PETER CHIN new choreography, performed by Chan Hon Goh, as part of CanAsian Dance Festival 2001, Thursday to Saturday (March 22-24) at 8 pm. $20, stu/srs $16. Betty Oliphant Theatre (404 Jarvis). 416-973- 4000. Also choreographing for Four @ The Winch, with works by Christopher House, Matjash Mrozewski and Julia Sasso, March 29-April 1, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2 and 7:30 pm. $15, stu/srs $12. Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester). 416-967-1365 ext 27.
i'm trying not to take it person- ally, but in the middle of our conversation, choreographer Peter Chin closes his eyes. Not just to blink. The guy shuts them for 30 seconds. Has he fallen asleep? No. Is he bored with my questions? Don't think so. Seems like he's just trying to block out the resto-bar we're in, think, concentrate and talk about his work.For a choreographer who's ultra-sensitive to the energy emitted by his dancers, he's making me pretty nervous. But I forgive him.
He's a busy man. Besides choreographing a piece for the National Ballet of Canada's Chan Hon Goh for the CanAsian Dance Festival, opening tonight (March 22), he's premiering a work for Toronto Dance Theatre's Four @ The Winch program and then choreographing the movement for the play Ghost Road at Young People's Theatre.
Let him close his eyes for a few seconds.
"It's all a question of focusing on what you're doing in the moment," he says about his current multi-tasking schedule, eyes suddenly open.
Chin studied visual art and music before moving into performance art. Gradually, he gravitated toward dance, always with a multidisciplinary feel. Born in Jamaica, raised in Canada and having lived in Indonesia through much of the 1990s, he's of Chinese background, with a bit of black and Irish from a grandmother.
With this eclectic cultural and professional resume, it's no surprise that the CanAsian fest's Denise Fujiwara thought of him when she came up with the idea of having ballerina Chan Hon Goh do a modern piece. Chin's approach, appropriately, is non-traditional.
"Chan Hon is a star," he says admiringly. "She's been described as a hummingbird, very quick, able to go from movement to movement very cleanly, with lots of expression, a perfect line, and a noble or regal poise. But I didn't want to choreograph a ballet piece. I've tried to bring together what Chan does and who she is and mess it around."
Chin asked the ballerina to think of a secret wish for herself, something she would think about while executing certain movements. He's also taken the origin of her name -- Chan Hon means "red vibration" -- to infuse themes of blood and ancestry into the movement and aesthetic of the piece. One section finds Chan speaking Mandarin and continually revisiting a childhood playground, more mature and thoughtful each time.
"When I work with dancers, I create from things they tell me about themselves. It's very personal. I'm interested in how a dancer's presence changes when they have a personal vested interest in the material."
He's using a similar process with the five dancers for the Toronto Dance Theatre program, which also deals with ancestral themes.
"The bottom line for me with dancers is why they're onstage, beyond being interpreters and technicians."
Think of it as a subtext to the performance. Or method acting for the dance set.
And what does Chin himself wish for, besides more downtime?
"I want fluidity between my art and who I am as a person," he says. "I want to integrate what I do and who I am more and more."
Chin up. And keep those eyes open.