By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
(Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with promised changes by Odyssey to the show)
Dancers involved in a racist performance on a local Salt Lake City TV station met with local members of the Asian American community in an eye opening and honest exchange.
The Odyssey Dance Company agreed to make changes to the show.
“They will definitely need our help to get there,” Judge Michael Kwan of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association said to AsAmNews.
Tonight, details of those changes are just starting to emerge.
The Odyssey Dance Company says “the group came up with a brilliant new cultural element that the Company is planning on implementing for this year’s show.”
“We really appreciated their thoughtful ideas and look forward to presenting a new and improved Chinese Dance this year!” said Derryl Yeager, the Founder and Artistic Director.
Changes were also discussed about costuming and choreographic adjustments.
The controversy began when dancers, during a live TV appearance on KSL, were suddenly asked by a reporter to do a brief tease or promotion of their upcoming appearance. The dancers say they were caught off guard. Already in Chinese dresses and wearing conical hats, the performers immediately began making exaggerated gestures to mimic their interpretation of Asian culture. That included walking with their heads tilted and hands clasped together, as if they were in prayer, while haltingly taking little steps towards the camera.
“It was clear to me that this incident was grounded in ignorance and not malice,” Kwan said. ” I say this as someone who has had over 250,000 cases come through his court, has heard tens of thousands of defendants speak about their crimes, heard apologies and denials countless times. I feel somewhat confident in my ability to spot B.S. being shoveled my way. I’m not infallible and so I am asking for the input from those present.”
The meeting began with a performance of the Tea Dance from the Nutcracker.
Kwan described the conversation as candid and believes Odyssey’s promise is sincere to make their upcoming Redux-Nut-Cracker “not culturally insensitive”
Some at the meeting were concerned by the apology from Odyssey following the TV appearance which apologized for offending people while still defending their performance.
Kwan produced a video which addressed the manner in which they apologized.
“We should remember that people make mistakes, especially young people,” said Kwan. “It is rarely productive, and can be counter-productive, to seek to extract a pound of flesh. We have a wonderful opportunity to take a teaching moment and develop it into a long term relationship to ensure that future productions are free from derogatory, harmful or false depictions of, not only our community, but all communities.”
Odyssey agreed to send those at the meeting a recording of the proposed changes to “get their feedback and approval.”
You can hear what the dancers are saying about the meeting in the clip below.
Redux-Nut Cracker plays December 12 -22.
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