- cally from beginning to end. The first section was ‘Drought’ and I brought in five separate ‘Scenes from a Drought.’ One about their neighbors' lush yard, another with silly word play. ‘The brick doesn't go back into the bucket because the bucket goes into the bathtubshower.’ One about the focal rock in a rock garden. I thought of them as lan- guage phrases, the same way I had seen dancers make

I brought in language phrases, Wiley and Soren read them, Erin said yes, no, maybe. I’d return to my desk to rewrite/ reshape after hearing them in rehearsal, after seeing the language mov- ing. Erin thought of Whether to Weather as a play; I thought of it as dance theater. We navi- gated the space between. I brought in: ‘Raise my rain hand, swoon sun side’ and Wiley rose and swooned. I brought in an exit that was an ellipsis:

I walk when I’m stuck with a writing problem. Around the block, up to the Castro and back, to visit a friend. The problem almost always gets solved on one of these walks. The walking also prompts new work, a poem, a monologue, a new scene. Walking as a two-way street.

‘the given circumstances.’ Two gay couples. One a whirlwind romance, the other a long term relationship, unraveling. The whirlwind would be danced, the unraveling would be text and movement. So I began again. So we began. A first meeting, around Erin’s kitchen table, with Wiley Namen Straser and Soren Santos, the performers who would be unraveling. To hear some words out loud. To see what stuck. To put some language in motion. I had taken a different

phrases when generating material. Phrases to be used, or discarded. Rearranged or recomposed. It was a lib- erating way to begin, the freedom of non-attachment. We read the scenes. We talked. Erin suggested some edits (she is to this day one of the best editors of my work), then she said ‘What if we put three of them together as the first scene?’ What? Ok. Ah, yes, yes that really works. Who knew? And so I continued. So we continued.

W The horizon line of possibility, he says. He says: It's gone.

before, or had seen their work. I was a fan. Still am. Only more so. We met off and on over the course of two years. Sometimes in a living room, sometimes in a studio. Once in the ‘community room’ of The Sports Basement, which wasn’t more than a sorta small balcony. We started with a quote from V (formerly Eve Ensler) from an episode of Krista Tippet’s On Being podcast. ‘I think I'm gonna go back to capitalism because I think what is engineered is longing. It is engi- neered longing and desire in us for what can be

He says:

W exits S reaches back, but doesn't find W.

The first time we tried it in rehearsal I turned to Erin: ‘That was pretty good, huh’ ‘Yeah, but he can play the ellipsis harder.’ She was right. Wiley could. And did. I brought in: S He was an open mouth target, a... he was ... he... our ... mine. He said: Lawn gone. I watched Erin and Soren tackle each ellipsis, comma, semi-colon, period. In performance you could feel Soren find his way through those sentences. Punctua- tion is a detail, like the tilt of the head, or an arm cir- cle, a hip ajar. This in between space we were navi- gating, between a play and a dance, heightened and highlighted the language and the punctuation. Working with Erin on Whether to Weather was the first time I experienced an intersection between my plays and my poems. Between my words and punctuation and how they made bodies move.

in the future, you know.’ —V (formerly Eve Ensler)

Longing. Desire. Action. We all brought in text, we all created movement (more than slightly terrifying for me being in the room with Chris, Rowena, and Christy!) We strung material together, tried it out, then met in a circle. No one ever said, as I do with my students, circle up, we just naturally put ourselves in that configuration. ‘Joining together in this way is a symbol of unity, for a circle has no beginning or end; all the points are equally significant.’ — Anna Halprin from Planetary Dance. We’d review the string. Yes, No, Maybe. A prob- lem? challenge? bumpy spot? would appear. We circled. Christy would offer the start of an answer, I’d add another thought, then Chris, then Rowena, not always in that order, but always a turn around the circle. By the time the turn was completed (a pirouette?) we had figured out the next step forward, answered the question, or discov- ered a new question. We found a title: Dearly Gathered . Through the multi-year process Rowena kept us on track

‘A play is a poem standing up.’ —Frederico García Lorca

A SECOND INVITATION . From Rowena Richie. ‘Wanna devise a new piece with me, Christy Funsch, and Chris Black?’ An easy yes, immediate. As with Erin, three art- ists who I had known for a long time, had worked with


