A-Squared Festival

The 2016 A-Squared Asian American Performing Arts Festival featured four evenings of contemporary dance, music, performance art, puppetry, sound art, spoken word, and theatre by American artists of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese descent.

The festival was supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Illinois Arts Council and the Crane Group.

Links Hall is a Partner of the National Performance Network (NPN). This project was made possible in part by support from the NPN Performance Residency Program and the NPN Community Fund. Major contributors of NPN include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), the MetLife Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

The presentation of 2125 Stanley Street by Dahlia Nayar is made possible by the New England Foundation of the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A-Squared Festival is a National Performance Network Performance Residency. Links Hall’s Residencies are supported by the generous contributions of the Links Hall Commissioning Collective, a group of dedicated individuals who make multi-year pledges to support Links’ direct grants to artists to research, develop and present new work in the performing arts.

A-Squared Artists 2016

Artists and Events

2125 Stanley Street

2125 Stanley Street is a performance installation exploring notions of home. Choreographer Dahlia Nayar works with collaborators Margaret Paek (dancer) and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster (cellist/composer), the project examines “home” as an archaeological site where minimal artifacts offer points of departure for the re-imagination and reconstruction a domestic space. We excavate the everyday and the mundane in search of a poetic consciousness. Household objects transform into potential sources of revelation and reflection. Basic tasks are infused with virtuosity and nostalgia. Fragments of lullabies, phone conversations and intimate multi-generational, multi-lingual exchanges create an evocative soundscape. Ultimately, the installation aims to invite the audience into a home that unfolds through movement and sound, a home that exists in the present moment through intimate exchange, a home that is is both familiar and yet cannot exactly be located.

2125 Stanley Street has thus far been supported through residencies with the Vermont Performance Lab, Bates Dance Festival and is also funded in part by the New England Foundation of the Arts’ National Dance Project Special Projects Grant, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Dahlia Nayar‘s works have recently been selected for the Venice Biennale/Danza Venezia Showcase for Emerging Choreographers, Dance Place in Washington DC, the 2012 Next Stage Dance Residency at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, and the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, her site specific projects have been performed at the National Botanical Gardens, the Kennedy Center and the Complejo Cultural, in Puebla, Mexico. She was a National Dance Project Regional Dance Lab artist in 2007. From 2008-2010, she received the Jacob Javits Fellowship during which time she received her MFA in Dance/Choreography from Hollins University. She has been a guest artist at Salem State College, College of the Holy Cross, Long Island University in Brooklyn, Marymount Manhattan College, Smith College and Duke University. She is a 2012-2013 Vermont Performance Lab Artist and 2013 Bates Dance Festival New England Emerging Choreographer.

Margaret Paek is a collaborative dance artist who sees choreography as a daring process of multiplicity and framing. Studying, developing, and allying with the performance collective, Lower Left, is a continuing source of stimulation. Margaret is deeply influenced by her relationships with gymnastics, contact improvisation, Ensemble Thinking, Alexander Technique, Nina Martin, Shelley Senter, Barbara Dilley, Deborah Hay, musician/composer Loren Kiyoshi Dempster and their daughter. She has also had the pleasure of working with Mary Overlie, Milka Djordjevich, Keith Hennessy, Lionel Popkin, BodyCartography Project, and projectLIMB, among others. Cooperative and individual work has been presented at venues including: Dixon Place,Issue Project Room, Joyce SoHo,Judson Church, Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, and the Whitney Museum in New York; Sushi Performance & Visual Art, Highways, ODC, andCounterPulse in California; the Crowley Theater and Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex in Texas; Sín Culture Center in Budapest, Hungary. Dance critic, Jennifer de Poyen, has called her “a dancer so full of wit and intelligence, you can’t keep your eyes off her.” (San Diego Union Tribune, 2002)

Loren Kiyoshi Dempster (composer) uses a combination of computer, electronics, cello and extended techniques to create and perform music. An active chamber musician, composer, and improviser he performs with the Dan Joseph Ensemble, Trio Triticali, and Left Hand Path among many others. Ever interested in the relationship of movement and sound, he has recently performed for choreographers Jonah Bokaer, Chris Ferris, Margaret Paek, and projectLIMB. Dempster toured often with Merce Cunningham Dance Company playing music for many pieces starting in April 1999 until December 2011. His performances for Interscape, which uses John Cage’s solo cello work “one eight” were described by the New York Times (04/01), “Dempster’s playing was outstanding, suggesting a one-man orchestra through texture that produced overlapping sounds that ranged from the jagged to a warm warbling.”

