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Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month: Dancers Unlimited

May is Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) American Heritage Month! Join us this month in celebrating the staff and artists who make up Pentacle’s diverse community.
Get to know one of Pentacle’s AAPI artists, Linda Kuo of Dancers Unlimited! DU is involved in multiple Pentacle programs including, Foundation for Independent Artists, Administrative Support Program, and as a partner organization through our Internship Program.

 

Linda is an Asian woman with long dark hair. She is wearing a black shirt and is smiling softly at the camera. Five dancers dressed in a teal blue are sitting around a single, standing dancer in orange. All the dancers have their hands raised to the ceiling, forming a triangle between their fingers. Their surrounding is dark as the orange dancer is in a spotlight.

How do you celebrate your heritage through your work as a dancer/choreographer?
“My work reflects my upbringing as an immigrant who was born in Taiwan and grew up in the multicultural environment of Hawai’i, during the end of the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance. Dancing the Hula helped cement my belief in dance as the backbone of cultural identity and resilience. My choreography addresses social and cultural issues while blending the styles and backgrounds of the dancers I work with. Recently I’ve engaged my audience with the Ku Kia’i Mauna movement and immigration issues.”

What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?
“It’s interesting because growing up in Hawai’i, I never felt the need to celebrate AAPI heritage month – every day is about AAPI heritage there.  But coming to the “mainland” has definitely made me feel the need to share our stories because our voices have been marginalized. It’s definitely empowering to have a designated month, and my wish is for AAPI experiences to be shared and discussed all year round.”
 
Do you have any artistic projects that have shifted in response to the pandemic?
Everything has shifted!  We (my company, Dancers Unlimited) have had two seasons of tours, performances and residencies canceled.  Like most companies, we don’t know when things will go back to “normal” or what normalcy would look like.  In response to the pandemic and social distancing, we’ve launched DUTV, our virtual platform featuring free / $5 classes, a brand new virtual performance season, and our inaugural membership program (launching soon). DUTV has allowed us to stay connected as a company, and reconnect with audiences in both New York and Hawai’i. And now we are talking about exploring virtual teaching residencies with schools in Brooklyn, Colorado, Hawai’i, and Taiwan!
 
Who within the AAPI (artist) community do you dream of collaborating with? Why?
“Wow, first definitely Peter Rockford Espiritu of Tau Dance Company! He’s a fellow awardee of Halawai’s NewYorkPacificIslandTime Award (http://www.halawai.org/ ) and has been an inspiration and creative pioneer all over the Pacific Islands and Pacific Northwest. I’d also love to collaborate with John-Mario Sevilla, Director of Professional Development and Performance as 92Y Harkness Center. Finally, Aunty Pua Case!  Aunty Pua is one of the organizers for the annual Indigenous People’s Day Gathering on Randall’s Island. She’s known as a Hawaiian rights activist, and the beauty of the indigenous cultures is how dancing is always a form of activism.  I’ve looked up to all three artists for their works, and the passion and love for the community that ultimately drive their creation.”