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on one of these walks. The walking also prompts new work, a poem, a monologue, a new scene. Walking as a two-way street. Fugue gave me another chance to write walking, and write walking with a group who freely shared their stories. Language phrases, staying open, layering in other voices, walking writing. THE FOURTH INVITATION . From a group of five play- wrights. ‘We’re going to produce one play by each member. Join us?’ Yes. Maybe not an emphatic yes, not because of the other playwrights – I was a fan. Still am. Even more so. – but from my own trepidation. Do I want to write another play? I decided to revisit a piece, Wakefield , that I’d origi- nally made with the wonderful folx at Central Works. I worked through the play chronologically but this time I tried to keep the piece open. I looked at scenes as phrases. I investigated layering through sound, music, light, and movement. I always put my plays ‘up on the wall.’ A page for each scene with a scene title. When they are up on the wall I can ‘walk’ through the play, I can rearrange scenes, I can make notes. During the rewrite I found new material: ‘One Minute of 20 Sounds’, ‘A First Burst of Red’, ‘Twenty Years: A Sci- ence Vaudeville. ’

process originated by Susan Rethorst. Dance Wrecking entails inviting colleagues to view your in-progress work, then granting them freedom to “wreck” it – rearrange, reorder and/or recast the piece from their own artistic per- spective, and then show the resulting new piece. I had seen several wreckings. I wondered how it might work with a play. I asked Rowena and Chris to be the ‘wreckers.’ They took vastly different approaches, Rowena explod- ing moments, Chris having us do the whole play with only Sophia’s lines. I don’t think of Wakefield as a complete play unless I include the wrecked versions. The play itself worked with theme and variation, with repeat and revise. The two wrecked versions became a natural extension of the play’s structure while adding another layer of meaning. THE FIFTH INVITATION . Last year. Again from Eric and Detour. A new site-specific project, We Build Houses Here , join us as the writer? Easy immediate yes. In August we began workshops for a spring opening at the Oasis night- club. Another adventure. What new idea will be added to the list, to the wall, this time? I’ve hesitated attaching a label to the artists I’ve men- tioned. They’re all hyphenated. They call themselves by many names: deviser, dancer, choreographer, theatre maker, dance film maker, drag queen, actor, mover. They’ve all provided a space where I can be a writer of many names: generator, transcriber, collider, collator, poet, playwright. They’ve taught me to navigate the spaces between, spaces where I now mostly reside, that feel like home. While I was writing this I came across some scribbled notes stuck in a file folder. At the top of a yellow legal pad: Essay – working with dancers/choreographers . It was notes from a conversation I had with Erin. They’re mostly illegible, quick scribbles, or cryptic phrases like ‘place in the funnel.’ But one section struck me, one section where my cryptic scribbles made me remember our conversation. I was asking Erin what she thought about when she was constructing movement. What were the questions? The parameters? Was it about narrative? Was it about character? ‘Sometimes it’s just the pleasure zone, a movement that gives me pleasure, that hits a kind of beauty spot.’ How glorious is that? A reminder that one part of art making is creating these moments of pleasure, these beauty spots. A movement of the spirit. Yes indeed. BRIAN THORSTENSON is a San Francisco based writer, teacher and occasional performer. Brian was a founding member of The Z Collective and one of the first resident artists of the Z Space. He is an alumni of the Resident Playwright Program of the Playwrights Foundation and one of the founding members of 6NewPlays. His poetry has appeared in Foglifter, Burning House Press, Lambda Literary Review, and New American Writ- ing. His next project, We Build Houses Here with Detour, opens May 4 at the Oasis Nightclub. Brian is a Senior Lecturer in Playwriting and Devised Theater at Santa Clara University and has an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

When I got to the final scene I wrote:

Twenty Moves

Twenty moves from the play.

by keeping the piece ‘open’ as long as possible. Our final rehearsal was on a Wednesday, two days before our Fri- day and Saturday performances. Rowena came with a new order. We circled. We talked through the new order. We said yes. We could do this because of the amount of time we’d spent together. We could do this because we trusted each other. We could do this because of the extent of the ‘open.’ There’s an idea you will find in many play- writing books: as soon as you put the first line down on the page, the play in your head, some idealized version of the play, starts to disappear. Partly true but, as with many ‘how-to’ ideas, this one has always struck me as restrictive as opposed to expansive. What if, instead, each new line, each new beat, kept opening the play? Now, with all of my work, I attempt to stay open as long as possible. What is a play? What is this play? Circle up and change the string. THE THIRD INVITATION . From Eric Garcia. ‘Detour is doing a site-specific piece in the Mission called Fugue . Come join us as one of the writers?’ Yes. Easy. Immediate. I was a fan. Still am. Even more so. I would be writing for four ‘guides’ who would be taking small groups of the

