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NYC Teacher/Choreographer Hee Ra Yoo Aims to Break Barriers

Yoo and Dancers. Photo courtesy of the company

Former Korean National Ballet dancer Hee Ra Yoo has taught in New York City at Steps on Broadway, the Joffrey Ballet School, Peridance Capezio Center and Gibney; throughout the U.S. at American Dance Festival, Tulane University, Georgian Court University and Florida School of the Arts; and all over the globe, as a guest teacher in Japan, Canada, Korea, Austria and Italy, and coaching the Korean and Australian Olympic gymnastics teams. This weekend she's bringing her choreography to the stage with her company, Yoo and Dancers, in a limited engagement at Here Arts Center in NYC. Her piece More Than Memory is an exploration of the body's layers of memory within itself and its ability to create its future.


"I see my future by looking at my memories. Our body is creating new cells every second. How are we creating our future?" is the piece's tagline. It was honed since last September through Yoo's residency at the 92nd St. Y. Her company's mission is to break through cultural and language barriers with its work, which reflects its founder's global perspective.

Yoo and Korean guest choreographer Ji-Hee Lee fuse modern dance and Korean dance aesthetics to create a five-part work that gives the effect at times of a chain reaction, with dancers' sudden movements creating links and activating one another. In other sections there's a great deal of hesitation and striving, a jaggedness to the dance and occasional collapses, as if the future is unknowable or nearly unattainable.

The piece opens tonight at Here Arts Center and runs through Saturday, with two performances that day.

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

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