As our nation navigates the slippery slope of “otherness,” it becomes even more important to remember the dangers of xenophobia. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, under which United States citizens of Japanese descent were interned on American soil, one local dance troupe is presenting a full-length work to help us remember that event ended in an official Government apology, payments to the survivors and the establishment of a public education fund to help ensure that this never happens again.
Sue Schroeder, artistic director of Core Dance, says that Life Interrupted was originally presented on the 70th anniversary under the title Gaman, which she describes as "a Japanese word for taking with dignity what is presented to you, which is really the Japanese way, and the way that Japanese Americans experienced the internment camp."
For this performance at Asia Society Texas Center, the dance piece has been updated with additional cast members, as well as new projected works by artist Nancy Chikaraishi, and seems even more relevant in today's geopolitical landscape.
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The piece fuses dance, art and music, as well as the objects that would have been issued to those in the camps: a lightbulb, a bed, suitcases and wooden crates. "I wanted a texture to the landscape of the dance, so we originally started with the few materials that the Japanese Americans were given," says Schroeder. "[The dancers] use the old wooden crates for just about everything. All of those things become different metaphors for different things throughout the life of the performance."
During a preview of Life Interrupted, audience members experienced a range of emotions. "One person said the intermingling of the visual elements was almost like photography that could be interpreted so many different ways," says Schroeder. "We do sort of different versions of the Pledge of Allegiance, and another person said it was an incredible way to hold the narrative. A lot of people were moved to tears.
“Art has this incredible power to create empathy and to begin the conversation so that we can, as human beings and everyday people, begin to feel what it's like to be the other,” says Schroeder.
Performances are scheduled for February 17 at 8 p.m., with a post-performance conversation with the artists; and February 18 at 8 p.m., with a pre-performance conversation at 7. Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore, 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas. $10 to $20.