Go Deeper

Da Da Dance Project Goes South Of The Border

Posted June 24th, 2010

For choreographer Eun Jung Choi, whose work will be featured in 8 (eight choreographers / eight new works) in the 2010 Live Arts Festival, visiting the in-laws means travelling to Mexico–her husband, dancer/choreographer Guillermo Ortega Tanus is from Oaxaca.

Eun Jung regularly performs and teaches in Mexico, but the couple’s most recent trip was the result of a fortuitous connection. When Eun Jung and Guillermo’s company Da Da Dance Project performed at a Festival in Mexico City at the Teatro de la Danza, and Patricia Aulestia, an important figure in the Mexican dance scene, happened to be in the audience and recommended them to perform in the Festival Internacional de Danza Contemporánea Avant-Garde in Mérida.

“The director of the festival hadn’t even seen our work,” says Eun Jung.

Their trip (May 4 through June3) began in Mérida, a city in the Yucatán famous for its colonial architecture, including one of the oldest cathedrals in North America. In the festival they performed the piece getting UP by Brooklyn choreographer Luke Gutgsell and an improvisational piece titled Exclamación. They shared the stage with local dance companies and international artists like Antonio Quiles from Spain. From there they traveled to Oaxaca, a hotspot for Mexican arts and culture. Besides the country being Guillermo’s homeland, the couple has a special tie to Mexico–they met in Mexico City four years ago when Guillermo took a class that Eun Jung was teaching with choreographer Mijail Rojas. Eun Jung says that their romantic relationship developed more naturally at first than their artistic one, because of their divergent aesthetics and experiences.

“He came from a more formal dancing background and I was into more experimental choreographic work. There was a lot of crashing at first,” she says of their collaboration.

When Eun Jung set a work on Mexican dancers in Mérida, however, she didn’t feel this sense of “crashing” in the process. While there she set a work on the local dance company Tumaka’t, a group of four “excellent dancers” directed by Vania Duran, whose leadership Eun Jung says makes the company very open-minded.

“The dancers were very clear, easy–they would do anything I asked them to,” she explains. “Maybe it’s because I’m coming from the outside, but they’re more attentive, like they’re trying to really get something out of me. They have this willingness.” She plans on returning in July to put the finishing touches on the piece, and the company will premiere it in August.

Guillermo also set a work on the company Tatzudanza in Mérida, and in Oaxaca the couple was interviewed about their work by local channel 9’s Arte en Punto program entirely in Spanish, Eun Jung’s third language. They also taught workshops for the public. Eun Jung says one of the most fulfilling moments of the tour was when a 65-year-old woman came with her daughter to take her class and expressed her appreciation afterword.

“She said she felt connected to herself again.” Eun Jung laughs, “then she kept asking us, ‘Is my daughter too fat to dance?!'”

Eun Jung and Guillermo did find a little time to do the kind of beachside relaxation that a trip to Mexico usually brings to mind, savoring the comida yucateca and unwinding in natural mineral pools.

“The sense of time there is very different . . .” says Eun Jung, “it makes me feel like I’m gonna get lost from the world.”

–Ellen Freeman

Performance photo by Egophoto and others courtesy of Eun Jung Choi.