Saturday, October 22, 2011


I have recently made a new solo. It is called Finding the Way from Everything to Nothing and was my response to a commission from the Dance Centre and the Canadian Music Centre, in which they paired me up with electro-acoustic composer Barry Truax. Initially annoyed with the music, entitled Sequence of an Earlier Heaven and based on the trigrams of the I Ching, I have come to be grateful for its rigorous beauty. I made a ritual out of ritual objects, Daoist and otherwise - Yarrow sticks, Joss sticks, Spirit paper and tobacco in the form of cigarettes. It was a ritual of arrival. A negotiation between the diasporaic history - with all the ruptures contained within it - I carry in my body and the colonial history - with all the ruptures contained within it - embedded in this land.

On hundreds of pieces of Spirit paper, the money one would burn as as offering to the ancestors so that they may shop in the after life, I wrote:

To my ancestors
and to the ancestors of the
the Tsliel-waututh,
the Xwméthkwiyem,
on whose territory
I dance.

I threw these objects onto the floor, into the air, and danced in the landscape that they made.
I received many positive responses.
But it didn't really matter.
I felt an incredible clarity and lightness after the performances - a rare thing as one usually crashes after the adrenaline.
I felt light because I had been dancing for non-humans and I knew deep in my body that they had received it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The spaces in between

Sometimes, on my way home in the mornings after waking up in the bed of my beloved, as I ride down the hill, I stop at Terra Breads, and have my soy latte there. I sit eating a cookie - I like cookies for breakfast - and stare into space among strangers and baked goods, finding quiet in my body, allowing the singing in my body to subside, and prepare for the next dance of the day.

The more love accumulates, the less space there seems to be.

But there is space. And sometimes, it is revealed through the meditation on how the sweetness of anise and almonds can come together in a perfect biscotti straddling the perfect place between hard and crisp.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The body is always political

I am listening to the CBC and Michael Enwright is interviewing a poet. The poet has just said that societies that are in turmoil tend to look back to their poets to help them through difficult times. And when things are going well, they abandon them for "easier" forms of literature.

Some months ago, over dinner with Karen Jamieson, she said that dance on the whole is a benign form. It does no harm, she said. I am not so sure. If dance is so benign, why then, when governments and ruling powers want to control a people, is dance the first thing they ban or surpress?  I think of the persecution of Sundance practitioners by the Government of Canada in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And more recently, the incidents at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in the U.S.

Perhaps when times are good, the people abandon powerful dancing for benign dance.

But it is time to bring back the real dance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Today, my wise man (yes, these days, I have a wise man) said, if you are the only one awake, you end up doing all the work. That is just the way it is.

I guess that is why most people would rather stay asleep.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Last night, as I said goodnight to my child, he said, "Thank you, mama, for loving me the way you do"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

decolonizing III

The face of death has no eyes and no ears.
This is what I learned yesterday from a fierce warrior woman named Dorothy Christian.
And I learned, as she did, that there is no use talking to people who do not see you, who do not hear you.
I realize also, that it is important to peel off your own mask of death. Wake up your eyes, wake up your ears and see, listen.
Then learn to dance with the new sensations.
Peel off the flat floor that conceals the earth, the bones in the earth, the voids in the earth.
Feel the bones in your  body, the voids in your  body.
Then learn the dance that comes from connecting bone to bone, void to void.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I will dance for you

When I say, "I will dance for you", I want it to mean, "I will dance on your behalf."

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Recently, a wise man said, "There is such a thing as unconditional love". For some reason, this took me by surprise.
Then, in a class, while on the subject of structural integrity, I said, "So that even if nobody loves you, you have that (the integrity of your structure)." This also took me by surprise. The fact that I said it. In fact, my eyes teared and my throat got sticky.
A wise student added, "It's unconditional." (Ah!)

Yesterday, Noah, who teaches me voice, said, "The breath you take is your birthright."

It occurred to me that all this while, I have been working with the conditions placed on love, alignment and breath; and that it is possible instead to trust in that place where there are no conditions.

Monday, February 7, 2011

vertical rituals

It is Chinese New Year, and while in the past I have marked it by occasionally throwing huge feasts of Malaysian Chinese food, this year I am marking it with quieter rituals.

Mee Sua is a dish my grandmother used to make in the middle of the afternoon. Thin, delicate floury noodles that cook quickly in a pork broth made with ingredients found in the pantry and well-stocked freezer - a sauté of shallots and garlic, minced pork and preserved turnip as a base for a simple but comforting broth. A swirl of egg for added texture. A garnish of crispy fried shallots in oil to annoint.

Today, I started to make jiaozi, Northern chinese dumplings filled with pork and leeks (so alien to my South-east Asian displaced Hokkien childhood but adopted now as part of my North American Chinese identity) but decided to throw them into a pork broth instead of pan-frying them or boiling them. The result was a cross between Northern Chinese dumplings and Meehoonke - a handmade unfilled dumpling made by tearing bits of dough from a ball of dough, flattening them quickly into discs before throwing them into boiling broth in the wok. The starch in the dumplings thickens the broth into an unctuous gravy in which the chewy dumplings float. Again, this is what my grandmother would make for a peckish beloved child in the middle of the afternoon.

As I cook, I feel like I am convening with my ancestors in the kitchen.
As I serve it to Junhong, I feel as if I am throwing a feast that connects, vertically, my grandmother to my son.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recovery rituals

A big cock cures a headache.
A long swim clears the head.
And opera,
the loud and Italian kind,
opera clears the heart.

Friday, January 14, 2011

ruthless desire

A few days ago, I was told that to love means sometimes to protect the other from your own ruthless desire.
So I hold my bundle of ruthless desire against my breast.
And it sucks.
It bites.
It hurts.
(Love hurts)

Nothing left to do then, but to dance it out.
The audience does not need to be protected from your ruthless desire.
They have, in fact, paid for it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

decolonizing 2

I woke up the other morning thinking that to make a dance is to construct a ritual that decolonizes our bodies. A ritual that frees us from straight lines and linear thought and re-awakens our bodies to their inherent capacity to attend to and negotiate the complexities of the world.