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Choreographer Q&A with Caili Quan

 What is the inspiration for your piece?

I’ve always wanted to make a work inspired by identity and the idea of decolonization. In my research, Bill Rhoads, the Senior Vice President of Esperanza Performing Arts Center, connected me with actor/writer/director Tanaquil Márquez. Tanaquil is currently spearheading the Nichos Community Project in partnership with Esperanza. During our first conversation, I was very inspired by Tanaquil and her work. While discussing heritage and identity, I found parallels between her culture and the Chamorro Filipino culture I grew up in. Tanaquil spoke about nichos, which are shadow boxes used as a shrine for an important figure or loved one. She brought up the idea of creating a life sized nicho, and I thought that this would be a very interesting idea for a dance.

What is your choreography process like?

I spend time thinking about the concept and usually plan a loose structure for the work. I like choreographing on the spot with the dancers, so I try my best to know the music well before I get into the studio. It never turns out the way I imagine it in my head, which I love!

What are you most looking forward to about BalletX at Glen Foerd?

Glen Foerd is a beautiful space. I love how unconventional it is. It’s right on the water, feels very open, and the audience is right in the action. Also, I’m very excited to share a program with Nicole, Tommie, and Tsai Hsi. 

With your background as a BalletX member, how has it been to choreograph on this group?

It’s been wonderful to be back at BalletX. These dancers are extraordinary movers and great human beings. It’s rare to get the opportunity to create in an environment with so much comfort and trust. This company will always be my home, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to choreograph on artists whom I got to dance and experience life with.

What piece of music is your choreography set to? How did you find and select this music? What does it represent?

I had a huge playlist that took me a while to narrow down. The music is a mix of Cuban and Mexican folk music. I understand very little Spanish, but the melodies of the music I found for this work pulled at my heartstrings. 

How do you spend your free time outside of the studio?

I love spending time with my family and relaxing with friends over a good meal. 

What’s your signature dish to bring to a potluck dinner?

Most likely chicken adobo because it makes me think of home. However, friends like shrimp kådu (shrimp in coconut milk), so I’ll make it even though I’m allergic to coconut.

What three items can you not go a day without?

My notebook, music, and this personalized Yeti that my sister got for me full of ice water. It has a duk duk and my initials on it.

What piece of advice would you give aspiring choreographers?

Pick a piece of music that you love and go for it. Know that you can always go back and rewrite. It’s definitely scary to put your heart out there, but that’s what makes it all so fulfilling.

See Caili’s world premiere at Glen Foerd April 19-21.