Facing East Dance & Music has been presenting full-length dance works in the public since 1999. Under the Artistic Direction of Chinese American Sue Li-Jue, the Oakland-based company has been steadily gaining notice in the dance community and the general public alike. Sue Li-Jue has choreographed in the Bay Area since 1986, creating dances for UC Berkeley students and participating in shared concerts and festivals before embarking on the larger vision of creating and maintaining a dance company. To date, FEDM has produced four major productions: "Rice Women", "The Nature of Nature", "Held So Close: remembering the poets of Angel Island", and "East/West Canvases: Questioning Beauty".
The debut of "Rice Women" in 1999 at Dance Mission Theater coincided with the debut of the company under the name Facing East Dance & Music, and was indeed a success. "Rice Women" consisted of a suite of dances with an interconnected theme accompanied by live music, and utilized the three adjacent studios and theater spaces of Dance Mission.
This presentation caught the eye of the curator for Theater Artaud, and FEDM's next stop was to remount "Rice Women" at Theater Artaud in September of 2000 as one of ten selected artists to participate in the Irvine Foundation's California Artist Advancement Initiative. This was an incredible opportunity to rework the show with production support from Artaud. The second version of "Rice Women" included new choreography, polished performances and much higher production values, creating a spectacular concert including 600 pounds of rice!
The following year in March 2001 FEDM created an entirely new show, "The Nature of Nature." This show differed from the previous because of the highly collaborative elements: music by Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble, sets by Richard Jue, costumes by Colleen Quen, text by Associate Director Vivien Dai, and choreography by Sue Li-Jue. Based on the five Chinese elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal, the show was structured around 5 duets with one taiko artist and one dancer. The collaborative process was both exciting and arduous as new territory was addressed by both the taiko group and FEDM. The result was extremely positive as the public, the dance, and the music communities appreciated the melding of the two distinct art forms. We made new friends and helped to cross-pollinate the arts communities!
During the creative process of "The Nature of Nature," FEDM was nominated for two Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (Izzies) in two categories: Best Set Design and Best Ensemble Performance. Both nominations were for "Rice Women" and FEDM could not have been more pleased by this honor.
The next project examined the lives and emotions of Chinese detainees held at the Immigration Station on Angel Island. Because of the collaborative nature of FEDM and historical perspective of the Immigration Station, FEDM worked with the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF). Premiering in 2003, this was an important work for FEDM, AIISF, and the Bay Area community. "Held So Close: remembering the poets of Angel Island" was a show that incorporated all the elements that signify FEDM: eclectic modern dance, live original music, and sets and costumes that pull the whole event together!
From that point to present, FEDM has been presenting smaller, singular works as Director Sue Li Jue takes time to teach, serve on local dance panels and committee and prepares for 2009 -- the 10th Anniversary of Facing East Dance & Music!!