Ricci Adan builds modern dance on tradition

Choreographer to teach classes that culminate in dance performance

Posted: Thursday, April 07, 2005

Dancer and choreographer Ricci Adan believes the only way to teach modern dance is to look at its roots, back to the 1920s and further.

As the founder of Dance Machine International, a nonprofit organization focused on musical theater dance and its reconstruction, Adan is an archivist. She's researched American dance forms and their foundations in Latin America and abroad.

"Ballets like in 'Oklahoma' are living archives, and that's what I want to show," Adan said. "It really came from tradition. You can see where dances came from and what the country was, because the country now is not the same as it was. It's about how to research and knowing how the culture works."

Adan will return to Juneau later this month to teach an intermediate/advanced workshop from 12:30-5 p.m. Saturday, April 16, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, April 17, and 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, April 18-21, at Juneau Dance Unlimited, on the second floor of the Scottish Rite Temple at Fourth and Seward streets.

The class culminates with performances at 8 p.m. Friday, April 22, and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23. For more information, call JDU at 463-5327.

Adan was in Juneau earlier this year, helping choreograph the dance numbers in Perseverance Theatre's production of "The Long Season," and she visited town last fall to teach a master class for Juneau Dance Unlimited during the high school's production of "Once on This Island."

"The kids nowadays have no sense of history, and I always believe that what's good of the past, keep it, don't let it die," Adan said. "At the high school, the kids wanted to know how to audition for musicals back in New York, but they have no clue whatsoever how to do it. I try to teach them the vocabulary and the language. They have to know there's a form to it, and they have to respect that."

Adan grew up in the Philippines, where she was fortunate enough to take ballet classes and attend acting school. At 16, she fled to the United States with her mother to escape the state of martial law imposed by President Ferdinand Marcos. Her mother was an activist, a politician and an advocates for the arts.

"Because my mom was very educated, she kept plugging that theater could be a big influence to get my own voice, to search for my own identity, to know what I am really here for and what I can do for the community," Adan said. "It has always been that theater was the voice of truth."

Adan studied American jazz dance and Broadway musical theater and worked under Lee Theodore of The American Dance Machine.

"My training was in classical acting and ballet and to learn any art form you really have to have a solid foundation," Adan said. "The culture today is instant gratification. Everything is there for them. They don't have to work for it. But in the arts, it's a discipline and it's an art form. You have to go through the process of it. You can't push an art form."

Through Dance Machine, Adan has worked with actresses such as Natalie Portman and Jamie Lynn Sigler, of The Sopranos.

"(Portman) has a very good head on her shoulders, and she's a very good actress," Adan said. "And it's that kind of openness to go into the jungle out there that you need. If you don't know the language (of dance), nobody will talk to you. You have to know the game, and you have to know the meaning of it."

Adan hopes to have a live band at her Juneau workshop.

"The only way to pass it on is for the kids to listen to their vibe," Adan said. "That's the best way to give the next of kin the next thing, because videos don't work."

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