In addition to welcoming members of Philadelphia’s Faith Community into the KYL/D family in the 2017-2018 season, the company also welcomed several new artists. Francis (Frankie) Markocki apprenticed with KYL/D during the 2016-2017 season and returned as a company member. Barbara Craig and Kyan Namazi have joined the KYL/D team as apprentices.
This week, I’m highlighting the stories of Frankie and Barbara and their unique approaches to KYL/D’s work, including KYL/D’s CHI Awareness Practice.
Frankie was a student of Kun-Yang’s at Temple University and thus had been exposed to CHI Awareness Practice for several years. I asked him how Faith Project has contributed to his understanding of CHI Awareness Practice:
“The process of Faith Project has informed me, greatly, about Kun-Yang’s CHI Awareness Practice. We are constantly reminded in Kun-Yang’s processes that we are not aiming to duplicate an image or an exact moment from which we draw inspiration. Rather, we try to capture the raw energy and emotion that is being used to guide our movement. In the context of the Faith Project, we are not attempting to show a direct correlation to any religion or faith practice in the piece. Instead, we’ve discerned the energy and essence of what happens in specific religious practices and use that as our steady pace of mindfulness. In my opinion, that is a very strong characteristic of Kun-Yang’s CHI Awareness Practice.” ~Frankie
Barbara comes from a strong classical ballet background. Readers, I divert for a moment to provide some dance history. Classical ballet has a long history stemming from the court dances of King Louis XIV. Over the past few centuries, different choreographers created variations in the technique and now we have a codified (written and defined) library of terms within the ballet umbrella. More recent dance forms, like modern, contemporary, and hip hop, are still being defined and classified. But that’s for the dance scholars to debate...
Kun-Yang’s choreography and classes are uniquely contemporary because they draw upon traditional practices - including Eastern martial arts and Western Modern dance - but incorporate an intention and movement aesthetic that is very RIGHT NOW. In that context, Barbara spoke about acclimating to CHI Awareness Practice.
“...Coming from a more classical background I’ve had quite a lot of adjusting to do. CHI Awareness Practice is a totally new thing to me...” Barbara recognizes that the Story Circle encounters with members of varied faith communities have been integral to Kun-Yang’s CHI Awareness Practice in the way they inform the process of Faith Project.
“The story circles foster a sense of connection - a sense of connection between religions, between movements and words, and between and among community members and dancers. There is something very beautiful about listening to people share their experiences in words and then seeing how themes and ideas repeat through each storyteller (albeit the community members are sharing very different stories through different lenses). And then we dance artists need to find ways of moving that honor individuality but keep the integrality (of the community members). ~ Barbara
This relationship between the self and the community is a recurring theme in Kun-Yang’s CHI Awareness Practice. I asked Frankie and Barbara how their own relationship to their individual bodies had changed during the process of discovering CHI Awareness Practice through the lens of Faith Project and in relationship to the idea of “community”.
Frankie reflected that, “During this process I have felt my body go through a maturing process. Some pieces that I have been a part of have just been about the moving body. I have found that this process, in contrast, has made me go further into movement to understand where my body draws its energy and reason for moving. Everything in the Faith Project is inspired and informed by a sense of transcendence. I have had to look past just moving my body, and now just let me body react naturally so that I am pure and honest with my decisions on stage.”
Barbara noted that “this year has been quite a shift. Coming from a classical background there is always a desire to change your body in some way. Class is an opportunity to make your legs longer, your stomach stronger, your feet more flexible, or your jump higher. Even in the healthiest environments there is a constant reach for the physically unattainable. Joining KYL/D is such a shift away from that idea, which is both liberating and exciting and at times a little frustrating. Often it feels that instead of working in a physical sense I’m struggling to improve my relationship with space and with time, to be more dynamic. And if/when I find myself frustrated (in class or rehearsals), it's no longer at my lack of turn-out but at my struggle to complete movements with the right focus. I find myself admiring the mental abilities of my co-artists: their ability to improvise with such assuredness and to catch details and rhythms very quickly. I guess my goals have changed since joining KYL/D and my focus has shifted from changing an outward (physical) self to cultivating my relationship with what my body can create.”
I smile as Barbara reflects that she’s still new to Kun-Yang’s process but, “perhaps one day through the physical practice of losing myself in a run of the piece I”ll find a moment of understanding and be able to answer your question a little better.” This is so often the case with Kun-Yang’s work. As I quoted before: “if you let yourself go with his flow, you don’t just watch it - you feel it, too” ~The Philadelphia City Paper.
~ Jessica Warchal-King
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Major support for the Faith project has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.