Inside the Impact of DANCE This

Written by Mariko Nagashima

“Lion Dance” by Au Lac Vovinam, Choreographer Doan Dinh

Photo by Christopher Nelson 

DANCE This is a uniquely designed program in which local youth work with professional choreographers to produce a show that emphasizes both cultural diversity and technical proficiency. This community centered program has helped to develop many young artists over the course of its 14 years. To see the program’s true impact, SeattleDances asked three of this year’s participants to write about their experiences in DANCE This 2012. The writers include Aaron Gordon, a former participant in DANCE This, now returning as a choreographer for the hip hop group, Electriq; Doan Dinh, the Team Leader for Âu Lạc Vovinam Lion Dance Team, a Vietnamese dance group; and Jasmmine Ramgotra, a participant in the Young Choreographer’s Lab whose piece was selected to be shown in this year’s production. 

“Happiess” by Electriq Dance, Choreography by Aaron Gordon (ctr)

Photo by Christopher Nelson 

Aaron Gordon:

Having been involved with DANCE This since 2003, I can say the program has helped shape the artist I am today. It has made my choreography and directing skills more well-rounded and eclectic. My style of dance combines many different genres, many of which I first learned about through DANCE This. Now, 10 years later, DANCE This has become a chance for me to give back to the community that offered (and continues to offer) me so much. Through having been able to teach and interact with the young groups during DANCE This 2012, I can see how truly inspiring the program is to young performers. It offers kids a glimpse into the world of the performing arts and inspires them to continue to learn and perform. I’ve never before seen such a respectful, diverse group of kids, all with such bright eyes.
Doan Dinh:
DANCE This was an amazing opportunity. I admit, I was a bit hesitant when I first received the invitation. I was worried that I could not count on my teammates to take on such a big performance, to learn all of these new dances. We’ve never had any dance training besides Lion Dance Team, and sure enough, it was incredibly difficult. Plus, Daniel Cruz’s idea of using two drums and three Lions challenged me—syncing two drums was hard; this setup would require all of my active teammates. In the end, we managed just fine!

Deciding to participate in DANCE This is one of the best choices I’ve made as Team Leader so far. I had such a blast meeting new people, sharing my culture, and dancing with all of these great people. Best of all, it boosted my teammates’ morale and allowed us to bond more. This event is our highlight of 2012, and we hope more opportunities like this will arise. We wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Jasmmine Ramgotra:

“They Swim in the Sky”  
Choreography by Jassmine Ramgotra   
from STG’s Young Choreographer’s Lab

Photo by Christopher Nelson  

In September of 2011, I applied for STG’s Young Choreographer’s Lab. I knew that the end result was an opportunity to create a piece that would be presented in DANCE This; since day one that was my goal. My heart was racing at the thought of my work standing next to renowned choreographers Mark Haim and Sonia Dawkins. I introduced myself to Sonia and remember telling her how intimidated I was to share the stage with her piece. She said to me, “Don’t be intimidated, be proud.”

After riding through the creative process and having my work presented to hundreds of people I feel as if a whole new door to my life has been opened. DANCE This and the supportive artists and directors at STG and VelocityDanceCenterhave helped me to realize what a passion choreography is for me. Even though the program has concluded, it seems as though this is only the beginning of a new step in my artistic life. I am truly proud to have been part of such a beautiful cross-cultural experience and hope that my future work will be able to impact an audience as much as this amazing show has.