audience on a walking tour through the Mission. Eric sent the routes for each of my guides. I walked the routes by myself, or with a couple of friends, looking for landmarks, for stopping spots. Looking for moments where my own memories collided with the route. Early in the devising process I walked the routes with Eric and my group of guides. Scott pointed out the back of a building where he used to live. Erin told me a story about a date at Radio Habana. Melissa brought her father’s camera. I added those moments into their monologues. I walked the routes during rehearsals. Arletta and I stopped on a small stoop and made revisions on the spot. In December I bundled up and joined each of the guides and walked the routes during performances. Fugue became a media- tion of walking. Walking. I love walking. Walking San Francisco is one of my favorite activities. I haven’t owned a car in over 30 years. I sold it because I felt disconnected to the city. I need to keep my feet on the ground. To wander, to be a flaneur, to understand what’s happening on this block or that street. And I walk when I’m stuck with a writing problem. Around the block, up to the Castro and back, to visit a friend. The problem almost always gets solved

Maybe they're in chronological order.

Maybe they aren't.

That is this: Let's try this whole night again.

That is also this: What's another version of tonight that we can make.

Music underneath.

Whatever the order is, it ends with Henry in the doorway, in the same position he was at the beginning and Sophia standing. This was a complete surprise. I know it came from my work with choreographers. It’s my favorite moment from my plays. Wakefield is a ‘two-hander’, shorthand for a play with two characters. I played the title character and my friend Anne Darragh played his wife Sophia. I decided to follow the Sunday Matinees with a ‘wrecking,’ a


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Anne Huang



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recently met Ellen Webb when a colleague informed me that she owned a dance studio for rent insanely close to my West Oak- land home. I had never heard of her, but arrived at a hidden backyard studio space that was adorned with faded posters illus- trating her successful perfor-

the to-be-expected passing down of anecdotes from older adults to youth, accompanied by youth driven surges of energy and excitement. And through dance that script gets flipped: Youths are natural leaders and teachers, and older adults allow their innovation and playfulness to gush from behind mountains of “the way things always were,” like a flowing river that has been greatly anticipating the opportu- nity. There’s permission to evolve from the way things were, and to reimagine how things might be—for everyone. I also think there’s deep learning about power and obedience in the dance studio. A reminder to get curi- ous about a tradition if it’s no lon- ger serving you. A gentle challenge to the idea of one sole teacher, chore- ographer, or director at the front of the room. Like many forms of dance, dancing across generations works best in a circle versus in lines facing towards mirrors. I see it as a represen- tation of the reality that time is non- linear. The circle can be time’s equal- izer, with a sense of all ages reflected in and around us, happening all at once.

and attunement among them. For a moment, I am suspended in their world and my own falls away. Satisfying. With an intergenerational cast, time moves in all directions. Past and future selves churning through time: generational time, time left to live, and time beyond our lives. I am not suspended in the performer’s world of attunement, but instead sensing all of time, leaving me suspended in my own personal present. To see an older body beside a younger body in performance is to face our own inevitable decline. And for me, it trig- gers some heart-wrenched urgency to seize each moment. I adore the way that aging bodies—something we societally associate with slowing down, declin- ing health and frailty–can be a catalyst for increased speed towards our own vitality and thriving. I love the duality present in aging’s reminders that none of this (life) matters, because none of us are getting out of this alive, but then very much simultaneously— holy shit , everything is sacred. Death is a cho- reographer, and she’s commissioning all of us to let go enough to tumble through time—rhythmically, chaotically, and inevitably—while also preserving enough care and awareness to sanctify each ordinary moment. I recently met Bill Haskell, age 77; the man responsible for overseeing the creation of the first AIDS hospice in the United States, in the mid-1980s, right here in San Francisco. We spoke on record for StoryCorps as board members of San Francisco Village. Bill worked with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, partici- pating in the development of the AIDS model, a model that increased access and quality of long-term care services and support for people with HIV/ AIDS. Before he retired, he worked on developing long-term care and sup- portive services for all older adults and adults with disabilities in the San Fran- cisco Bay Area. I was stunned by the breadth of his work and the impact his work made both locally and globally. My mind

