The image of two persons holding each other, swaying side to side in ballroom dance often provokes a sense of harmony and passion. However, underneath this superficial surface, there is a struggle for genuine connection as each of us belong to our own desires, and yet, one of those desires is the desire to connect and to belong. The seascape background provides a vastness for us to reflect on our journey and to tune in to ourselves, only to find a solitary that is neither lonely nor fulfilling. As we reconcile with this inability to hold each other close and let go of our desire, we find solace in grappling with the pain of belonging and yet wanting to belong.
Photos by Alonzo Riley - Edit by Dat Nguyen
“Nguyen shakes things up nicely, commanding even those audience members who think they are progressive and enlightened sufficiently to realize that many artists might prefer playing it safe in Utah’s peculiar culture of sanctioned perfectionism.”
- Les Roka from The Utah Review (link)
Photos by Alonzo Riley - Edit by Dat Nguyen
“The Ballad by Dat Nguyen is a challenging piece. It’s a piece that incorporates the audience and asks the audience, as critical observers, to participate in the piece through active interpretation and reinterpretation of the movement collage that Nguyen has composed.”
- Brian Gray from Front Row Reviewers Utah (link)
Premiered at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival 2019, The Ballad of Emotional Competence is an evening-length performance that reflects on my experience with anxiety. By juxtaposing extreme acts together in a time-based collage, I created a constant stream of spectacles that overstimulated my thoughts and physical experience. Like riding a roller coaster, one act lets me feel despair while the next would transcend me into exhilaration.
Breath of Being utilizes breath as a tool to tell my story. Working with different breath dynamics, I was able to navigate different energies that went into the delivering of the monologues. At the same, I first experimenting with collage with the question “How can I make a dance that is not a spectacle?”. In the end, I realized that there is no such thing, and that spectacle is determined based on the relationship between the spectator and the product. However, one can still make a work that is not a spectacle for themselves, to be genuine, and to be true.
Stuck in Mediation is a social commentary on our obsession with representation, especially with the self. By allowing what seems like “natural” digital disruptions to unfold within the audience space, the piece also poses questions regarding our own disengagement from the life surrounding us and how we have succumbed to the pack mentality when it comes to experience art and performance.
Vividly Kinetic I started with the question “Is it possible to create a dance in which every single moment is photogenic?” Working with this premise, I examined what goes into making a good dance photographs - is it the architecture of the dancing body? Is it the transition between movements? Is it the flow of our costumes or hair that indicates movement? Is it the suspension of movement in the air? Etc… At the end of this process, I realized that perhaps none of it matter except for the emotion and the embodiment of the dancer which allows these moments to be seen with vivid clarity and human-ness.
Our Memories Pass Through Me Like That Meteor Shower Sky is an installation set inside a classroom. Drawn on the fond memory of one of my past relationships, I used the installation to transform the space into a whimsical environment, which in return allowed me to abstract my story into a sort of visual romanticism. By choosing this constrained space and by placing the audiences in close proximity to the dancers, I hoped to deliver a sense of intimacy between two human beings. The hanging light curtain acts as the new fourth wall while at the same time resembling a starry night. The ephemeral nature of the feathers accentuates the emotional tenderness and vulnerability, while the contrasting black and white color speaks to the duality of any relationship - because to experience love without pain is not to experience love at all.
Interlacing 312 explores the possibilities of movement juxtaposition. Starting with only ten basic gestures that are numbered from 0 to 9, we created complexed sequencing based on computer-generated numerological pattern. This allowed us endless access to different body architecture in relationship to time, as well as dynamic arrangement of motifs and order.