In a time when the world seems incredibly divided, it’s comforting to see cultural barriers broken down and expressed as one. Dance, which is able to express both the individual and the collective, is an exceptional outlet for demonstrating that relationship. This past weekend, a hidden gem was alive and well at Person Theatre. “Waiting in Seoul Walking in Tokyo” is an original performance put on by the Sonoma State University Dance Program, which tells a story of Japanese, South Korean and American culture through contemporary style dance. The concepts were both foreign and familiar as the aesthetic of the dance and the theater transitioned among cultural identities.
“I was completely blown away,” said theater major Joseph Grant. “It felt like the dancers removed a layer of falsity in our cultural perception.”
The 45-minute show was a collaborative effort among Sonoma State Faculty Christine Cali and co-director Jennifer Meek Satoh along with highly regarded guest choreographers from Japan, South Korea and the United States Yuko Monden, Ryeon Hwa Yeo and Ayana Yonesaka.
Cali and Satoh wrote in their director’s note, “Waiting in Seoul Walking in Tokyo is influenced by the choreographers’ curiosity and respect for each other’s cultures, as well as their individual experiences living and traveling within these cultures.”
The dancers were 17 passionate and adept Sonoma State students whose semester-long commitment to the show was apparent.
To start off the Saturday show, a new piece by CALI & CO, Cali’s San Francisco based dance company, was performed by the guest choreographers. Dressed in light-blue jumpers, the professionals seemed to float across the stage as they applied improvisation and technique to their movements. The original music by Matt Langlois set a dreamy, modern tone to the work by combining sounds from different cities with transient beats.
The soundtrack continued into the next piece, which carried on through the show’s entirety. Footage and sound from an airport were projected into the theater as the student dancers took the stage. As the show progressed, the imagery took the dancers from the streets of Seoul to Tokyo to San Francisco. Composer Matt Langlois had collected the sound clips and projections as he traveled throughout Seoul and Tokyo in August.
“The use of sound clips rather than music added to the realism in the performance,” said sophomore Shay Williams.
Interestingly, the voyeuristic audience was made interactive as the cast moved from the stage to the seating. Running up and down the aisles, the dancers snapped ‘selfies’ with members of the audience and then with each other. “Everyone say Tokyo,” they bellowed in unison. It was apparent here that the Americanization of the show had taken full force. The dancers reformed their identities from city dwellers to intrusive tourists as they demonstrated a very modern and American aspect of society.
“The work manifests the uniqueness and familiarity of each city, and the sense of anonymity a well as the awkward ‘foreigner moments’ that accompany living and traveling abroad,” wrote Cali and Satoh in their director’s note.
“Waiting in Seoul Walking in Tokyo” provides a method of storytelling that is unique to contemporary dance. Through vocabulary, imagery, movement and sound the directors were able to demonstrate the common ground found in each culture while sending an important message of unity.