M dancing


Celebrating the spirit of

Courage, Tenacity and Hope

Presented by dNaga in association with the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s:

United States of Asian America: Threading Resilience

Presented: May 13, 14 and 15, 2017


“This was the most political and socially relevant dance I’ve seen in a long time.” –Harriet Charney


"Ballarina" by David Delany

“Ballarina” by David Delany

If Nietzsche had Parkinson’s

Review by David Delaney

If Nietzsche had Parkinson’s he would have said. “What WILL kill you, will make you grateful for your life, for what you haven’t lost yet.” My father faded and died with the disease. He was diagnosed at roughly my present age. So when I was in Oakland’s Danspace and learned of Claudine Naganuma’s dance class for people living with Parkinson’s I immediately contacted Claudine and asked to join the next Thursday morning session. After all, this may be my future and I had better take a look. I taped a picture of Dad to my chest and stepped out into the bright cool Berkeley morning air. Wonderful surprises awaited me! Live piano deftly enlivens the class with it’s own soundtrack. The participants are adorable, the staff is kindness personified. Empathy and good energy float like music around the room. It’s a delightful space. Not a hint of morbidity. Later, at the performance I attended in San Francisco, Parkinson’s patient Gary Turchin said “When I’m dancing I don’t have Parkinson’s.” That’s why the class is attractive to people like Gary, they find freedom in creativity and community with each other.

Before I review the performance at the SOMArts on Mother’s Day I want to give a shout out to my friend Howard Flax whose business Flax’s Art Supply lent financial support to SOMArts which hosted Claudine’s dNaga show.  I also want to congratulate dNaga on winning a matching funds grant from The East Bay Fund for Artists. Donations made to dnaga before July 31st  will be matched up to $8000! Claudine’s dance company plans to use the money to support artists and GIRL Project dancers in East Oakland, so please, go directly to their website and donate as much as generosity moves you to https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/ODUxMg==.

At SOMArts dNaga Dance Company performed “SHIFT” with Parkinson’s patients from the class. Joel Davel provided the musical composition and Dale MacDonald handled the lights and projections.  The young female dancers whirled around and crawled on all fours like spirits and memories or jerked and made faces like misfiring synapses and frustrating feelings, then collapsed in exhaustion from the effort. The Parkinson’s dancers gave polarity and weight to the poetry of the young dancers with their presence and participation. It was all very well done including the original score and the projections of alpha-synuclein images behind the dancers. It moved me to see the diversity of them all up there moving together. When Warren one of the Parkinson’s dancers  was paired with the youngest dancer and followed her through a game of hopscotch I was also transported to my own childhood memories and feelings.

The performance “FREEDOM” was part of a tribute to the Asian American activist Yuri Kochiyama who famously was photographed holding the head of Malcolm X after he was gunned down. She pioneered altruistic activism, forging alliances and lent her indomitable strength and energy to black and brown protests. She saw them as one and the same cause. The dance piece by dNaga uses audio clips and a jazz score to good effect as the dancers are in constant fluid motion, much like Yuri was, I imagine. The exhibit in the gallery space where the piece starts tells the story of extreme racism at the highest levels in American society of the day, when Yuri was interred at Jerome relocation camp after Pearl Harbor was attacked. The audio speaks to the current situation here in Oakland with police violence and prison injustice. In the audio Yuri says that things are much better now than when she was interned. “People can’t get away with it today the way they did then.” That’s a hopeful sign from a woman who would know and who had something to do with the change.

Now go donate to dNaga.org’s partner page and help the GIRL PROJECT have a great year.



About Claudine

Claudine Naganuma (Choreographer/Teacher) received a liberal arts education from Dominican College, earning a BA degree in English Literature. She studied Early Childhood Education while she earned an MFA in Dance from Mills College in Choreography and Performance(1992). Claudine taught at Aurora Elementary School in the fourth/fifth grade classroom and at La Escuelita in a sixth grade classroom doing a fall semester empowerment workshop. She is currently a ballet teacher and Director of Danspace and its Dance for PD® program since 2007. Claudine served as the Artistic Director of Asian American Dance Performances for twelve years. There, she had the opportunity to curate and produce Asian Pacific Islander (API) dance makers and lead its resident dance company, Unbound Spirit. Together with San Francisco Community Arts Organizations, the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center was founded to support contemporary API work. As a choreographer, Claudine has received a Young Presenters award from Jacob’s Pillow, a Jack Loftis and Vibeke Strand Honorary Fellowship as a Djerassi Artist in Resident. She was also selected as an international exchange artist between the Hong Kong Fringe Club and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Claudine’s work was recently filmed as part of Dave Iverson’s documentary Capturing Grace. Her choreography set on the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Youth Company along with members of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group and dNaga performed at the World Parkinson Congress in September 2016. Claudine’s untiring dedication to the community is further evidenced by her GIRL project, now in its fourth year. This is a free art and empowerment workshop for middle school girls living in the San Antonio District of Oakland.

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