Loose Cannons, Inc.[LCI] will have a Celebrate Pittsburgh! benefit June 3, 2012 from 6-8 PM to honor the decades-long support [1968-76] of that city and its inhabitants in helping to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War. Beginning with Shoeshine Boys Project ['68-76} which cared for some 2,500 homeless street-children in eight homes in Saigon & DaNang, on through the Long/ Liem human rights campaign ['90-96] to rescue two former Shoeshine volunteers imprisoned in VN, to the current Loose Cannons effort [2005 - ] to bring attention to, and find a resolution for, the issue of "Agent Orange", Pittsburghers have remained constant in their support. Former VN vet & Steeler Super Bowl Champion Rocky Bleier and LCI co-founder Dick Hughes will co-host the event, a fitting pair to represent the healing process of war as both Bleier & Hughes "served" in VN; Rocky was a draftee into the army, and Dick, a conscientious objector, was a journalist & social worker there. In the 1970s, now back home, they met together in a campaign, with Dick's brother, Joe, to raise support for Shoeshine Boys, Rocky wearing a "Help Dick Hughes" t-shirt for publicity shots in newspapers. Some forty-plus years later, in 2012, they have reconnected for an evening to Celebrate Pittsburgh! and all the fellow Pittsburghers who have helped over the years. The NYC Project Agent Orange dance group will perform and there will be a Silent Auction of sports celebrity materials & other items. Friends & family are invited to join in this event marking the continuity of decades of healing & ongoing humanitarian work.
Natalia Duong is a Vietnamese-American dancer, choreographer and recent graduate of Stanford University. What follows is her story of why she cares about Agent Orange, as expressed through Project Agent Orange, an effort to raise awareness of the impact of Agent Orange through dance and movement.
I never crawled when I was learning how to locomote: I sat, I waddled and I danced. From birth, I relied on a kinesthetic awareness to communicate. At age three, I changed the landscape of my surroundings by carving my way through the kitchen in tap shoes. From then on, I developed a keen interest in using movement to engage communities, across borders and generations, particularly when the limits of linguistics were present.
As a first generation Vietnamese American, I grew up with stories of war woven into the air of my household. These stories were the ones that would eventually shape my body’s architecture. These stories would skew the lens through which I saw all war.
After visiting a peace village in Vietnam in 2007 and using song and movement to connect with the members of the community, my curiosity about Agent Orange bloomed. I was simultaneously inspired by the brave stories of individuals living with disabilities and greatly disheartened by the inertia towards making the environmental and social changes needed to support a growing community of people who are affected by Agent Orange. The movement towards healing a community hadn’t yet begun.
Consequently, I began Project Agent Orange in 2011. It is a movement collective that investigates the lingering effects of Agent Orange through the use of movement and dance. Together, we use our performances to bring awareness to the lingering effects of the herbicide while educating a broad range of audiences — from art enthusiasts to social activists — about the environmental and humanitarian concerns associated with chemical warfare. The artistic format of the work provides a forum to discuss the complicated questions with people who might not otherwise know about Agent Orange. Our goal is to connect with people on a somatic level so that individuals not only know about the effects of Agent Orange, but also empathize with the issues at play.
As a choreographer, I am interested in using movement to examine how war is inherited through the body. As dioxin has become concentrated in the groundwater and bloodlines of communities, the number of people being affected by the chemical is increasing rather than decreasing. Children are literally — physically — inheriting a war they never lived; living with an injury they never incurred. Project Agent Orange tells a story about the physical embodiment of the proliferation of war. As such, it is a story that is best told through movement, as it is through the bodies of survivors that trauma due to chemical warfare continues to thrive. Agent Orange is a microcosmic example of a human’s ability to alter life for years beyond any one person’s lifetime.