‘Moving forward against strong opposing forces’

Choreographer Sue Li Jue, who teaches at Berkeley, produces an evening of dance and live music

| 22 October 2008

Sue Li JueSue Li Jue (Wendy Edelstein photo)

For 22 years, choreographer Sue Li Jue’s day job has been teaching dance in Berkeley’s Physical Education Program. “As much as I love dancing myself, it’s equally fulfilling to translate that passion to others,” says Li Jue.

This weekend, Li Jue, artistic director of Facing East Dance & Music, an Oakland-based company, will showcase her work and that of four other ensembles in “Leaning Into the Wind,” an eclectic program of dance and live music. The production, sponsored in part by the Physical Education Program, will be performed in Hearst Gymnasium, where Li Jue teaches. “It means a lot to me that my program stands behind the outside work that I do,” she says.

Li Jue is committed to developing an Asian female “voice” in dance. The dancers in her troupe are all Asian women, and Asian-related facts, history, or provocative photographs or quotes serve as the jumping-off point for Li Jue’s choreography. A recent piece, East/West Canvases (2004), took as its subject the difference between Chinese and Western ideas of beauty. A New York Times article about a young Chinese woman whose family depleted its savings to pay for a nearly crippling leg-lengthening procedure inspired the piece. “It is believed [in Chinese culture] that if a girl is taller, she will be happier, married, and successful,” explains Li Jue.

“Leaning Into the Wind: A Stormy Evening of Dance and Live Music” will be presented Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24 and 25, at 8 p.m. in Hearst Gymnasium Studio Theater, room 230, on Bancroft Way between College Avenue and Bowditch Street. Tickets, priced at $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors, can be reserved by calling 642-4199 x2 or e-mailing

Li Jue is using “Leaning Into the Wind” as a way to prepare for her company’s 10th anniversary in 2009. Her dancers will perform two works on this weekend’s program: a duet, Uneasy Compromise, and a solo piece, Through Another Lens.

Li Jue invited some of her favorite local performers to share the bill, including a handful with links to the campus. Charles Slender, a Cal alumnus who majored in dance and performance studies and English, is a former student of Li Jue’s who recently moved back to the Bay Area from Russia. Slender will present a piece by his newly formed dance company, FACT/SF. Choreographer Randee Paufve, a friend of Li Jue’s, is also on the program. Jason Britton, who has been a lecturer in physical education at Berkeley for 10 years (and is Li Jue’s officemate in Hearst Gym), is a cabaret jazz vocalist working on his first CD. Multi-instrumentalist Joe Venegoni (performing with guitarist Todd Mosby) is a longtime musical collaborator with Facing East. And Tammy Cheney, the newest addition to Berkeley’s PE faculty and a former member of ODC, a leading modern-dance company in San Francisco, is the show’s stage manager.

Li Jue explains that the show’s title “alludes to moving forward against strong opposing forces,” such as day jobs, family responsibilities, and the economy. As performers, she says, “each of us is on an upward and forward journey in our art form.”

For information about Facing East Dance & Music, visit