Christina Xiao PEA ‘21: Journey to the Heart
Choreographer/dancer: Christina Xiao
Composer: Christina Xiao
This spring and summer the Lamont Gallery featured the Being & Feeling (Alone, Together) exhibition which explored embodiment, emotion, and being: how we make our way through the world, full of feeling, as solitary individuals and together with others.
In an effort to collaborate with artists in other disciplines, we reached out to local dancers and choreographers and asked them to create a piece in response to the themes of the exhibition and to the general state of things in the world. You can view the complete collection of dance videos on our Vimeo page.
This improvised piece is to Christina Xiao’s composition, “Journey of the Heart,” where longing for connection to others, trust, and rebuilding relationships are key themes. Christiana is a current student at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Q: These movements are so wonderfully intricate and intimate. There’s a sense of awakening, discovery, frustration and understanding that seems to unfold as the piece progresses. Can you share with our readers the inspiration for this musical score and these movements?
A: Thank you! I would say that description hits the nail on the head in terms of the emotions I wanted to convey. In addition to that, I was inspired by the desire and longing for connection to others, themes of trust, and the experience of rebuilding relationships, based on personal experience.
Q: As you wrote the music for this piece was the choreography already developed, or did one inspire the other?
A: I wanted to express connection and the different struggles that come with reaching out. It just so happened that I’d composed a piece before called Journey to the Heart, and I felt inspired by it!
Q: The word “process” is used frequently in the arts – across all disciplines. What does your creative process look and feel like? As a composer/musician and dancer, how do you discern which artistic pursuit to move towards and when to incorporate one with the other-or not?
A: I flesh out the idea and the themes I want to portray in my head first, making a vague plan. This dance piece was all improv, so I did not want to plan too much in advance. This was also an extra challenge for myself, because improv is something that I find hard! Still, this added to the themes I wanted to express, of reaching out even with many risks, and being almost unsure of the outcome. Honestly, many times when listening to my pieces, people have noted that it sounds like a dance, or that they could see someone performing to my music. I don’t consciously try to incorporate this, but I suppose it naturally becomes part of my composition! However, I really think that combining both makes the creative experience for myself much more rewarding.
Q: There’s a dynamic cast shadow that moves swiftly alongside and behind you throughout the dance; is it an intentional element? If yes, can you describe the role this shadow is meant to play?
A: I’d like to leave some room for interpretation, but I would say that the light and shadow elements are connected to the themes of self-doubt, fear, hope, and new beginnings.
Q: What do you hope your audience will experience as they listen to and watch Journey to the Heart?
A: I hope people enjoy the overall performance, whether they do through examining the lighting, seeing how I move, or experiencing their own emotions related to human connection. I would also encourage people to reflect on themselves and their relationships with people who they cannot see in person right now. All these natural feelings of trust, fear, hope, and love come into play when we connect with others, and I hope that people are reminded of these interpersonal moments when it feels like we are physically so far apart.
Q: Given these present Covid-19 circumstances, what role do you envision the arts stepping into as we move into the days and weeks ahead?
A: Arts have always been an underrated form of connection. Whether it is through art pieces, dance performances, creative videos, or poetry, I think everyone can remember a certain time they were touched just through these mediums. As Covid-19 continues on, as we remain inside with less in-person connection, I feel like we are truly lacking this kind of special emotional experience with each other that comes with meeting in person. Technology hasn’t quite progressed far enough to naturally replicate it yet! So art may be the best way to share the common emotional experience we’re missing right now.
Interview Conducted by Aimee Towey-Landry
Aimee Towey-Landry joined the Lamont Gallery in the winter of 2018 as the interim Gallery Manager and in 2019 she became a gallery attendant. She has over six years of experience in arts administration from her positions as Registrar and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo, Florida and Special Projects Coordinator at the Tampa Museum of Art in Tampa, Florida. She is currently working with a team of professionals to build a non-profit that serves the homeless and the housing vulnerable populations of greater Concord. She also volunteers at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.