International Artists Converge at UCLA
Photo courtesy of Jorge Vismara (jorgevismara.net)

International Artists Converge at UCLA

Commissioned by the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance, APPEX is a six-week artist residency program for music, dance and theater that fosters artistic collaboration and promotes creative cultural discoveries through an intensive summer workshop series suited for professional artists. CSEAS is a co-sponsor of the program.

This article was first published in the online edition of The Daily Bruin.

By Kristine Fetalco, Daily Bruin contributor

For many people, summer vacation in Southern California means frolicking at the beach and diving into the ocean. But at UCLA, artists from Asia and the United States engage in a different kind of immersion.

This Friday at the Glorya Kaufman Dance Theater will mark the final performance of a summer's worth of artistic creation and collaboration by the Asia Pacific Performance Exchange residency program. Commissioned by the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance, APPEX is a six-week artist residency program for music, dance and theater that fosters artistic collaboration and promotes creative cultural discoveries through an intensive summer workshop series suited for professional artists.

"For the artists to share with each other and build understanding across cultures – that's our achievement and our center's development," said Anuradha Kishore Ganpati, director of development and communications for CIP.

The applicants hail from a mix of Asian countries, allowing the CIP to form a network of people from diverse cultures known as APPEX fellows. Eight Asian and eight American artists and two UCLA graduate students were handpicked for this summer's program. The workshop's objective is to enrich talents through a curriculum of presentations, projects, debriefing sessions and forums.

"We provide the opportunity to bring professionals from Asia and America for intensive workshop sessions to meet, teach and collaborate with each other through their crafts," Ganpati said. "There are cultural nuances that are very different among the various cultures. Asians are very ensemble-oriented, always working in a team. Americans are independent, so they have to learn how to work in a group."

Though they're surrounded by professionals, this year's graduate students from the World Arts and Cultures department are holding their own. But despite her years of experience, choreography student Cynthia Ling Lee is still finding there's much to learn.

"People's identities are complex. Collaboration is great in art-making and it's inspiring to be here – we learn about different strategies on responsible collaboration and perhaps find artistic partners that we can all work with in the future. And some of the other fellows are quite older than me, so I learn what they have done as artists," Lee said.

Lee is a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, annually awarded to 50 graduating seniors from liberal arts colleges to pursue independent study abroad. Proposing a project that would allow her to delve into the world of religious dances, Lee traveled from Brazil to Thailand and ultimately to India, exploring spiritual and sacred dance traditions. Among these dances was a type of Afro-Brazilian dance and Kathak, a north Indian classical dance.

"I studied different dance forms over the years," Lee said. "Kathak is the form that I love, and I want to deepen my relationship with it. The point is not necessarily mastery, but love for the dance."

Lee's experiences with APPEX have taught her the importance of being true to one's roots, even after traveling the world.

"I want to commit to working in an international level and still be rooted with local culture," Lee said.

Waewdao Sirisook, an international student from Thailand, is another artist at UCLA pursuing her master's degree in dance. She combines dances from Bali and Northern Thai in a contemporary dance form that she has already presented to international audiences. Constantly traveling to Europe, Asia and the United States during her years as a dance student has given Sirisook the opportunity to develop both her dance and the philosophy behind it.

"Performing is an exchange. I notice from my experiences in traveling and cultural performances that my dance form doesn't really exist in other countries," Sirisook said. "I hope to gain inspiration from other artists and for them to devote themselves to Asian culture and have new experiences."

Ultimately, APPEX and this Friday's performance are also about trying something new.

"We want the artists to be amongst professional in other parts of the world, in an environment where they can take risks," Ganpati said. "APPEX is not product-driven, but artist-driven."

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2006