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Choreographing Asian America

Yutian Wong

Publication Year: 2010

Poised at the intersection of Asian American studies and dance studies, Choreographing Asian America is the first book-length examination of the role of Orientalist discourse in shaping Asian Americanist entanglements with U.S. modern dance history. Moving beyond the acknowledgement that modern dance has its roots in Orientalist appropriation, Yutian Wong considers the effect that invisible Orientalism has on the reception of work by Asian American choreographers and the conceptualization of Asian American performance as a category. Drawing on ethnographic and choreographic research methods, the author follows the work of Club O' Noodles--a Vietnamese American performance ensemble--to understand how Asian American artists respond to competing narratives of representation, aesthetics, and social activism that often frame the production of Asian American performance.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book could not have materialized without the support and guidance of family, friends, and colleagues. First I would like to express my gratitude to my dissertation advisors, Marta Savigliano and Susan L. Foster, for believing that my half-formed ideas could become a field of study and to Suzanna Tamminen for seeing the project to its end. Time to think, and write, was ...

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pp. 1-26

Can you name an Asian American choreographer? I asked this question years ago when I choreographed my first dance. No one could give me an answer. There I was in the studio, sweating and taking inventory of each newly discovered ache in my back, trying to make sense of my double life performing as Miss Moon Festival contestant number ten and as an aspiring, ...

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1. Situating Asian American Dance Studies

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pp. 27-56

To understand the disciplinary stakes in terms of what it means to write about dance in the context of Asian American studies and Asian America in dance, this chapter begins with an analysis of Sue Li-Jue's Rice Women (2000) and The Nature of Nature (2001). Questions of aesthetics, questions of politics, and questions of the pleasures of watching dancing bodies all come together in Sue ...

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2. Club O’ Noodles’s Laughter from the Children of War

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pp. 57-86

In bringing a Vietnamese American audience into a "queer" space, Club O'Noodles accomplished the more difficult task of countering multicultural programming practices that assume unidirectional movement of knowledge, whereby lessons on Vietnamese American culture and history are delivered to a white audience. Within this model of multiculturalism, which Lisa ...

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3. Rehearsing the Collective: A Performative Autoethnography

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pp. 87-114

After attending Club O'Noodles's performance of Laughter, I approached Hung Nguyen, the artistic director of the company, about coming to a rehearsal and interviewing the members of the group about the show. "Sure, come and play," was Nguyen's reply. Armed with a rented video camera and a newly purchased notepad for the occasion, I trekked across the Southern ...

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Interlude: The Amazing Chinese American Acrobat: Choreography as Methodology

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pp. 115-129

How to explain this new bodily sensation? The Amazing Chinese American Acrobat finds that she is not alone in her embarrassment. There are others blushing and who, like she, cannot resist the wonder of the spectacle. She finds a kindred spirit in theater historian James Moy (1993), who let it slip that he returned several times to Six Flags Great America outside of Chicago ...

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4. Mapping Membership: Class, Ethnicity, and the Making of Stories from a Nail Salon

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pp. 130-160

I traveled with Club O'Noodles to their performances at schools, museums, and theaters up and down the coast of California. At first my main responsibility was to run the video camera at each show; over time, I was assigned an increasing number of jobs. One of the first tasks involved facilitating post-show discussions. I would go out on stage after the curtain call and encourage ...

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5. Writing Nail Salon

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pp. 161-179

The following analysis of Stories from a Nail Salon differs from my reading of Laughter in that it takes into account my presence during the early stages of the development of its West Coast premiere at Highways Performance Space in November 1999. When I started working with Club O'Noodles in 1996, the company had already set about making plans to create a piece about the ...

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6. Pedagogy of the Scantily Clad: Studying Miss Saigon in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 180-216

After spending an entire day at the New York Public Library watching scratchy old videotapes of choreography by Mel Wong, Ruby Shang, Eleanor Yung, and the Asian American Dance Theater, I decided to go see Miss Saigon. Seven years after the first production of Miss Saigon premiered in London, I still had not seen the show that was billed as "A stunning piece of ...

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pp. 217-224

Not one to give Miss Saigon the last word, I would like to offer a different ending. I would like to end with an analysis of Maura Nguyen Donohue's Lotus Blossom Itch (1997) as an example of choreography that offers a multivalent critique of modern dance history, the trope of the Oriental dancing girl, sex tourism, Miss Saigon, anthropology, and the social expectations of ...


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pp. 225-240


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pp. 241-260


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780819571083
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819567024

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 726747135
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Choreographing Asian America

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Dance -- Anthropological aspects -- United States.
  • Choreography -- United States.
  • Asian Americans -- Ethnic identity.
  • Asian Americans -- Cultural assimilation.
  • Asian Americans and mass media.
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