mances across the United States and Europe in the 1980s and ‘90s. I was intrigued by the fragility of it all; she seemed to have made it, but does her story sit in the background of the cur- rent Bay Area dance scene? “It was okay to do it, and okay not to do it,” remarked Ellen, speaking on her time during and post her dance career. “It’s a challenging thing for dancers – or it was for me…At one point, it just ends.” “She’s a legend!” I thought to myself. I felt naive for not knowing about her. Since 2018, I’ve focused my creative research on aging and intergenera- tional dance practices. When people of different ages dance together, they unlearn the biases they previously had. They commit to

campus for the start of the Fall semester. I was introduced to fresh faces, mostly 17 – 22 years-old, studying dance, theater, music, nursing, computer sci- ence, business, and engineering in my course on community engaged dance pedagogy. They seemed like a special bunch—vibrantly interested in learning new dances and connecting more deeply to their own communities. They are playful, passionate, and curious upon first impressions. “Hi & Welcome!” I beam with gusto from the front of the lecture hall, daydreaming about what their futures might entail. I smile at their hidden beauty and think to myself, “Legends walk among us.” LIV SCHAFFER is a Bay Area artist and educator with a focus on intergenerational practice at the in- tersection of dance and social impact sectors. She holds a degree from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet BFA Program at Dominican University of California and has performed with AXIS Dance Company, Dance- Works Chicago, Robert Moses’ Kin, and Dance Exchange. Liv was a Shawl-Anderson Dance Center 2019 Emerging Artist in Residence, a 2020 Margaret Jenkins CHIME Mentee, 2021 USF Lane Center Fac- ulty Fellow, 2021 USF Community Engaged Learning Teaching Fellow, and a 2021 Gen2Gen Innovation Fellow with Encore.org.

and heart flutter between honoring his heroic past and dreaming about what could remain undiscovered in his future. I wonder what responsibil- ity dance has to tell the stories of the legends who shaped our world, who saved our world. Legends who walk among us. Bill’s work has that same sense of past-future duality and intergenera- tional multidirectionality I mentioned earlier. He sat with illness, death, and destruction of a community while also innovating new pathways for progress in long-term care. I feel strongly that the ephemeral nature of dance is a rich training ground for acceptance of this kind of duality, and of our own temporality. Think about it: we rehearse for months or years for maybe a few weekends of performances that seem to fly by, and then dissipate the moment that final curtain closes. If we could view dance practice as death practice, would soci- ety find greater value in funding the arts? Would we feel more ready when things, personally or professionally, inevitably come to an end?

I remember asking Margaret Jenkins about what’s next for her at this stage in her career. “My next piece, Global Moves , might be my last piece making work in this way, so it’s a death of a kind,” she told me over coffee. “But the process constantly informs…and con- tinuing albeit differently, is a necessity!” I wonder what it’s like to make something with the awareness of knowing it may be the last of its kind that you make. I wonder if as artists we got lucky with the ability to constantly evolve our processes as a way to outrun our expiration—like a superpower of immortality that being a creative awards us. I wonder if it’s possible to feel like a legend, not for what you’ve done, but for who you are now. Perhaps creating space for older adult artists’ voices is just a way to guarantee that I’ll have belonging in this field as I age, too. Perhaps it’s a way to try and live forever, despite my soap box for mortality. Right around the time I was writ- ing this article, the University of San Francisco welcomed students back to


authentic responsiveness within phys- ical and creative interactions between one another. There’s a visceral sense for what it’s like to cultivate belong- ing across divides. Experiencing belonging within a group of varied bodies and abilities exposes ageist and ableist ideals in the dance field, and teaches skills for dancing with an inclusive quality and spirit that chal- lenges conventional notions of who is valued as a dancer. Thus, when we dance our values, intergenerational dance itself becomes activism, versus choreographing a piece about ageism. For me, it’s the multidirectionality that I’m drawn to most when working across generations. There is, of course,

Celeste Miller, a linguistics-fasci- nated mentor and friend of mine, once shared that in English, as in many languages, we orient ourselves to the past as something behind us, and the future as what’s in front of us or ahead. Some Arabic speakers, however, conceptualize the past as in front of us because we can see it and the future behind us, a mystery yet to be seen. The movement vocabu- lary, and thus language of intergener- ational dance, allows us to grasp the complexity of looking backwards and forwards in time simultaneously. When I watch a cast of age-homo- geneous performers, time stands still. There is a deep sense of uniformity