TJ Medel

TJ Medel is Jersey all day, err day. A 2015 Second City Bob Curry Fellow, he has performed and improvised in This American Lie (Second City), Urban Twist presents Whack to the Future (Second City), Afro-Futurism (Second City), The Neutrino Project (LOL! Theater), Skin-prov (The Annoyance), Improvised Hip-Hop and Rap Group Rapture (iO/ComedySportz). He is an ensemble member with Chicago Slam Works Poetry House Ensemble, Stir Friday Night, Hip-Hop Collective Elephant Rebellion, SoChi Voices, Theater Unspeakable, and the incredible two man improvised spoken word group PREACH. He hosts The Revival Hour at The Revival located in Hyde Park and teaches for multiple schools all around Chicago. He is represented by Steward Talent. Follow him @tjspokenword

Instruction Manual

Instruction Manual

Myra Su is a narrative artist specializing in storytelling through puppetry and theater. Her primary medium is shadow puppetry, though she has also been experimenting with puppetry across multiple media — paper craft, sculpture, video, animation, and most recently, amateur taxidermy. She often performs at Nasty, Brutish & Short, a quarterly puppet cabaret in Chicago. Her work also includes collaborations with various theater and music productions. In addition to her independent projects, she is a Manual Cinema company member. Myra holds a BA with honors in Theater and Anthropology from the University of Chicago. For her portfolio, please visit: houseofmyra.wordpress.com

Allyson Gonzalez is the Artistic Conductor of Stand On Your Hands and Clap and Author of the annual zine, Save the Bees Worx. She lives in Chicago with her companion and emergency contact. Her favorite food is gravy. Stop what you’re doing and visit www.allysongonzalez.com to learn where this Latina Puppeteer is performing or publishing next!

Cynthia Campos Costanzo is a recent graduate from The University of Chicago where she studied Theater and Performance Studies as well as Biology. She has worked on numerous University Theater and independent shows on campus doing costumes and puppetry. One of her first shows was a shadow puppet show with Myra Su, and she is delighted to be working with Myra again. Cynthia also enjoys writing and had the pleasure of writing a historical piece staged at UChicago (Spring ’14) based on Sophonisba Breckinridge, the University’s first female PhD recipient. Cynthia currently works with public schools on the South Side and studies and performs improv downtown.

Rohan Zhou-Lee and Kitt Lyles

Rohan Zhou-Lee and Kitt Lyles

With a degree in Ethnomusicology from Northwestern University, Rohan Zhou-Lee currently studies dance at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. He previously trained at the Dance Theatre of Harlem 2015 Summer Intensive. Rohan’s artistic credits include: The Soldier’s Home (Playwright/Choreographer, 2015, Circa PINTIG) The Nutcracker (Cavalier, 2014, Le Ballet Petit), Cinderella (Prince, 2014, Le Ballet Petit) Malakas at Maganda (Kite/Choreographer, 2013, Kaibigan Battle of the Bamboo) and I See A River (2011, Northwestern Danceworks).

A graduate of Northwestern University (BM Jazz Studies, 2013), Kitt Lyles is an active performer, composer and educator in the Chicago jazz community. His performing career has brought him to play renowned jazz clubs around North America, Latin America and Asia, as well as major festivals such as the Chicago Jazz Festival (Chicago, IL), Festival Espontáneo (Chiapas, MX) and the Billy Strayhorn Jazz Festival (Chicago, IL). In 2015, Lyles released his debut album, “Real Talk”, featuring all original compositions; “it’s success rests as much on his skills as a writer as his serving as a beacon for the sextet’s able rhythm section…his colourful themes… are by and large bright and engaging” (Jack Bowers, All About Jazz). Kitt has performed with renowned ensembles and individuals of the music scenes in Chicago, South Carolina, New York City and Mexico such as the Roy McGrath Quartet, Black Diamond, Gustavo Cortiñas, Victor Goines, Justin Copeland, Adam Thornburg, Hans Luchs, Amos Hoffman, Mike Allemana, Yuri Hevia, Tony Normand, and Gabriel Puentes amongst many others.


Mitsu Salmon Tsuchi

Mitsu Salmon creates original performance and visual works, which fuse multiple disciplines. She was born in the melting pot of Los Angeles to a Japanese mother and American father. Her creation in differing mediums, the translation of one medium to another, is connected to the translation of differing cultures and languages.

Salmon received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. In 2005 she graduated from NYU where she majored in Experimental Theater, studying theater and visual arts. She was a core member of the Butoh dance group Ima Tenko and Kiraza for three years in Kyoto Japan. She has lived in India, England, Germany, Amsterdam, Japan and Bali.

