Identity Politics Give Ohio Group Their
Yella’: An Asian-American Female Dance was performed
in Hales Gymnasium on Monday, to a small but attentive audience. Directed
and choreographed by Tamara Welch, a graduate student from the Ohio State
University dance department, the performance was created in pursuit of
Welch’s Masters degree in the fine arts.
Intended as an artistic
exploration of the intricacies of racial and gender identity, the
hour-long modern dance presentation seemed to captivate the audience with
its vision of the day-to-day life of an Asian-American female. At the end,
the audience seemed stunned, evidenced by the fact that no one rose from
their seats for at least half a minute, an indication that they may have
wanted to see more from Welch and the three other dancers: Danah Bella,
Mira Kim and Mei-Chen Lu.
The sound design and arrangement of the
production, a collaboration between k. terumi shorb (OC ’99), Brian Casey
and Welch, was a notable highlight and point of interest. Seemingly
inspired by the electronic textures and voice manipulations increasingly
prevalent in some of today’s popular music, it was a fitting complement to
the piece’s choreography.
(photo by Tom
At points one heard high-pitched whining
soundscapes supporting the dancers’ movements, and at others one heard
voice-recordings of the dancers and composers, poignantly reciting poetry
like, “I’m a thought in your head with no room to exist/I’m like paper,
like plastic/I’m wrapped ’round your fist.”
The piece was divided into
four sections, and each section was titled poetically to signify some of
its intended meaning. The first was called “Photos are Worth More than Two
Dimensions,” and began with the dancers walking on the stage holding large
metal pots and performing various movements with them, imitating what
seemed to be cooking, washing and other domestic activities, and perhaps
evoking the struggle of Asian-American women against the stereotype of
them being good housewives.
The scene transformed as the dancers
overturned their pots and stood on top of them, adopting the postures of
people posing for photographs. Welch said this part of the dance was a
reference to photographs as metaphors for stereotypes, because photographs
are two-dimensional and, like stereotypes, do not represent every aspect
of a person.
The other sections of the presentation, respectively
titled “Differing Overlaps Sameness,” “Day In and Day Out” and “Steering
Through American Eye Flow” were, according to Welch, dance interpretations
of the everyday struggles of Asian-American females.
that her intention with these consecutive sections was to deal with the
desire of Asian-Americans to be treated equally, to capture the emotion
behind the daily pains of Asian-American females and to explore the
fluidity of identity. “We just want to be treated like everybody else.
That’s something across the board for Asians and other minorities…We are
Americans even though we look Asian…[but] within different contexts, we
identify as different things. We’re steering through what people see us
as, [so] I’ve found that I’ve never wanted to label anything,” she said.