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W hen ancient Hawaiian carvers would take mate- rial from the natural environment—whether a tree or a bone or a piece of stone—and then begin to shape it into a figure destined for a temple or other sacred place, they had a word for the unfinished work, the in-between entity: mahu. Outside of that ritual process, the word was also used in a different sense, to refer to people whose gender identity was fluid, neither kane (male) nor wahine (female). But once missionaries arrived in Hawai‘i in 1820 with their Calvin- istic properties, and once American culture overwhelmed Hawai‘i, the noun mahu lost its expansiveness. Today the wehewehe.org dictionary defines it as “homosexual” or “hermaphrodite.” And, unfortunately, it can be used in a downright pejorative sense. That’s the mahu San Francisco Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakane remembers from his teenage years in Hawai‘i, when he started to realize that he was gay. But attitudes are changing in the islands, much as they are nationally, and the groundbreaking choreographer aims to encourage us all to reimagine the term. To do so, he has invited outstanding mahu entertainers from Hawai‘i to collaborate with his company, Na Lei Hulu i ka Wekiu. And he will use his latest show, MAHU , which premieres on October 22, to spotlight the unique Hawaiian concept of a fluid gender. “Transgender issues are in the zeitgeist, and I was thinking of the many talented mahu people in Hawai‘i,” says Makuakane, who wrote a grant proposal for the show in 2019 and has had to wait two years to be able to perform it. “I thought, What if I did a show with In his latest show, MĀHŪ, San Francisco hula master Patrick Makuakāne explores the Hawaiian concept of a fluid gender and an openness to the third self. Stepping into the In-Between



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One of MAHU closes with one such hula, “Hawai‘i Isles Medley / E Ku‘u Hawai‘i”—or what Makuakane refers to as the “bowling alley hula.” The dancers appear in bowl- ing ensembles, and they mime walking, talking, putting on shoes, and sending balls down onstage lanes. The dance is fun, mirthful, and a little madcap. “My inspiration for this number was the bowling league I used to go to with my parents,” he explains as I watch a rehearsal in a high school gym on Potrero Hill. Above the basketball court with its glistening polyurethane floors, high windows let in the bright August sunlight. “They bowled at Waialae Bowl,” Makuakane continues. “The league was called ‘Hukilau,’ and each team had the name of a differ- ent fish.” (A hukilau is a Hawaiian tradition in which family and friends work together in casting a large fishing net from shore, scaring fish into it, and then pulling the bounty back for a communal feast. It is also the name of a popular hula.) P art Two of the show features Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole, a scholar, activist, and per- former born into a powerful matrilineal line of cultural experts and hula people on Hawai‘i Island. “Her work is rooted in ancestral foundation, but the places that she goes—the voice, the melodies, the chord changes—she doesn’t sound like anything else or anyone else,” says Makuakane. “She soars with contemporary ease.” That she doesn’t sound like anyone else is hardly hyperbole. The New York Times described a performance of hers as a “traditionalist tour de force” in which Kaumakaiwa “vaulted through various registers and timbres, from bass to witchy contralto rasp to sweet soprano”—or what the singer called “skinny girl” voice. For her part, Kaumakaiwa, who has transitioned from male to female, describes her power this way: “My body was genetically built to survive 9-12 months out on the open ocean, with a limited amount of resources and food, in order to maybe make it to arrive at some place called home, some place called Hawai‘i, to a tiny little rock.” She credits her grandmother with instilling in her a fearlessness about being who she is, and says that fearlessness allowed her “to say Yes to this show and to redefine status-quo hula.” The Los Angeles Times once compared the “ineffably smooth unison” of the Nā Lei Hulu dancers with “the best corps de ballet” and described a “lasting aftereffect something like having seen flowers that breathe and butterflies that think.”