She has performed solo work at places such Performance Space 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Highways Performance Space and internationally at Hebbel Am Uffer, the Berlin Performance Art Festival, London Performance Art Festival and Urbanguild in Kyoto, Japan. She has been an artist in resident at High Concept Lab and the Chicago Cultural Center. ​

Tatsu Aoki

Tatsu Aoki

Tatsu Aoki is a leading advocate for the Asian American community, as well as a prolific composer and performer of traditional and experimental music forms, a filmmaker, and an educator. He was born in Tokyo in 1957 to Toyaki Moto, an artisan family proficient in Okiya, the tradition of working as booking and training agents for geisha in downtown Tokyo. Starting at the age of four, Aoki was part of his family performance crew and received the essence of traditional Tokyo geisha cultural training and studies, which combine history with creativity. In the late 1960s, upon Tokyo’s economic and social decline, which forced many traditional family businesses to close, and his grandmother’s passing, he shifted his training to American pop and experimental music. By the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement as a member of Gintenkai, an experimental ensemble that combined traditional music and new Western forms. In the same period, he started his work in small-gauge and experimental films, influenced by his biological father, who was a movie producer at Shintoho Studio.

In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo to study experimental filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is adjunct Full Professor in the Film, Video and New Media Department and teaches film production and history. He also is a visiting professor at Northwestern University. He has produced more than thirty experimental films and is one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, contributing more than ninety recording projects and touring internationally during the last twenty-five years. Aoki is Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, which observes its twentieth year in 2015. Named President of San Francisco–based Asian Improv Records (AIR) in 1999, he has managed or produced more than forty AIR albums, notably the Max Roach and Jon Jang collaboration The Beijing Trio, and several projects in the hip-hop and Asian Pacific American arts arenas, from film screenings to concert series.

Aoki was named one of 2001’s “Chicagoans of the year” by Chicago Tribune for his music for his cross cultural music and has performed with masters such as Roscoe Mitchell, Don Moye, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and the late Chicago legend Fred Anderson. Aoki’s suite ROOTED: Origins of Now, a four-movement suite for big band, premiered in 2001 at Ping Tom Memorial Park, and was performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival and at MCA Stage as part of Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival. Additional notable releases include Basser Live (1999) and Basser Live II (2005), recorded live at MCA Stage; The MIYUMI Project (2000), Symphony of Two Cities(2002), and Posture of Reality with Wu Man (2003). The Asian American Institute awarded Aoki the Milestone Award in 2007 for his contribution to Chicago-area arts. In 2010, he received the Japan America Society of Chicago’s Cultural Achievement Award as well as a 3Arts Artist Award. He received the “Living in our Culture” award this year by the Japanese American Service Committee in 2014 and Jazz Heros’ Award by National Jazz Journalist Association in 2015.

A-Squared Theater

A-Squared Theater

A Girl’s Gotta Do, etc. is a ‘serious’ comedy about the joys and tribulations of teenage girls in the era of millennials.

Julia Izumi is a playwright and performer based in New York City. Her plays have been performed and developed at the New Ohio Theater, Dixon Place, Martin E. Segal Center, the New York Society Library, Williamstown Theatre Festival, A-Squared Theatre Workshop, Ugly Rhino Productions, Cloud City with Fresh Ground Pepper (2015 PlayGround PlayGroup Residency), 4th Street Theatre with The Habitat Theatre Company, Variations Theatre Group, Ingenue Theatre, ESPA at Primary Stages, and Tufts University, where she earned her B.A. in Drama. She is a proud member of the BMI Librettists Workshop, the Beehive Collective, and the Artistic Committee of The Brewing Dept. She was granted a 2015 First Floor Studio Residency at HB Studio with director Logan Reed. Her play Meet Murasaki Shikibu Followed by Book-Signing, and Other Things was presented at the 2016 Great Plains Theatre Conference and produced in the 2016 NY International Fringe Festival. She has also worked with Samuel French, The New York Neo-Futurists, Signature Theatre Company, and the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theatre. This fall she will begin at Brown University’s MFA Playwriting Program.

Brian Balcom has worked with Walking Shadow Company , Gremlin Theatre, Urban Samurai, and The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. With his company, The New Theatre Group, he commissioned and produced several new works by local and national writers. He is a Resident Artist at Victory Gardens’ Access Program and was a Multi-Cultural Fellow at Steppenwolf. Brian has a BFA from Carnegie-Mellon and an MFA from DePaul.

Originally from Southern California, Helen Lee is ecstatic to make her Chicago debut with A Girl’s Gotta Do, etc. She credits the expat theatre community in Seoul, South Korea for helping her find her passion. Among her favorite roles are Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Dotty Otley/Mrs. Clackett from Noises Off. You’ll be seeing her around town dancing her goofy heart out with The Comedy Dance Collective and shivering uncontrollably from November to April. She warmly thanks A-Squared Theatre for welcoming her to the community!

