‘TRACES: Variations In A Foreign Land #10,’ an evening of dance

On September 25 and 26, 2009 Yangtze Repertory Theatre will present “TRACES: Variations In A Foreign Land #10,” featuring works by four choreographers, David Chien Hui Shen, Mica Bernas, Kyla Barkin and Aaron Selissen. Performances are at Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd. Flushing (Queens, NYC).

LR: choreographers David Chien Hui Shen, Mica Bernas, Aaron Selissen and Kyla Barkin.

David Chien Hui Shen is Chinese, Mica Bernas is Filipino and Kyla Barkin and Aaron Selissen are native-born Americans. They met while dancing together in the New York City community. Although none of their choreographic styles actually resembles each other’s, they were eager to mix and match in this group concert, in order to learn about each other’s cultures by dancing in each other’s pieces and experimenting in each other’s dialogues of movement. What they have in common, they say, is a choreographic approach that is athletic, with strong use of gesture and emotionally-driven concepts. They all look on their work as having a “theatrical” element.

Although Yangtze Rep (www.yangtze-rep-theatre.org), under the artistic direction of Joanna Chan, is more prolific in producing plays, it is also firmly committed to its dance program, which makes the organization well-rounded and offers an opportunity to present non language-based works to its polyglot (multi-Asian and American) audience. Yantgtze’s second production after its founding was a dance work presented at Pace Downtown Theater, “4 Makes 5,” featuring the work of four choreographers, one Chinese (Yung Yung Tsui) and three non-Asian choreographers (who were associates of the Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey Dance Companies).

This concert set a high standard for succeeding work and was extremely successful. It led to the presentation of another work of similar format, “Among Us” (1996), with all Asian choreographers. Realizing it had an affinity for these group works, Yangtze coined the title “Variations in a Foreign Land” in 1997 and began a series of dance productions in that name. Over the years, the “Variations in a Foreign Land” series has presented a succession of well-received dance concerts featuring both new and established artists from Japan, Korea, China, The Philippines, the U.S., Guatemala, India and Hong Kong. There is a chronological production history online at: www.yangtze-rep-theatre.org/whoweare.htm.

This year’s offering will contain around seven widely different short works.

Beside the four choreographers, artists appearing will include: dancers Katie Aggen, Beth Edwards, Hayan Kim, Ashley Liang, Seth Miner, Robert M. Valdez Jr., Esme Boyce, Jordan Morley, Marielis Garcia, Anna Woolf and Sen Yang; film maker/composers Lindsey Boise and Chris Johnson; and composers Bill Carrasco and Su Sheng. Lighting design is by Jack Wiltlien.

There will be an opening night reception September 25 from 6:30 to 7:30PM.



David ChienHui Shen graduated from the Chinese Cultural University, majoring in Martial Arts with a focus on Tai Chi Chuan. In 1997, he won the gold medal at the National Tai Chi Competition in Taiwan and began his dance career with the Chinese Youth Goodwill Mission, touring 25 cities around Asia in 1991. He danced professionally with the Taipei Folk Dance Troupe from 1991-1997, where in 1992 he choreographed the Martial Arts Suite for the Troupe’s special performance “Ode to Chinese Culture” at Lincoln Center. In 1996, Mr. Shen performed the special role of Villain in the Taipei production of the dance drama “The Peacock Princess” and as ‘Director’ in the opening dance for the “Golden Horse Movie Award”s on Taiwan TV. He was the lead performer in the “History of Taiwanese Jazz Dancing” series, a 6-month series of performances exploring the history of Taiwanese cultural dance. Soon after that he joined the Peggy Wu Jazz Dance Company, where in 1998 he was a member of the first Taiwanese Jazz Dance troupe to be invited to tour mainland China. After performing in “The White Snake Legend,” a Chinese drama, at the Taipei Cultural Center in New York in 1999, Mr. Shen moved to the United States to work with the Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, where he performed until 2003 when he joined the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company. With these and other companies he continues to perform around the world. He currently works as a dancer and choreographer based in New York City. In addition, he has appeared in dramatic roles in “Li, The Last King” with Mabou Mines Studio Theatre at Performance Space 122, and in “Luo Shen” with Yangtze Rep last spring. He is a member of the Executive Board of Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America.


