UW Professor Peggy Choy Launches Her
Newest Production Flight
Transcendent Phases of Life
Top: Peggy Choy; Middle: Lacouir Yancey & Ze Motion, as
Parrot Brothers; Bottom: Peggy Choy as the Phoenix
Photos by Fero Sandoval
“I myself have a foundation in Javanese dance, Korean dance and Asian
martial arts forms, and have some background in ballet and modern dance
forms,” Choy said. “I don’t necessarily overlap in every way with all of the
dancers. But I have trained in boxing, in Afro-Brazilian capoeira. I have
trained in breaking and top-rock so that I have knowledge of the
Choy looks for dancers for her productions who have some cross-training
“The dancers that I have been very lucky and fortunate to work with are
skilled,” Choy said. “When I audition dancers, I require that they have cross-
training in several styles of dance and have the ability to improvise.
Because they are very capable, if they haven’t learned a certain style—for
example, Javanese dance--they will need to learn something of the style,
and will work at it. The dancers teach each other. For example, martial
artists will show the other dancers how to do certain strikes or blocks,
while the b-boys will teach others how to do an inversion. We have means
to help each other.”
But while Choy depends on her dancers to help train each other, she is
definitely in control of the creative process.
“I shape the movement in my mind, and body, and then I have my story,”
Choy said. “I have a strong sense of guiding the dancers through the
creative process. The most productive times have been when the dancers
trust my vision; I convey the details of the story and the emotional arc. We
work with both my tools and their tools, and the particular character takes
shape. Or else I will precisely choreograph the movements and then they
will learn it, cross-training in different styles. With every project, I try to
progress a little bit more. That means as a team, we go another step in
taking risks, in order to reach a higher level. That is what I hope for me and
By Jonathan Gramling
There have been several phases to UW-Madison Professor Peggy Choy’s career, balancing life and career.
When she first came to Madison in 1982 as an administrator at the Center for Southeast Studies, Choy had
to balance career and family, often times blending the two. After her children were grown, Choy could once
again focus on her career full time and became a tenured professor in the UW-Madison Dance Department.
And in January 2017, Choy premiered her newest work FLIGHT at the Kumble Theater in Brooklyn, New
York. FLIGHT, based on a Persian poem, is a timeless concept that could even be applied to the immigrants
of Central America and Mexico today.
Choy is a multi-discipline-trained artist and those disciplines are reflected in her dance pieces.
for all of the dancers.”
To the outsider of the layperson, dance may appear to be just a physical performance, training one’s muscles to react in a certain way,
muscular memory, so to speak. But for Choy, dance has more of a mental or spiritual foundation to it and then the physical, the body, just flows
“Thinking isn’t always necessarily all about the mind,” Choy said. “The mind just doesn’t think. It’s very complex. Neural psychologists tell us
that the brain is distinguishable from the mind. Through focusing the mind, as in meditation, you can change the habits of your mind and this
can affect your body. It’s a complex process that I really am interested in because in dealing with Asian forms of dance and martial arts, the
channeling of energy (qi) is the basic foundation. The directing of qi energy involves the mind as well. But it is a different perspective on the
mind rather than a physiological or psychological mapping of the mind. I think the process of cultivating qi energy and the mind’s focus has
been fundamental in both my choreographic and performance processes.”
It is a process and performance that touches not just the sense of beauty of movement, but also the feeling of the soul. It draws the whole
being into the performance.