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Thursday, June 13, 2024

20 questions (pandemic edition) with Ziyian Kwan

Today we check in with award-winning Vancouver-based dance artist and artistic director of Dumb Instrument Dance, Ziyian Kwan.

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Vancouver Presents is checking in with members of our arts community to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.

Today we check in with award-winning Vancouver-based dance artist and artistic director of Dumb Instrument Dance, Ziyian Kwan who next performs as part of this year’s Dancing on the Edge Festival.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

In mid-April, I let go of how my creative projects were planned to manifest. I’m in a space of reimagining the where, what, how and why of artistic practice.

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

My cats, Rosy and Barolo.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

Phone calls with friends and brief visits to my parents to deliver small gifts. I’m connecting with colleagues by cautiously re-entering creative practice: in my own work called Made In Voyage, which is an homage to elders through stories of the dancers’ grandmothers, and in the work of Olivia C. Davies at Dancing On The Edge. As well, the festival’s screening of a short video from Kwan Yin, a dance that I created with my father in 2017, is a new way to connect with audiences – something that I miss a lot.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

Indigenous Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. As a POC settler, I want to bring conscious responsiveness to my daily life and artistic practice. I’m asking questions about how I think and behave. I need to change. I want my thoughts, actions and art to support the unsilencing of oppression and the mobilization of liberty for all people.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

A home, the resources to survive comfortably, and a lot of love in my life.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

I’m opening up a pop-up space called Morrow. It’s a place for me to incubate creative dreams and for other artists to showcase the work that they create as sidelines to their regular practice.

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?


8. What have you missed the most?

In-person creative process with other artists.

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.


10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

Burrata cheese, heirloom tomatoes and a small herb garden.

11. What have you stockpiled?

I haven’t stockpiled anything. But I’ve invested in a lot of PPE for people participating in my creative projects.

12. What have you been reading?

Rebecca Solnit’s memoir, The Guardian and a variety of books that my husband brings home from his bookshop, The Paper Hound.

13. What have you been watching?


14. What have you been listening to?

BBC, CBC, Janelle Monáe, Purcell and Rameau.

15. What are you doing for exercise?

Walking and dancing.

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?


17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

Uncut, unbrushed and slept in.

18. Night owl or early riser?

Early riser.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

Wait and see – for sure.

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

Invite my dad to my home for breakfast, and my mom for dinner.

Meet Ziyian Kwan

Ziyian Kwan has worked as a Vancouver-based dance artist since 1988. As an interprète, she has performed close to 100 original creations by an eclectic range of choreographers on international stages and is a recipient of the Isadora Award for excellence in performance. As Artistic Director of Dumb Instrument Dance, Ziyian’s choreography abstracts lived experience to create collages of kinetic imagery.

Ziyian creates with an intersectional ethos and is interested in subverting the status quo. Whether in her own work or in that of other artists, Ziyian’s artistry over three-plus decades has been indelibly touched by collaboration with luminaries in the fields of dance, music, film, theatre and visual art.

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