Mica Bernas was born and raised in Manila, Philippines and started her training at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance (CCP) School under the direction of Noordin Jumalon. In 2002, she joined Ballet Philippines (BP), performing and touring with the company as a soloist in works by Alice Reyes, Denisa Reyes, Tony Fabella, William Morgan, Agnes Lugnasin and Agnes Locsin. She was a representative of the Philippines in ASEAN Arts Festival in Cambodia in 2002 as well as ASEAN production of REALIZING RAMA featuring collaborating artists from ten South East Asian Countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam) in 2003 and 2006. Since arriving in New York in 2006, she has worked with Max Luna III, Karole Armitage, Connecticut Ballet, Zig Zag Ballet, H.T. Chen and Dancers, Leonides D. Arpon, Marta Renzi and Gallim Dance. She is currently a member of the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and a founding member of Akin, Amin, Atin, an ensemble, which is committed to developing and presenting contemporary, multicultural works by Filipino contemporary artists. She appeared last fall in Yangtze Rep’s “Variations in a Foreign Land IX: Akin. Amin. Atin.,” dancing in works by Leonides Arpon.


Kyla Barkin, raised in Tempe, AZ., studied with “La Mariquilla” at the Academia de Ballet Flamenco in Granada, Spain. She attended Arizona State University’s Advanced Youth Program at age 16, then received her BA in Dance from UCLA. Her choreography has been shown at New York venues including The Merce Cunningham Theatre, Dance Space Center, Dixon Place, Center Stage, the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, Grand Space and The Moveable Feast. Ms. Barkin has been described as having a”physically expansive attack” (Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times). Her work covers a spectrum of highly athletic yet subtle, qualitative movement drawing from such influences as classical ballet, contemporary dance, street dance, wave work, flamenco, the human psyche, and the sciences. Barkin has worked with Janis Brenner & Dancers since 1998, with whom she has toured to Indonesia, Russia, and Taiwan. She has also taught and set works at the Juilliard School, NCSA, and other universities and conservatories. She has danced with Isabel Gotzkowsky and Friends (since 2003), The Carolyn Dorfman Dance Co., The Doug Elkins Dance Company, Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects, Kun-Yang Lin, Los Angeles Modern Dance and Ballet, and others. She has been on faculty at USDAN Center for Performing Arts and teaches classes, private lessons and workshops internationally. She is also a fitness professional, a medical exercise specialist and a yoga teacher/therapist. She has been published in Dance Magazine, is a singer/songwriter, and one of the original producers of The Moveable Feast, a “pARTy” on the move with an ever-changing menu. Most recently, she created the BARKIN/SELISSEN Project, a partnership with Aaron Selissen, in 2008.


Aaron Selisson is originally from Green Bay, WI. In 2002, he received his B.F.A. In dance performance from Butler University. While attending school, he performed with Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre and Ballet Internationale. Following graduation, he joined David Hochoy’s Dance Kaleidoscope of Indianapolis. During his time with Dance Kaleidoscope, he enjoyed annual residencies at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In 2005, Mr. Selissen moved to NYC and was invited to dance with the Martha Graham Dance Ensemble. In 2008, he co-founded BARKIN/SELISSEN Project with partner Kyla Barkin. In addition to B/S P, he can be seen performing with Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, Janis Brenner and Dancers, Isabel Gotzkowsky and Friends, and David Shen Dance Group. He also teaches workshops and classes, is a singer/songwriter, guitarist and an independent Fitness Professional.

Performances are September 25 at 8:00 pm and September 26 at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm at Flushing Town Hall 137-35 Northern Blvd. Flushing, New York. Subway riders from Manhattan can take the 7 train to Main St.-Flushing (last Stop). Tickers are $15. For ticket info and reservations, go to www.yangtze-rep-theatre.org. Audience members may also reserve tickets by calling 347-276-6225 or writing [email protected].