Monday, February 13, 2012
Ahn Trio unites with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company for performance
Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 12:14 p.m.
The sparkling Ahn Trio accompanies the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company for their Gainesville premiere onstage tonight in “Temptation of the Muses,” a concert of original music and dance.
The UF Performing Arts program begins at 7:30 tonight at the Phillips Center. Tickets range from $25-$40 and are available at the door.
Choreographer Nai-Ni Chen, along with violinist Angella Ahn, talked about what's in store, as well as how the collaboration came to be.
“We (the Ahn Trio and Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company) are both under the same management in America,” says Ahn. “So my sisters and I had seen the company perform and really liked it. Nia-Ni had heard us before, we all met at an event, and we thought we'd like to work together. Plus, I guess there is that Asian connection,” says Ahn, who was born in Seoul, Korea, while Chen is originally from Taiwan.
“Plus, going to school in New York City and being used to being surrounded by so many interesting and talented people who are all so different, my sisters and I just really love to collaborate often,” Ahn adds. “We've worked with singers of all styles, and we had even worked with another dance company before (Parsons Dance Company).”
“But ‘Temptation of the Muses' feels more organic, natural and comfortable for us”, she says.
In “Temptation,” choreographer Chen places the three strings players right onstage amid the dancing — so the musicians become immersed in the visual element of the piece along with the dancers.
“We move around during the performance, and the dancers interact with us,” Ahn says. Dancers slide through the piano and mimic the cellist's movements.
Chen says the it was important to her that the be musicians be part of the visual effect. “I did not want a collaborative effect where it was like, here is this one color over here, and another separate, over there,” she says. “The whole work is like an Impressionist painting, where all the colors mix together.”
Chen launched the collaboration with inspiration from a poem, “A Word for Freedom,” by Persian poet Latif Nazemi. “The poem talks about water, and water as a symbol of freedom,” she says. “In a lot of my work, I am very interested in nature, and in our human relationship with nature.
“I loved the idea of water, something that we all need that connects all people. And I also wanted to explore an idea that though water symbolizes freedom in both the poem and in ‘Temptation', that it can be contained.
“A large container of water is on the stage both at the beginning and close of the program,” she adds. “And the dancers work directly with water throughout the performance.”
“Temptation of the Muses” contains a commissioned musical score by composer Kenji Bunch, who was heralded by The New York Times as a “composer to watch.” Bunch, one of only three composers selected nationwide to inaugurate the Meet the Composer “Magnum Opus” Project, is also a favorite of The Ahn Trio.
“We perform Kenji's music more than any other composer,” Ahn says. “We love him, he's probably our favorite composer to work with.”
There are also musical selections by Pat Metheny, David Balakrishnan and Ronn Yedidia.
Chen named the piece “Temptation of the Muses” by taking the word “temptation” from Nazemi's poem, and combining it with “muses” after the effect that all of the collaborators had on each other. “‘Muses' is all of us, all of the collaborators involved,” Chen says. “We have inspired each other working together, not just the Ahn Trio and myself, but the composers, the costume and lighting designers, everyone.”
And while “Temptation of the Muses” premiered in New York City in 2010, Gainesville audiences will see a work that has only been performed a handful of times. “It's a pretty new work,” Chen says. “We just started touring it last fall.”
Ahn says the piece has been performed less than 10 times. “I feel like the show keeps growing each time we perform it,” she says. “My sisters and I are so inspired by the music and definitely by the dancers; and I feel like we in turn hopefully inspire the dancers. And we think the audience also really takes in the inspiration as well.”
Since forming in 1988, The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company has mounted more than 20 national tours, appearing in some of the nation's most prestigious concert halls.
Angella Ahn is the youngest of the Juilliard-educated Ahn Trio. Her sisters Maria (cello), and Lucia (piano) make up the energetic trio.
“I have always thought our personalities match our instruments,” Ahn laughs. “I'm the youngest, but I'm definitely the bossiest. My sisters would back that up completely; I'm kind of a Type A control freak. And Lucia, she's the middle child, knowing how to get along with everyone, which is just right for a pianist.
“And while Maria is the oldest only by ten minutes, our parents definitely raised her as the oldest child, and that has always been her role. Which I think suits the cello.”
With six albums and 10 years of successful touring, they are favorites of UF Performing Arts, and reportedly the feeling is mutual.
“We love Gainesville, and we love the Phillips Center,” says Ahn. “It really is one of our favorite places to perform.”
Sarah Maze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.