ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company will open its 25th anniversary season and world tour with a benefit concert at the University of New Mexico on Tuesday, March 21.
Its founder, a Santa Fe near-native, launched the pre-eminent modern dance company in Washington, D.C., where a Washington Post dance critic named him the “poet laureate of Washington dance.” Burgess also has served as a U.S. State Department cultural ambassador for 20 years. The Smithsonian Institution named him its first choreographer-in-residence.
Burgess’ family moved to Santa Fe when he was 5 years old. He moved to martial arts until a friend enticed him into a dance class. Burgess studied ballet, modern dance and jazz dance at UNM. Both of his parents were visual artists.
“I grew up with this creative process all around me all the time,” he said from his Washington, D.C., office two blocks from the White House. “I grew up with the stage as a canvas and the dancers as the brush strokes. The art form of choreography was it for me.”
The troupe will perform a trio of modern Burgess originals: “Leaving Pusan,” “Margin” and “Confluence.”
“Leaving Pusan” tells the story of his grandmother, who fled Korea for Hawaii in 1903 as the Japanese invaded her homeland.
“For me, this work invokes the traditions she left behind in order to start a new life in America,” he said. “The dance is filled with anxiety and the anticipation of forging a new life on the plantations of Oahu, Hawaii.”
The lead dancer wears a mask, a traditional symbol from Korean folk dance, and the costumes are white, the Korean color of mourning.
“They speak to issues young people are facing: socio-economic imbalance, redefining gender roles, issues of race and immigration,” he said.