To fully understand the impact of the Vietnam War and the splintering emotions it brings to bear, there are many places one need look: To the battlefield, of course, but also to the campuses, living rooms, cemeteries, and the dark landscape of a veterans' mind. Into Sunlight, a dance based on a book by Washington Post associate editor David Maraniss, is a sweeping survey of all those settings.
Sarah Halzack, The Washington Post
David Maraniss' Vietnam War-era book, They Marched Into Sunlight, encompasses two days in October 1967, weaving together the ambush of a battalion of American soldiers in Vietnam, an anti-war protest turned violent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the federal officials' response in Washington DC. The dance, Into Sunlight, premiered both at UW-Madison in 2011, as well as at Hofstra University. At each location it served as the centerpiece for an interdisciplinary conference examining the effects of war and violence on the individual and social body from Vietnam to our present era. The perspectives of History, Psychology, Political Science, Trauma Studies, Anthropology, Visual Art, and Theatre were all additions to the dialogue about the impact of war. After every performance, audiences have been engaged in discussions, expressing their emotions, concerns, interpretations, and ideas for action.
Later performances in 2012 included Georgetown University, 92nd St Y, StonyBrook University's Festival of the Moving Body, Florence Gould Hall, and at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School, where it was the focal point of extensive residency. The work was also performed at Westpoint Military Academy and at the Walter Reed Military Hospital. In 2015, the company was invited to perform Into Sunlight in three cities in Vietnam in honor of the 20th anniversary of renewed diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States. Robin Becker Dance was awarded two National Endowment of the Arts Awards in 2016 and 2017 to bring Into Sunlight to military centers across the country.
Currently, a Dance Education curriculum is in development to bring Into Sunlight as an interdisciplinary course of study to school systems in the United States.
The piece has received standing ovations from traditional audiences, students and faculty, veterans and their families, and has garnered feature stories in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio. Reviews from the Washington Post and Ballet-Dance Magazines, among others, have confirmed the reconciling, healing effects of the dance.
Into Sunlight has been recognized by Centerpoint Now, a bi-annual publication of the World Council of People for the United Nations (WCPUN). An article about the Into Sunlightproject was a part of the September 2013issue. WCPUN is a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating partnerships across international sectors which promote awareness and implementation of the United Nation’s goals. The World Policy Institute also featured Into Sunlight on their blog on two different occasions.
A documentary film about Into Sunlight, directed by Ron Honsa of Moving Pictures NY, premiered at the Lincoln Center Dance on Camera Festival in 2017. The film has been screened at Jacob’s Pillow, the 39thWine Country Film Festival in Sonoma, CA, the BLOW-UP International Arthouse Film Festival in Chicago, and at the Chelsea Film Festival in New York City. Into Sunlight-– The Film combines the dance performance, historic events in Vietnam, student protests on the University of Wisconsin campus, and recent footage of the company in Vietnam into a powerful documentary. Director Ron Honsa weaves choreography and archival footage with interviews with Robin Becker, David Maraniss and key figures from the book.
The choreography for Into Sunlight draws upon Robin's experience and practice as an authorized teacher of Continuum, a field of movement education that is an exploratory study of the body as a fluid system, connected through fluid resonance with all of life. Continuum offers an understanding and experience of the body as movement, rather than form, opening pathways of vital connection. Robin and her dancers work with Continuum as a foundational process underlying technical training, choreographic processes, rehearsal, and performance. As a result, performances have an extraordinary impact on audiences. Veterans in particular have been deeply moved by the experience, expressing gratitude for being honored in this way.
When I read They Marched Into Sunlight, David Maraniss' powerful book on the Vietnam War, I immediately responded of timelessness and universality of the these and events he documented. I was deeply moved by the integrity, honor and commitment of both those who fought the was, and those who fought against it. I embarked upon the creation of this dance, Into Sunlight, hoping that the universal language of the body would reflect and offer the same sense of healing that David's words evoked in me.
The dancers and I became immersed in the lives and events described in David's book. It has been an honor to invoke the spirit of those who lived these events, and to offer our embodies response and appreciation of them through dance.
This work is dedicated to the 60 men of the Black Lions Battalion who lost their lives in Vietnam on Oct 17, 1967.
Robin Becker, Artistic Director
Arthur Solari, Music Director
Chris Lastovicka, Composer
Burke Wilmore, Lighting Designer
John Goodwin, Projection
Cheryl McCarron, Costume Designer