From Martial Arts to Meditation

Dana Tai Soon Burgess brings his background in martial arts and mindfulness to the art of dance.

Dana Tai Soon Burgess, 48, is a choreographer whose troupe, The Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company, has been a part of the Washington, DC, cultural landscape for almost 25 years. Washington Post dance critic Sarah Kaufman describes him as a “national dance treasure.” Burgess serves as the Chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance at George Washington University and is the first choreographer-in- residence at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Growing up inSanta Fe, New Mexico, Burgess was a competitive martial artist for eight years, an experience that cultivated in him a lifelong dedication to meditation and mindfulness.

Why were you drawn to martial arts?

Actually, I told my parents that I wanted to learn to play the piano. A week later, my dad and I were in the car, heading to what I thought would be my first piano lesson. Instead, he dropped me off at a martial arts studio. In retrospect, it’s hilarious. But it was perfect: He knew I was a kid who never stopped moving around, and he knew I was looking for something to connect me to my Asian heritage. He was trying to put the pieces together, to figure out what kind…

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