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Completed DIVEs

DIVE: July 2015
Alysia Chang :: Cloud Gate Dance Theater :: Taipei, Taiwan

Alysia Chang is a Taiwanese-American dancer based in San Francisco. Trained in classical ballet, and vocal performance, Alysia’s diverse performance repertoire includes contemporary and classical ballet, musical theater, and modern dance. Alysia joined ZiRu Dance in 2014, bringing her strong technique and dramatic flair to the stage for ZiRu Dance’s 3-week tour across China.


As a Taiwanese American, she has always wanted to get a deeper understanding of Taiwanese culture and feel more deeply rooted in her ancestry, and her month-long exchange in Taipei, Taiwan in July 2015 allowed her to do just that. Her exchange combined time spent exploring the bustling capital city, as well as to study intensively with the world-renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theater.


Founded in 1983 by Hwai-Min Lee, Cloud Gate was the first contemporary dance company in any Chinese-speaking community. Today, the company features two companies and tours to renowned theaters and festivals worldwide to great critical acclaim. Cloud Gate is especially distinct for its unique choreographic style, which fuses Eastern and Western influences. Company dancers train in meditation, Qi Gong, internal martial arts, modern dance, ballet and calligraphy to create a style that bridges ancient arts with contemporary athleticism.


During this exchange, Alysia grew close with many company dancers and expanded her artistic palette, bringing new movement styles to her classical background, and growing a deeper understanding of how the company’s internal movement practices transform their athletic work.


DIVE: Nov 2014 – Feb 2015
Elizabeth Chitty :: Wuzhou Dance Company & Beijing Dance/LDTX :: Beijing & Taiyuan, China


Elizabeth is a dancer and choreographer based in San Francisco. She has danced with a wide range of Bay Area choreographers and collaborates choreographically with the artists of Project Tremolo. Aside from dancing, she earned an undergraduate degree in Political Science and has traveled to Central America and India to study Spanish and Panjabi. She joined ZiRu Dance in 2012 because of her avid interest in cross-cultural collaboration through dance.


While touring in China with the company, she developed a strong interest in contemporary Chinese dance as well as Chinese language and culture. For her 3 month exchange in China, Elizabeth brought together her diverse interests of language, dance performance, and choreography in an exchange that featured language study, teaching and training.


Elizabeth began her exchange by attending the Guandong Dance Festival in Beijing, where she will got the privilege of watching former ZiRu dancer, Michele Wong perform on the festival main stage with the Guangdong Modern Dance Company.She was then invited by Wuzhou Dance Company, a new company located in Taiyuan, Shangxi Province, to do a 2-week choreographic residency with the company, bringing her American dance training to a Chinese company through daily workshops in technique and choreography.


Upon completing the two-week residency, Elizabeth traveled to Beijing, where she spent the remainder of her time in China taking daily company class with LDTX, teaching open classes for the LDTX training program and studying Mandarin.


Elizabeth first encountered LDTX at the Beijing Modern Dance Festival in 2012, and was enraptured by their athletic and fluid movement styles. She has enjoyed working with former LDTX dancers, Sunny Shen and Liu Yifeng through ZiRu Dance. BeijingDance / LDTX was born out of a controversial and exciting time of rapid cultural change in China, becoming China’s first professional dance company founded independently from government. Under the artistic direction of Willy Tsao, China’s foremost figure in modern dance, and deputy artistic director Li Hanzhong, the company boasts an ensemble technically exquisite dancers and a diverse repertoire. Since its creation in 2005, Beijing Dance / LDTX has traveled extensively throughout Mainland China, Hong Kong, Europe and North America.


ZiRu Dance’s ongoing collaborative relationships with Artistic Director Willy Tsao and other former company members made this exciting exchange possible. You can read more about Elizabeth’s experiences and thoughts about Chinese modern dance, language and culture on her bi-monthly blog:


DIVE: June – August 2013
Emily Withenbury :: Impulstanz: Vienna International Dance Festival :: Vienna, Austria


Emily Withenbury first met ZiRu Dance on the administrative side in January 2010. After writing a few assignments for the company, she found her way into the studio with Philein and joined the company as a dancer in August of that year. She enjoys exploring improvisation and the relationship between music and dance as well.


Emily traveled through Europe during the summer of 2013, participating in technique classes and workshops throughout her time abroad. Her exchange expanded to fit the shape and nature of her travels, from southern Italy to Paris to the Netherlands to Berlin to Vienna and beyond. While multi-faceted, her DIVE centered on two primary locations: the Netherlands and Vienna, Austria.


In Vienna, Austria, Emily participated in Impulstanz, an internationally-acclaimed contemporary dance festival celebrating its 30th anniversary. The festival spanned six weeks, offering 120 workshops and more than 100 performances to a thriving scene of international artists, dancers, choreographers, and dance enthusiasts. Impulstanz transforms Vienna into international mecca for dance – creating an artistic and cultural think tank for contemporary dance. Within the festival Emily participated in workshops with David Zambrano (Amsterdam: Flying Low Technique); Anouk Van Dijk (Melbourne, Australia: Countertechnique); Veronika Mayerbock (Vienna, Austria: Choreographing Light); Nicole Peisl (Frankfurt, Germany: Forsythe Work-based Action Taking & Situatedness); and Gavin Webber (Freiburg, Germany: The Subtle Body and Chi Gong). Emily’s exchanges in Europe provided necessary first steps in a cultural and artistic dialogue among the United States, China and Europe.


DIVE: May – July 2013
Michele Wong :: Guangdong Modern Dance Company :: Guangzhou, China


Michele Wong joined ZiRu Dance in April 2011, quickly demonstrating a fearlessness in her movement and an avid curiosity to try new styles and techniques. Her cultural heritage as a Chinese-American with roots in the Guangdong Province of China influenced her continued interest in the company and our numerous cross-cultural exchanges.


Michele embarked on our first DIVE on May 10, 2013, flying to Guangzhou, China to begin a three-month exchange with Guangdong Modern Dance Company (GMDC). Founded in 1992 under the direction of Willy Tsao, GMDC is mainland China’s first professional modern dance company. The company tours nationally and internationally, from India to the United States to Scotland. In addition to a world-class dance company, the organization boasts of a training center, a dance festival, and an entire roster of company alumni who are choreographing on the international scene. ZiRu Dance ties to Willy Tsao, GMDC, LDTX-Beijing, and the Beijing Modern Dance Festival over the last few years paved the way for this exchange.


Michele participated in daily company technique class and rehearsal with the company. They also created a new piece with Chinese choreographer Dia Jian. Michele joined the company for performances in Guangzhou and Beijing at the end of July 2013 for their International Dance Festival. Following the completion of her Cultural Exchange, Michele was offered a full company contract with GMDC for the 2014 Company Season. 

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