SAAS Senior Confronts Anti-Asian Hate Through Dance
Seattle Academy dancer Lily Wong ‘21 found a way to confront recent anti-Asian hate by a means other than words. Through the form of dance, Lily teamed up with a crew of professional dancers and artists to put together a compilation film for the Guild Dance Company. The video was filmed in the International District this March by Artistic Director Alex Ung, edited by SAAS Dance Teacher Alicia Mullikin, and featured music by Max Richter.
Witnessing the racial hate and discrimination occuring in the news, on social media, even on our neighboring streets has been difficult to put into words. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests that occured with intensity over the summer last year—and recent acts of hate against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities—the dimensions of suffering are complex. "The lack of action is most concerning, most frustrating," says Lily. With Covid-19 concerns still present, there are not a lot of protests happening and gathering with folks looks a little different right now. When Lily was approached by her dance teacher Alicia Mullikin, she welcomed the opportunity to use dance as a form of action against anti-Asian hate. “Alicia pushes us to be advocates for ourselves, especially as women and as persons of color (POC),” Lily notes.
The emotions expressed by Lily's dance are palpable. When she arrived in the International District for filming, she had not been provided information on the music or dance to be filmed; Lily improvised the entire dance. This powerful, improvised movement tells a story about the depth behind this topic. "It was a great release to express how frustrated I am. I didn't have the words, and it was a great way to express and release the emotions without having to put words to them," says Lily.
Like many others, this topic is personal for Lily, whose grandmother was interned during WWII. Lily's family history is quite multicultural, in fact. Her grandmother was adopted from Japan by a single white mom. They were both interned in intervals, as the U.S. government tussled with how to handle a biracial family. In addition, Lily’s great grandmother was the first Chinese-born American in Portland! Even within familial pride lies deep rooted frustration over racial barriers that persist. It is this growing frustration that can be perceived in Lily’s exaggerated movements and use of abstract space.
Before attending SAAS in the 6th grade, Lily had never taken a dance class. It was Anita Kuroiwa-Schiff’s 6th-grade class her incoming year that was her first influence, and since then all of her foundational skills have come from SAAS. She also participated in Dance Project, SAAS’ after school dance club. And while Lily hasn’t branched out much yet, she states that she now has the confidence to do so. Lily plans to continue dancing during her college years, perhaps minor in dance, and hopefully will continue to use dance as a form of racial and political expression.
"Lily danced in the International District last weekend in response to the recent uptick in violence against Asian Americans. This video is extremely powerful and I am so inspired by the feelings expressed through her movement." - Taylor Kanemori, Director of Equity and Inclusion