transgendered artists who sang for us while we danced? I didn’t want to take a political stance, per se. I just wanted to let people hear them sing and watch them dance, because their artistry is so powerful.” Yet Makuakane acknowledges that celebrating such art- ists, and thereby celebrating the respect given to mahu people in ancient Hawaiian society, is inherently political. (There has never been a dance production or any kind of artistic showcase that has ever used that term in its name.) The show intends to move past the shame and ridicule that LGBTQ Hawaiians have endured by being labeled mahu. Instead it invites them to feel pride. Most important to him, though, is to “reclaim the idea of their authenticity and their humanity.” The concept of a third gender, where individuals can express both their masculinity and femininity freely, is not unique to Hawai‘i. Parallels include hijra in Hindu society, two-spirit Native Americans, the fakaleiti or fakafefine of Tonga, and the fa’afafine of Samoa. T he show highlights three artists from Hawai‘i who all fall under the hard-to-translate term mahu. Part One begins with Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a hula master and leader in the field of indigenous Hawaiian language and cultural preservation. (She is also the subject of Kumu Hina , a 2014 documentary, and she co-directed Kapaemahu , an animated 2020 film based on the long-hidden history of four stones on Waikiki Beach honoring legendary mahu who brought the healing arts to Hawai‘i.) “Kumu Hina is a beautiful dancer and chanter with a res- onant voice,” Makuakane notes. The segment in which she is featured will focus on kahiko , or the ancient style of hula, with Na Lei Hulu dancers interpreting, for example, the story of Kapaemahu, the four mahu prophets/healers who traveled from Tahiti to Hawai’i around 400 A.D. Newly composed chants will tell the story, and the dancers will perform in the kahiko style, while dramatic costumes, light- ing, and video projections will complete the kind of stun- ning visual display Makuakane has become known for. Following her is Kuini, a musical trio composed of Ho‘omanawanui Apo, Kehaulani Tamure, and Keli Mahealani Viernes. The three singers specialize in leo kiekie , or Hawaiian falsetto. “They will knock you off your feet with their vocals and hairdos,” says Makuakane. “They’re just incredibly witty and colorful, with vocal audacity and some of the most glorious harmonies you have ever heard in Hawaiian music.” This will be the ‘ auana portion, showcasing the style of dance that may be most familiar to general audiences, in which light-hearted dances are choreographed to music fea- turing Western instruments, melodies, and vocal harmonies. Many popular ‘auana describe a 20th century life of fire- men, streetcars, public parks, and even pipi (beef) stew. Part


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M akuakane has met with all three of his guest artists separately to conceptualize original pieces that celebrate the tradi- tional status of mahu as cultural stan- dard bearers, artisans, and healers. In Kaumakaiwa, in particular, he found an ambassador of mahu, someone who has thought deeply about the mean- ing of the word not just culturally but artistically. “In Hawai’i, we don’t have gendered pronouns,” she told a hula class in a Zoom lecture. “There is no such thing as ‘she’ or ‘he.’ It’s just ‘o ia.’” The term mahu literally trans- lates to a state of being and doesn’t refer to a specific gender. It encompasses everything, the entire breadth of gender expression.” With a collaborator like Kaumakaiwa (he calls her his “linchpin”), something new began to happen that took even Makuakane by surprise. Call it collaboration, alchemy, or just the magic of finding a new muse. “I’m directing her, but I’m stimulated by her, and she by me,” he says. “I’ve never hid the fact that I am gay, but in this show I can internalize that. I can ask myself, ‘What does it mean for me to do a show called MAHU ?’ I can step into a self that is always there, though perhaps hidden a bit, or pro- tected. It allows me to inhabit that self fully.” He clearly enjoys the flamboyance of these guest artists. “Every song is a parade, and who doesn’t love a parade?” he says. “The combination of guest artists is allowing me to go all out . Every choreographer wants that!” “For this show, everything is being reexamined,” Makuakane told Hawaii Public Radio. “People are going to see a combination of different musical styles, of costumes, of traditional, modern and contemporary dancing, chanting. I mean, I don’t like linear. I don’t like to start with tradi- tion and then move through time to end up in contempo- rary times. I love to mix them all up. Because I feel that’s what my life is. I’m one big wheel collecting everything as I move throughout the day.”

