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A.H. Dance Company

'Chameleon'

by Victoria Dombroski

January 8, 2010 -- Dance New Amsterdam, New York, NY

The A.H. Dance Company performed a piece of work entitled “Chameleon” at the APAP Conference Showcase at Dance New Amsterdam. This piece choreographed by Alaine Handa incorporated both dance and film to carry out a variety of notions dealing with children growing up in various countries all over the world, more than likely due to the careers of their parents demanding travel. The title of the piece “Chameleon” was perfectly proper, as it was about fitting in wherever one goes.  These diverse young adults, who spent their upbringing in many different countries, spoke of issues including homesickness, multi-cultural influences, and race. Overall this amalgamation of film and dance to portray the sense of homesickness and lack of belonging to one culture was remarkable. This piece was able to bring awareness of this topic and lifestyle to an audience with true beauty and creativity.

The presentation started with a film that displayed different young adults talking about their upbringing in different parts of the world. It was fascinating to hear them speak about, for example, growing up in Japan for six years, Fiji for another two years, China for a year and a half, and finally to America, as one discussed. One young woman described herself as having the initial presence of an America, but really the Japanese culture was more in her blood than American culture. When she thinks back to what home truly is for her, she naturally thinks of where she spent most of her time growing up, which in her case was Japan.  Another young man, due to his constant travel as a child, was unable to create deep connections with others.  For all the speakers, their only constant in life was that they were sure they would have a new home and set of friends wherever they traveled next. Their ability to adapt to constantly changing environments became second nature.

The piece had a consistent flow between the themes in the film and the dancing on stage. At the conclusion of the first section of the film, the dancing started as a solo, using slow hand gestures of circular delicate movements in front of and above the dance’s head that almost created a dream-like atmosphere. Dressed in a Japanese-style dress, the dance moved gracefully with control and intensity about the stage. When she was on the floor she used her fingers to make it appear as a person walking, and created a circle around herself. It seemed to be symbolism for travel around the world and perhaps a wandering soul. As the piece continued with more dancers, voices spoke strongly in the background talking about lost souls not entirely having a home. The term home was considered an ambiguous term due to the constant traveling and adaptation to yet again another place to live. They spoke about this movement as creating happiness and sadness simultaneously. You create friends wherever you go next with ease because you acquire a skill in it from the constant practice, but you know that you have been quickly replaced wherever you just came from.

The dancing seemed to have a bewildered quality to it as the dancers moved their arms about their heads as if in anger and confusion. There was one phrase that was repeated a few times, “Confusion of cultures, uniquely me.” The dancers would look around themselves, searching for something that never quite seemed to be at their grasp. It was a motion of looking for that next new home and place to settle once again. The swaying arms towards the head reminded me of a bubble of confusion and there was a lot of running from corner to corner creating a panicking, uneasy emotion. The dancers would grab at the air in front of them and move through space with no sense of stability and contentment. It was that yearning for more that kept me wanting to watch and see if there would ever be a sense of resolution. The dancers were like feathers on the wind and I liked the dreamlike quality that I felt from it. At one point the dancers were using a hand shaking gesture as they moved quickly in a circle with an edgy and tense quality, reinforcing the overwhelming sensation of always being on the move with a constant change over of people.

Overall this piece was a beautiful representation of a lifestyle that is not commonly discussed or even acknowledged by most. It allowed an audience to learn about and interpret this way of life for themselves through the art of film and dance, thus leaving the audience with a unique perception of the individuals’ lives in relation to their own.


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