“Fire in the belly” is Veronica Lee-Baik’s guiding principle as she directs her company, The Three Yells. Deriving its name from that very principle based on the traditional breathing practices of martial art forms Aikido and Kendo, The Three Yells works with intensely physical emotion. For their latest show, Moon Falling (November 7-9 at Velocity Dance Center), Lee-Baik was inspired by her nine-year-old son’s drawing of a bleeding moon. From this she has crafted a piece postured around the threat of global warming and choreographed through her eco-feminist gaze.
After taking a three-year hiatus from choreography to focus on her family, Lee-Baik is returning to the Seattle scene, ready to start conversations about impactful issues in today’s world. The Three Yells is known for the athleticism that permeates Lee-Baik’s choreography and how this physical movement is guided by the dancers’ audible breath. In Kendo practices, the traditional breath, or Kiai, is broken up into three parts, or yells: sho, chu, and go. Not only does this inspire the company’s name, it also has become an integral strategy Lee-Baik employs in her work. In Moon Falling, the dancers’ breathing is audible and uninhibited. A striking element, this adds an intensity to the performance and grounds the dancers, keeping them balanced and present in their movement. In this particular work, the breath helps illuminate the apparent struggle that the dancers face in realizing the threat of global warming and the part they have played in its acceleration.
Lee-Baik takes much inspiration from athletes of different fields. Although classically trained in ballet, she finds beauty in more pedantic forms of athletic movement and stylizing them into choreography for dancers. She says that her mixture of classical technique and athletic innovations comes from “a genuine love” of ballet and athletics. In a press preview for the piece, Lee-Baik shared that some of the movements in Moon Falling were taken from everyday actions her son made. Her tendency to look outside of dance to inspire her work, along with the delicate strength of her Asian aesthetic (Lee-Baik grew up in Singapore) are part of what make The Three Yells such a distinctive company. Her choreography showcases both a deep love for technique and a craving curiosity to experiment with movement.
In Moon Falling, Lee-Baik juxtaposes the connection between mother and child against the connection between Mother Earth and humanity. The piece articulates her fear of the destruction society is responsible for marring our planet with. Through costuming and choreography, Lee-Baik uses Moon Falling to start a conversation about our oppressive treatment of nature. With rolling movements that utilize the body’s entire spine, the choreography gives the impression that dancers are testing out their bodies for the very first time, like newborns. Lee-Baik explained that the piece relies heavily on props as symbols to convey her message. Red yarn symbolizes the umbilical cord, showing how society is dependent upon our Earth just as a child depends on its mother. The women’s hands will be painted red to symbolize guilt: the blood on our hands. With these images, Lee-Baik clearly places blame on the actions of our patriarchal society for the degradation of nature. She also incorporates cell phones into the piece to represent the technological expansion in the last decade which could be negatively impacting the health of our planet.
Moon Falling has already garnered enough interest and support for The Three Yells to add a third performance night to their weekend-long run at Velocity. Shows will run at 8 PM Friday and Saturday, November 7 and 8, and 7:30pm on Sunday, November 9. Friday and Saturday are sold out, but you can still purchase tickets for Sunday’s show online.
Visit The Three Yells’ website here to find out more about Lee-Baik and her company.