Kaumakaiwa’s off-the-charts music, which synthesizes the esoteric spirit of chanting with the beats of Michael Jackson and the vocals of Adele, is the perfect comple- ment to hula mua , Makuakane’s signature dance inven- tion. The verb mua means “to progress,” and Makuakane defines hula mua as dance that “takes from the past and brings to the future.” Its movements rely on the vocabu- lary of ‘auana and kahiko , but the music is all over the map (including techno and pop and opera and everything in between). And many of the “traditional” movements are stylized—“tweaked and exaggerated,” with other movements occasionally mixed in—a little modern dance, maybe, a little Broadway, a little hip hop. “We are taking hula to new places—not just physi- cal places, but also artistic and emotional places,” he explains. “I’m broadening my context of hula, reminding us that tradition and innovation can coexist in meaningful and surprising ways.” One example of hula mua in the show is the number “Lovely Hinahina,” which I watched at rehearsal in the gym, when rows of “rubber slippahs”—zoris and flip flops—marked out a stage on the basketball floor. The lyr- ical love song, written by Kaumakaiwa’s mother Kekuhi, describes the breeze “bearing witness” as the singer catches a glimpse of her dear lovely hinahina. The mem- ory of her is “presented on wings feathered by the breeze,” a breeze that whispers and stirs my affections. The melody is hardly lyrical, though: the beat of the guitar, drums, and synthesizer—as well as the rapid fire chanting—it is made urgent and visceral. For thirty minutes, 23 dancers, in two flocks, practiced entering and going through several formations in which they are birds, lifting their long arms in gentle waves, flut- tering their fingers, moving their feet in a hula bourée, let- ting their bodies lower in lunges and pliés and then rise on tiptoes again. The choreographer calls out makeshift names for the moves—“bird wave,”“ kai ,” “whisper.” ( Kai is the Hawai- ian word for water, and in hula it is usually expressed with a precise wave movement of the arms at the hips.) “I just want you to mooooove,” he says, “but not too move-y.” He demonstrates with his own body. “Make your kai’s as smooth as possible, sweep and roll with your body: whisper into bird wave into kai.” As I watch them work over and over on a very small segment, with lots of impromptu changes, Makuakane choreographing on the bodies before him, proposing something, looking at it, changing it, I am reminded that a critic from the Los Angeles Times once compared the “ineffably smooth unison” of the Na Lei Hulu dancers with “the best corps de ballet” and described a “lasting aftereffect something like having seen flowers that breathe and butterflies that think.”

Na Lei Hulu presents MAHU Oct 22-23, 2022 Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco naleihulu.org

CONSTANCE HALE is a California journalist who has been writing about Hawaiian culture for three decades. Her award-winning features on hula, slack-key guitar, the sovereignty movement, the Hawaiian language, Big Island cowboys, and Spam musubi have appeared in the Atlantic , National Geographic Adventure , Afar , Smithsonian , the Los Angeles Times , the Miami Herald , and Honolulu . She has written five books on language and literary style, including the best-selling Sin and Syntax . She has also written a book for children, ‘ Iwalani‘s Tree . Hale, who was born in Hawai‘i, started dancing the hula at seven and has studied with Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakāne for twenty-five years. Her biography of him, The Natives Are Restless , was published in 2016.

Strengthening Communities. Catalyzing Inclusion. Cultivating Belonging.



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I SURVIVED 13 YEARS IN PRISON, but I am not free from my experience of prison. I have nightmares of being thrown back into the system. I am hyper vigilant, often secluded, and wake up most days still amazed that I am not incarcerated. Every second of every day, I accept that my reality consists of the version of me that is free, and the version of me that will never be free.

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As formerly incarcerated people, we had to explore profound truths about prison that we still carry in our bodies: The gravity of being removed from society for over a decade. Our tattoos, injuries, memories, unprocessed traumas, survivor guilt.

I find myself torn between perspectives. One perspective tells me that I am living out my God-given right to free- dom, will and agency. Simultaneously, I am thinking about how lucky I am to have been given a second chance at life. Freedom has been packaged and purchased by most peo- ple in America as a divine right, something of the highest value. Currently and formerly incarcerated people know it to be a luxury, a privilege. What does that say about the mindset of those impacted by the carceral system? One of my mentors, long-time teacher, and friend, Amie Dowling, presented me and three other people—Reyna Brown, Tiersa Nureyev and Maurice Reed—with an opportunity to collaborate on work that is meaningful

and true to who we are as artists. With no hesitation, I agreed. We had no clear vision or idea about what we wanted to create, but we each trusted the process. With time and space, art develops and challenges your thoughts, your understanding of self, and your lived experience. The one thing we were clear on is that this project was going to be centered around our close friend Maurice Reed who was released from San Quentin State Prison a few months earlier after also serving 13 years. Maurice and I decided to find a place to start filming and talking through our experiences of being thrown back into a world that we had become strangers to. And in that moment of uncertainty, we drove to Mare Island in Vallejo, California, where there is open parking,

land and trails. We noticed that where we parked fit the aes- thetics of a prison. Tall build- ings that look unattended, fences, locked gates, thick yel- low lines that out-line unautho- rized areas, police cars, secu-

rity guards making rounds like clockwork, dirt, dust, and silence that could either be eerie or peaceful depending on places you have been. In prison yards there are “Mac Shacks,” shacks where you can check out recreational gear: basketballs, hand- balls, footballs, soccer balls, jump ropes, horseshoes, and even chess boards. It’s also where correctional officers are

