How many seasons did you perform with DanceWorks Chicago?
I performed with DanceWorks Chicago for three full seasons: 5, 6, and 7. My finale performance was the company’s first tour of the new eighth season, so my time with DWC correlates fairly well with a common count-off phrase dancers use to come together in preparation for a strong start: “5, 6, 7, 8…”
What did you learn at DanceWorks Chicago and how has it helped you?
When to make a pun, how to “go from good to great,” and what not to wear during a photo shoot: this is what I have learned at DWC, among other things, such as embracing a sense of humor. In all seriousness though, DanceWorks Chicago has changed my perspective of the world. Through dance as the means of exchange and communication, I have learned that I am only one of countless others, and yet I am the only one of me. My curiosity and bravery towards the new and unknown exist because of the respect I have developed for personal exploration, shared experiences, and permission to make mistakes. Julie Nakagawa, through thoughtful guidance, somehow crafts a way to encourage focus in certain areas and emphasizes that the journey matters more than the product or destination. I learned how to learn at DanceWorks, which is an empowering realization, and I can continue moving forward with this invaluable tool.
What was one of your favorite pieces that you danced in for DanceWorks Chicago? Could you describe it a little for us?
DWC’s diverse repertoire allowed me to play with a range of qualities in my dancing. While I greatly enjoyed sharing the stage with my peers, two solo works seemed to resonate in me the most: self-portrait of a woman by Demis Volpi and Monologue by Joshua Manculich. Both solos were choreographed during my third season with the company, and timing of their creation makes these pieces particularly special for me. self-portrait was inspired by a woman on a beach in Chicago who, for Demis, represented him in a fleeting and wordless moment. While I performed with drenched hair that often dripped water wherever I trailed or lingered, the solo became an experience where time seemed to stop and I could be caught in moments of bliss, torment, and child-like womanhood. I danced as though reaching inward, and during the world premiere of this piece at the Stadttheater in Aschaffenburg, Germany, I remember feeling peacefully secluded on the low-lit stage. Monologue energized me in a different light. This solo is performed with a single empty chair, although during the creation process Josh, the dancers, and I experimented with whether or not various individuals would sit in the chair. With the phonetic sound score, the stationary pool of light, and the person or idea I imagined in the chair, Monologue made my nerve endings become hyperaware. Josh intended to express one’s thoughts as if they were movement, and during rehearsal and performance of this piece I have cried and laughed, both with sorrow and joy
Your final performance for DanceWorks Chicago was on tour in Germany. What was that experience like?
Bidding good-bye to DanceWorks Chicago in Friedrichschafen, Germany was bittersweet. I had prepared myself mentally, physically, and spiritually for this farewell and danced most of the performance in celebration of my time spent with the company and my excitement for what is to come. One teary moment happened in the middle of Monologue, which I had the pleasure of premiering in Europe on this occasion: at a choreographic pause where I stand facing stage left, I saw the other five dancers offstage in the wing watching me as a group. I could only make out their silhouettes in that split second, but I think I truly knew then that I was sending them off on their next chapter, and myself on mine.
Where are you dancing now?
Currently I reside in the San Francisco Bay Area where I am exploring the dance community as a freelance dancer. With hopes of becoming more involved as a working artist, I have been taking various classes at ODC Dance Commons and Alonzo King LINES Dance Center. I recently participated in the Robert Moses’ Kin Creativity and Phrasing Workshop, which allowed me to spend extended time with the same group of movers and share in a focused, cumulative environment especially important to me as a newcomer. I am also rehearsing with Sarah Bush Dance Project in preparation for what will be my first Bay Area performances in September.
Tell us about the work you are doing there
Sarah Bush Dance Project will present a fifteen-minute piece at the West Wave Dance Festival as part of the East Bay Program on September 4th, 8:00 PM at Z Space. Shortly afterward on September 19th, SBDP will perform at PUSHfest, 8:00 PM at ODC Theater.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of transitioning to a different dance scene?
Meeting new people, discovering others’ ideas about movement, and learning about this eclectic arts scene and how I might be able to contribute to it are equally rewarding and challenging aspects of transitioning to a different dance scene. At DanceWorks Chicago I felt immersed in a culture that deeply values people, where the quality of work matters greatly, and the heart of the work lives and breathes in human form. Because of DanceWorks I have welcomed this new phase of my life with an appreciation and hunger for continued artistic relationships, and just as any meaningful relationship requires commitment—of time, energy, and humility—I understand that what I am seeking also requires patience. While I am adjusting to many different factors, I feel privileged to be able to continue pursuing dance and its way of connecting people, connecting me to people whom I may only know for a brief moment or for a lifetime. I love taking part in something greater that moves others; I can’t help myself, really. This is why I move in the first place.
What are some of your dance goals and dreams for the future?
I would like to bring artists together for an incubated amount of time to experiment and create on each other, offer critical artistic mentorship in and amongst the group, and share part of their knowledge and processes with younger generations. As a dancer I thrive when work is in-the-making and movement generates, changes, and becomes. I have been fortunate to work with many unique artists who are still finding themselves, and this sense of self-awareness and questioning is inspiring to experience. As I have learned myself, dancing and choreographing only augment each other, and for those who embrace both in their artistic journeys, I want to mix such artists together in the same space.
ANGELA DICE NGUYEN, raised in Somerset, PA, began dancing at Laurel Arts Dance Center in her hometown and later studied at Rockingham Ballet Theatre while attending Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, VA. Angela went on to graduate summa cum laude from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she earned a BFA in Dance and was a recipient of a Rising Star Scholarship.
At various venues within Chicago, New York, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, and beyond, Angela has had the privilege of performing with DanceWorks Chicago across the span of four company seasons. Additionally, she has worked with Dance in the Parks both as a dancer and choreographer, August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, Dayton Arts Project, Pursuit Productions, Ahmad Simmons, and Dance Chance, presenting her own work in Dance Chance: Redux 5.0. Angela’s film credits include Sorority Row, and she has played in regional productions of 42nd Street and The Pajama Game at Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown, PA. Photographer Jordan Matter also features her in the New York Times bestselling book Dancers Among Us.
In addition to performance, Angela created Dreams for Whitney M. Young Magnet High School’s Guys & Dolls Dance Company, which received the honor of winning Dance Chicago’s Dance Slam 2013. Angela has presented her work independently at Dance Chance (Fireflies, 2013) and Dance Chance: Redux 5.0 (Woman, 2013), the latter also re-staged on Piel Morena Contemporary Dance in 2014. She has created for August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble (Grey, 2011); served as assistant choreographer for Pursuit Productions (Thirty Thousand One, 2012); and she recently had the pleasure of restaging work by Joshua Manculich for Chicago High School for the Arts’ senior showcase in spring 2014. Passionate about sharing dance as a teacher, Angela has also led master classes for diverse levels of dancers within the U.S. and abroad.
Currently Angela resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband where she continues to pursue dance as a freelance artist.