Half and Halves
An exploration in dance of the little-known cultural and artistic legacies of Punjabi-Mexican communities founded in California in the early 20th century inspires the collaboration of Duniya Dance and Drum Company and Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco in “Half and Halves: A Dance Exploration of the Punjabi-Mexican Communities of California.”
The production, featuring new original material, returns to San Francisco for two nights, April 10-11, 2015, at the Jewish Community Center’s Kanbar Hall. “Half and Halves” is presented in association with Arts & Ideas at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
In the early 20th century, men from Punjab, India arrived in California to work on farms. Discriminatory immigration laws prevented them from bringing their wives from India, so many married Mexican women. This exciting performance, featuring 25 dancers and live music, brings together vibrant Punjabi Bhangra and Mexican Folklorico dances to explore themes related to farming life, marriage, immigration, and racial and ethnic discrimination. Choreographers Joti Singh and Zenon Barron also explore dance in this performance that does not neatly fit into one genre or another, drawing inspiration from the complex cultural identities of these communities and the issues and challenges they faced.
This performance is made possible by the generosity of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Fleishhacker Foundation, and the San Francisco Grants for the Arts Hotel Tax Fund.
Here I am, finally writing a blog. It’s not the writing that has kept me from doing this sooner but rather the commitment. So here I will state to my blog: I will do my best not to neglect you, not to put everything and everybody else above you and to always be truthful and sincere.
Duniya has a new Marketing and Communications Intern. Welcome Nitya! Having an intern is some dope stuff. When I asked her what I should write about in my first blog entry, she wanted to know why dance is important to me. Why dance? Why the heck would anyone give up luxury, money, fancy job titles, and above all laziness and give everything to dance? Why dance? My answer, in short: Danceformation.
Dance is transformation. I am in the lucky position to see this on a daily basis. Dance makes a sad kid happy, dance makes an insecure woman feel like the bomb, dance turns violent youth into peaceful dance-makers, it turns ignorance into cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, it makes a dull life suddenly interesting. Dance turns a party you were invited to into a party you stayed at until 3 a.m.
When we created “Half and Halves,” our performance about the Punjabi-Mexican communities of California, as dancers we transformed ourselves into: devastated Punjabi women whose husbands were leaving us to come to America; Mexican and Punjabi farmers laboring in the scorching sun; subdued yet joyous guests at a wedding party; and feisty schoolgirls battling in the playground. The theater transformed from the Brava in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2010 to the Imperial Valley fields in 1906. Some audience members were so moved by the performance that they cried. Many approached me afterwards and told me they were so proud to learn of this history, or that they wanted their Punjabi parents and Mexican friends to see this important show. They were transformed.
On a personal level, I metamorphosized completely, from being insecure about my ability to pull off the show and unclear about my voice as a director and choreographer, to confident with not only my own capability but also my responsibility to do important work. I delved more deeply into compromise (which doesn’t always come easy for me) and collaboration. This experience made me more empathetic, more experimental, and more clear about direction in my career and in my life.
Dance can communicate the beauties and the cracks of the world I live in, and help create the ideal world that I hope to experience. Dance transforms everyone who touches it. So, Nitya, that’s why I dance.
3 nights of Artist in Residence Joti Singh and Duniya Dance and Drum Company at CounterPULSE.
“Lanyee” (Peace and Unity) An exciting evening of West African music and dance, featuring a collaboration of artists from West Africa, the Bay Area and Los Angeles“Lanyee” (Peace and Unity) An exciting evening of West African music and dance, featuring a collaboration of artists from West Africa, the Bay Area and Los Angeles, including drummers Bongo Sidibe and Kahlil Cummings, balafon player Mohamed Kouyate, and kora player Karamo Sissoko.
In response to recent political unrest in Guinea, these artists present their visions for a peaceful outcome to current turmoil and their hopes for the uniﬁcation of the population.