concrete slabs we would walk day and night. We started reliving moments of our incarceration where we fantasized about being in the exact moment we were actually in— marveling at the journey, mourning the parts of ourselves still behind those walls, yellow lines, locked gates, and caged cells monitored by officers and security like clock- work. Time, freedom, new life, a fresh start. These were some of the concepts we decided to explore. We presented our ideas to our other team members, Tiersa Nureyev and Reyna Brown, and knew their input would help guide the project and sculpt the vision. We explored cities, places, spaces, styles of dance, types of movements, poetry, music, wardrobe, props, and self. As formerly incarcerated people, we had to explore pro- found truths about prison that we still carry in our bod- ies: The gravity of being removed from society for over a decade. Our tattoos, injuries, memories, unprocessed trau- mas, survivor guilt. In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic Maurice recalls like clockwork voices near and far screaming and plead- ing for assistance when another incarcerated person fell ill, “MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN! Some peo- ple came back to the cells, and some didn’t. You would get word that someone else passed away.” The goal of this piece is to both express and challenge. Express truth from our perspective and challenge those

sometimes posted. For people for- tunate enough never to have experi- enced that, imagine a big brown toll booth only to fit one or two people. Directly in front of where Maurice and I parked, there stood a “Mac Shack.” This is where the project must begin. Maurice sat in front of the Mac Shack. There lay a long empty road between him and me, and it felt like he was awaiting someone’s arrival. Fingers interlaced, elbows on knees, sun settling behind him, and time continuing to pass. Sitting side by side with someone with whom I served almost eight years felt so natural and surreal. This long strip of empty road reminiscent of the


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who face what we create. How do we express the real- ity of confinement that is unique and honest? How do we highlight the cycles created by institutions to keep people in the same conditions they have always been in? How do we creatively say, “I am one of the millions of men and women who deserve a second chance or access to their God-given right to freedom?” How do we show how beautiful life is while remembering the decrepit structures we and others have been housed in? By creating a duality in Maurice’s performance we show the various stages Maurice was in throughout his incar- ceration. Some movements are harder and faster; some moves are slower and more restrictive. His relationship to the space changes his movement. We decided to have an hourglass representing the prison structure, the overpacked conditions, time, and the peo- ple who are trapped and may never get out. We under- stand that prison possesses a power that can turn people’s worlds upside down at a moment’s notice. And those that live within those structures are forced to adjust and adapt while still fighting to pass through the door to freedom. We are privileged in the eyes of those still serving their sentences, while understanding that freedom is not just a concept or an idea. It is an act of agency that extends beyond cells, locked gates, yellow lines, and prison walls. It extends beyond ankle monitors and a fifty-mile radius that keeps people monitored. Freedom extends beyond our future and reaches into our past. Addressing all of our truths and challenging us in a way that makes you face a version of you that you didn’t even know existed.

Freedom offers you the opportunity to restructure your mind. That is a challenge that Maurice and I have been addressing in this project and in our own lives. When I was incarcerated, I wanted the freedom to cre- ate in prison, be it dance, music, paintings, or draw- ings. Then I wanted my freedom. Once I was paroled, I thought I was free. Until freedom showed up as a desire to be off parole. Once I got off parole and became a completely free man, I realized I wasn’t free from the nightmares of my experiences in prison or the anxiety I felt when I was around someone in law enforcement. Amie Dowling, Reyna Brown, Tiersa Nureyev, Maurice Reed, and I have been unpacking this idea of freedom that we have all bought into—making room for a new look at freedom. While doing this project, one thing has become clear: the carceral system can only confine those it encounters. It can never give someone freedom. We have to give that to ourselves every second of every day from this point on. ANTWAN “BANKS” WILLIAMS is the Co-Creator and Sound Designer of the award-winning podcast Ear Hustle . He is a dancer and choreog- rapher who studied movement, rhythm, and sound for four years while serving a 15-year sentence in San Quentin State Prison. He specializes in modern, contemporary, krump, and hip-hop dance styles while infusing story-telling in performing arts. He is also well versed in videography, video editing, music production, and audio engineering. In 2019 Antwan was released from prison after serving 13 years in the CA Department of Rehabilitation. He continues to work for the podcast, produce video content, volunteer inside and outside prisons, and tour schools as a pub- lic speaker, using his lived experience to educate and enhance people's understanding of the justice system and cultural conditioning.


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