Tom Teasley, Shu-Chen Cuff, Chao Tian to perform an inspired virtual concert

An crosscultural intersection of music and choreography for these uncertain times.

The headlines tell us to stay put. To not travel so we protect ourselves, our loved ones, our communities and the Nation as a whole—advice that DC-area residents seem to be heeding this Thanksgiving. Well over 80 percent of area residents expect not to travel for the holiday, a big change from a “normal” Thanksgiving.

So as we heed health and safety messages for our own good and that of others, what shall  those of us do who need a fix of the performing arts? With tighter COVID restrictions recently announced by the Governor of Virginia and the Mayor of DC, live performance will continue to be a rarity in indoor venues.

Pictured: Shu-Chin Cuff.

But—and this is a major but—there can be an up side in a way: we can open ourselves to a taster’s menu of the performing arts that we might be unlikely to try in a live setting because of distance, price, or just plain fear of the unknown. Now we can take the opportunity to explore what we may not normally.

One such an exploration is a virtual performance developed by multiple Helen Hayes Award recipient and world percussionist Tom Teasley, whose work is long familiar to fans of Constellation Theatre. Teasley has collaborated with choreographer Shu-Chin Cuff, a regular performer at the annual Atlas Intersections Festival with her Gin Dance Company, and Chao Tian, world-renowned dulcimer musician. Originally this inspired trio expected to create a live event inside the McGuire Woods Gallery, Workhouse Arts Center galleries, but instead found a way to reconceive it as reshaping space: A Virtual Concert. 

The three dedicated their concert to the “Reshaping Space” exhibition currently at the Workhouse featuring ceramic works exploring the concept of space by Lori Katz, Laurel Lukaszewski, Kristen Morsches, and Novie Trump.

Chao Tian and Tom Teasley.

Recent phone and email conversations with the trio highlighted how the notion of reshaping space relates to the DC area’s core multicultural demographics. As Teasley explained, their work “provides common respect” for other cultures. ”We explore/celebrate the intersection of each other’s cultures and look for the common ground of self-expression.” They added that during the COVID lockdown, their project “allows for greater collaboration between disciplines. Forward-looking artists are exploring and inventing new means of communication and reaching audiences not limited to close proximity to the event.”

According to Cuff, the reshaping space virtual concert provides an “intersection of sound, movement, and visual art allowing the artists and others to be inspired and act/react.”

For Chao Tian, the collaboration process is based on respecting, listening, and communication, which are not only the foundation of improvisation, but also the key to convey individual recognition and feedback to each other. Such effective dialogic creation may serve as an inspiration to alleviate conflicts happening in society.”

Inviting viewers to the virtual performance premiere November 28, 2020, Cuff said,Art is so mindful and powerful. It helps us get through uncertain times. It’s my hope that more people will tune in this Saturday and soak into this wonderful performance filled with all different cultures and art forms.”

At this moment in time with so many stressors, all I can add is this: a good long warm soak sounds so inviting to reduce tensions in one’s life. What about you?

reshaping space: A Virtual Concert performs November 28, 2020, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET on Facebook Live. The performance is free; donations are accepted. Following the live performance, the program will be available for viewing for an expected four more days. The Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) is a partial sponsor of this event.


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