Karissa J. Murrell Myers moved to Chicago last year after she earned her M.F.A. in Performance from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and B.A. in Theatre with a minor in Music from Boise State University. Previous Chicago stage credits include: Farewell My Friend ((re)discover theatre, Iseult), Tea (Prologue Theatre, Himiko), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Greenman Theatre, Titania), Collaboraction’s 15th Annual Sketchbook Festival, and Something Marvelous’ Origins: A Night of New Works. Regional: Blithe Spirit, Big Love, Uncle Vanya and Zombies, Thread Hell, Stop Kiss, Queens of the Night, very still and hard to see, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Oklahoma!. Tour: Missoula Children’s Theatre (2012). Television: Chicago Med. Love to Mark and Rosie!

Jennifer Zhang 张羽琪 is a musician, actress, model and emcee based in Chicago. She is a singer, songwriter, and musical performer of various instruments including the Chinese bamboo flute, the Chinese zither, and the piano. Jennifer graduated from Northwestern University and pursued further study at Berklee College of Music. She has worked on NBC’s Chicago PD as well as a news anchor and program host on WNDZ 750am. She has acted in short films such as The Windy City, Chinglish, Friday the 13th as well as Machine Baby, and has appeared on major TV stations such as MTV, CMT and the Style Network. She has also performed musically around the world with prestigious organizations such as the Chicago Modern Orchestra, DCASE, and MGM. Crowned as the 2015 Miss Friendship Ambassador of Chicago, she was granted the honor of representing Chicago in the 2015 Miss Chinese International Pageant in Hong Kong.

eedahahm with Lee Chul Woo

eedahahm Lee Chul Woo

eedahahm is an autodidact artist with a focus on video painting, spanking shamanism, mouth music, improvisational dance, inter-generational meditation, and community healing. Spent the beginning of 2015 opening their first solo exhibition “stupid” at the Chicago Cultural Center of Korea, presented works and performance questioning the identity of the body and mind in a non-corporeal plane designed for the virtual reality. Spent the latter half of 2015 walking over 2000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail filming and performing for a documentary titled “stupid” exploring our identities tied to mother nature, physical body, the mind, and social surroundings. Currently in post-production stages of finalizing the documentary.

Lee Chul Woo is a spiritual ah-buh-ji spreading love and awareness through teachings of Asian Calligraphy, Korean bamboo flutes, and meditation.

memory vs. memory

memory vs. memory

memory vs. memory is a life-long durational performance between Ly Hoang Ly and Patricia Nguyen exploring the freedom and confinement, inherited memory, and the ethics of witnessing. Growing up on different sides of the Vietnam/American War, politically and geographically, both performers share a history of their fathers’ incarceration after the end of the war. Ly’s father was imprisoned in a jail in the capital city and Nguyen’s father was imprisoned in a hard labor camp in the rural area on the border of Cambodia and Vietnam. From Vietnam to the United States and in the liminality of waterways in between, Ly and Patricia’s collaboration is birthed out of a desire to delve deeper into the assemblages of their shared and divergent histories. memory vs. memory exist as a series of installation performances integrating performance art, sculpture, and poetry.


Saturday, October 8 2016 @ 10:30-3pm – Artist-Presenter Collaborations for Dance Symposium at High Concept Labs A-Squared Festival artist Dahlia Nayar, whose work 2125 Stanley Street made its Chicago premiere on Day 1 and Day 2 of the festival, was a panelist at the day-long symposium presented by Chicago Dancemakers Forum as part of the Regional Dance Development Initiative, a program of the New England Foundation for Arts.

Saturday, October 22 2016 @ 10am-12pm – (a little bit of) Ensemble Thinking Workshop by Lower Left at Links Hall A-Squared Festival artist Margaret Paek, who performed in 2125 Stanley Street on Day 1 and Day 2 of the festival, was joined by fellow Lower Left artists Andrew Wass and Kelly Dalrymple Wass to facilitate a workshop on Lower Left’s signature technique in Ensemble Thinking to help propel adventurous movers beyond their perceived ideas of dance and the creative process

Monday, October 24 2016 @ 7:30pm – Quantum Monk by Yoshinojo Fujima at Links Hall A-Squared Festival artist Tatsu Aoki, who performed on Day 2 and Day3 of the festival, appeared with Rami Atassi in dancer/choreographer Yoshinojo Fujima’s interdisciplinary performance of “Makasho” an Edo-period travelling monk, originally a Japanese classical dance piece infused with more contemporary elements.