World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Wan-Chao Dance

Dance OriginS: Eurasia, Indonesia, China
: Ethno-Contemporary
Artistic Director/Choreographer:
Wan-Chao Chang 
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2009

Wan-Chao Dance is an ethno-contemporary dance company that creates new works rooted in traditional forms. WCD premiered at WesW tWave Dance Festival 2008, and was selected for Festival of Silk Road and San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival shortly after its debut. Artistic Director Wan-Chao Chang brings to her work a wide expertise in varied dance disciplines, traditional to contemporary. Her goal is to sensitize audiences to human commonality while embracing diversity and beauty reflected through dance. The piece was created in 2009 by Wan-Chao Chang.


Title: Follow the Footprints
Dance OriginS: Eurasia - The Balkans, Central Asia
Dancers: Wan-Chao Chang,
Emelie Karen Coleman, Kompiang Metri-Davies, Aliah Najmabadi,
Tara Catherine Pandeya, Jade Raybin, Nadia Roan, Hannah Romanowsky, Kristen Sague
Stellamara - Sonja Drakulich (vocals/percussion), Gary Hegedus (divan saz/baglama), Pourya Khademi (volin), Faisal Zedan (darbuka/riqq)

Wan-Chao Chang presents Follow the Footprints, an ethno-contemporary dance mourning the decline of nomadic cultures world-wide. Wan-Chao was inspired by themes of J. Rong's novel, Wolf Totem: as urban populations spread, once-vast areas of fertile lands have disappeared, threatening the ancient lifestyles, cultures, and identities of nomadic peoples.

The choreography fuses Balkan dance style with dance movements of the shoulder, arm, and wrist from the Central Asian Steppes, modern dance physicality, and footwork and hip movements that reference nomadic Roma people.

Wan-Chao Chang has assembled an eclectic company of Bay Area master dancers. They bring in expressive elements from places as diverse as Tajikistan, Turkey, and Indonesia. The choreographed movements are also metaphors for restriction: the dancers meet with obstacles, try to move while carrying each other, and attempt wide, spontaneous movements in limited spaces.

Stellamara performs two songs: “Strumica” and “Azade.” The Bulgarian lyrics of “Strumica” tells of an old belief that the souls of the ancestors could be captured in a building or bridge, making the way strong and sure for future generations: Master builder Manole, are you the one who built this bridge over the raging river Struma? . . . who built such a strong bridge over Strumica's shadow?

Stellamara, under the visionary direction of vocalist Sonja Drakulich, presents a unique, timeless musical expression based on Turkish, Arabic, Balkan, medieval European, and Persian devotional traditions. 


Title: Keep Her Safe, Please!
Dance Origins: Indonesia, China
Dancers: Renee Araneda, Wan-Chao Chang, Kompiang Metri-Davies, Aliah Najmabadi, Nadia Roan, Hannah Romanowsky, Kristen Sague

Keep Her Safe, Please! is a fusion of Indonesian and Chinese dance, inspired by the heroism of women during the 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia. Its initial inspiration was from a letter received by Choreographer Wan-Chao Chang’s Indonesian-Chinese parents who had immigrated previously to Taiwan. This letter was from friends still living in Indonesia: “I am scared of what is happening here. Please, I am begging you, take my daughter away from Indonesia and keep her safe! If I survive I will serve you my whole life...”  

During the racial riots against the ethnic Chinese, many Indonesian-Chinese were massacred, women were raped, and over a hundred Chinese-owned shops were looted in Jakarta. These incidents occurred over ten years ago, but memories of inhumane violence continue to haunt the victims, and many inspiring stories of heroic women have also lived on. During the difficult times, women protected their daughters by sending them out of the country, while they themselves remained behind to help victims. Showing exceptional courage, love, and loyalty, these women kept many families united during and after the tragedy.

To some extent, this piece is a modern dance: it recognizes contemporary women and our common humanity. The choreography, however combines traditional Chinese and Indonesian elements, and the company's traditionally-trained dancers have adjusted to diverse styles of movement. Wan-Chao merged movements from Chinese folkloric and classical dance with subtle and supple Javanese dance expression, lively West Javanese style movements, and Indonesian martial arts. Dancers also integrate the Javanese Sampur, a scarf that amplifies and emphasizes dance movements, and can symbolize wings, or fire—or even a weapon.

The recorded music is extracted from Mbuh, by Suhendi Afraynto; Diya, by Dody Satya Ekagustdiman; Gedeng Erhu, by Gamelan Pacifica; and from “Trance Gong.” It includes vocals, music by a traditional Javanese Gamelan percussion orchestra, and melodies on a Chinese erhu, the traditional two-stringed violin.

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