Chamorro Filipino choreographer and dancer Caili Quan pays tribute to the family and culture on Guam that sparked her love of music and inspired her dream of dancing. After moving to New York at the age of 16 hoping to dance professionally, she looks back and remembers the emotional tumult of leaving home to be able to do what she loves.
Set over dances choreographed to honor different aspects of Guam’s culture, Caili explores her own heritage through conversations with her mother, aunt, uncle, sister, cousins and friends, reminiscing on cherished memories from the island: familial gatherings replete with food, filled with music and dance shaped by the island’s culture. Each dance is inspired by a different facet of Guam’s culture: oral storytelling, matrilineal roots, the warrior spirit, and the deep importance of family. Through every story and gesture there is a common thread of mahålang, a Chamorro word encompassing the longing and missing of something, someone, or some place.
Weaving a narrative of how collective memory and storytelling preserve where we come from, “Mahålang” is an ode to a home and the longing to return. Combining music from the Pacific, elements of contemporary dance, and reflections of the past, “Mahålang” is a love letter to Guam.
THIS FILM IS AVAILABLE ON DEMAND.
About the filmmakers: Elliot deBruyn is a filmmaker based in New York and Shanghai, China. He works in documentary, narrative and commercial film as a cinematographer and director. His documentary work in China has been nominated for an Emmy, and his narrative short films were official selections for the Beijing Indie Short Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival. Elliot’s clients include the New York Times, the International Red Cross, CNN, Apple, Google and more. He is continuing to work on experimental documentaries and non-linear forms of storytelling that blur the line between factual mediums and abstract art.
Caili Quan was raised on Guam, trained in New York, and was a dancer with BalletX from 2013-2020. Caili has choreographed for BalletX, Owen/ Cox Dance Group, UC Santa Barbara, konverjdans, Columbia Ballet Collaborative, DanceWorks Chicago’s ChoreoLab, and St. Paul’s School. While with BalletX, she performed new works by Matthew Neenan, Nicolo Fonte, Gabrielle Lamb, Penny Saunders, and Trey McIntyre and danced at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Vail Dance Festival, Central Park SummerStage, Belgrade Dance Festival, the Joyce Theater, and the Kennedy Center during DEMO by Damian Woetzel. Her duet Fancy Me was performed at the Vail Dance Festival in 2018, and in the summer of 2019, Caili served as an Artistic Partnership Initiative Fellow at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU. She subsequently choreographed and edited a short dance film 100 Days, a virtual commission for The Guggenheim’s Works & Process. Before retiring from BalletX in Summer 2020, she virtually choreographed Love Letter, a dance film inspired by Guam’s culture. Caili was an Adjunct Instructor of Ballet at DeSales University in Fall 2020.
Nathaniel J. Brown is a filmmaker based between China and the United States. His films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival Court Métrage, the Cleveland International Film Festival, Nowness Asia, and the United States Embassy in Beijing; his 2016 short film, “City of Hands,” won Best Documentary Short at the North Bay Art and Film Festival. Nathaniel’s other past clients include CNN, South China Morning Post, Nike, the British Council, the World Bank, Sotheby’s, IDEO, and a multitude of other photographers, visual artists, curators, and international organizations. A Fulbright scholar in 2013, and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation fellow for research in 2012, Nathaniel seeks to create work that resonates beyond preconceived cultural boundaries.
Due to the global pandemic, many of us have been stuck inside our homes without the ability to move our bodies. In this dynamic shorts program, watch these characters dance, run, exercise and find creative ways to stay healthy.