A welcome note from SanSan Kwan, incoming department chair

August 24, 2022

Dear TDPS Community,

It is with humility and not a little bit of trepidation that I step into the role of department chair, especially after so many visionary leaders who have guided the department before me. I want to give a special shout out to my immediate predecessor, Joe Goode, who valiantly led our department through a pandemic, a racial reckoning, and not a few other crises. As per his style, he led with grace, compassion, groundedness, and heartfulness. My gratitude, also, to our department manager, Jean-Paul Gressieux, who in a few short years has mastered the bureaucracy of the university and has become the absolutely essential core of the department. I look forward to relying on Jean-Paul for steady guidance and partnership over these next three years.

Alas, we are still under a pandemic and a racial reckoning, along with a dire climate crisis, wars in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Yemen, and, for many of us, serious legal and socio-political challenges to our safety, our bodily and mental health, and our general ability to pursue a life of wholeness. Given this state of the world, how does our small but mighty department proceed? I proffer that we draw on our strengths as performance people who know how to work in collaboration. As a community of artists, scholars, teachers, and learners, we can advocate collectively for the crucial role that performance plays in stirring audiences, in modeling empathy, and in envisioning new realities.

To that ambitious end (which is never an end, but always a continual going on), we have a lot of exciting programs lined up for this academic year! Our production season will feature The Late Wedding, a witty and seductive exploration of relationships and rituals by TDPS alum Christopher Chen; a re-staging of Within These Walls, Lenora Lee’s multimedia dance experience commemorating the thousands of immigrants who were detained on Angel Island; and works by visionary playwrights Tarell Alvin McCraney, Sarah Ruhl, and Madeline Sayet. Our performances will be complemented by lectures and class visits from a broad range of artists and scholars (including the aforementioned Lenora Lee and Christopher Chen, director Ava Roy, and others to be announced). We will also have the great honor of welcoming two new members to our dance faculty (Iu-Hui Chua and Philip Agyapong), as well as two President’s Postdoctoral Fellows (Peggy Lee and Rosalia Lerner).

We could not dream of such a season, much less attempt to pull it off, without the leadership of our production manager Jamila Cobham and the brilliant production staff of TDPS, whose dedication and professionalism make our seasons possible each year. 

Of course, we continue the department’s longstanding efforts towards diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. Our dynamic lineup of shows and events, as well as our classes, our mentorship of students, and the trailblazing scholarship and artistic work of our faculty are the vehicles through which we forward the department mission of teaching performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression, and public engagement. In consideration of these troubled times we live in, I also hope to add a particular attention to wellness — of our students, of ourselves, of our wider communities. Let us remember that art not only inspires; it can also heal.

I look forward to a year of plenitude!

All best wishes,
SanSan Kwan

Professor SanSan Kwan