PURE Reflections Q & A

Q. What is PURE Reflections: Beauty Re-Imagined?

A. It is an hour-long dance-theater show that was first conceptualized by Kaeshi Chai in 2009 and created in collaboration with the members of PURE NYC to explore body image. The show focuses on how advertising from the media and societal pressures can make us feel negatively about our bodies, and how some end up turning to addiction as a short-term coping mechanism. The show traces the journey of three children growing into adults and the struggle to accept both the light and dark sides of ourselves to arrive at wholeness.

Q. Is the show difficult to learn?

A. The show contains different roles of varying difficulty. Dancers are cast according to their level of experience so everyone remains challenged and engaged. A lot of the show is improvised, using pantomime and dance-theater techniques. The subject matter is very powerful so emphasis is placed right from the beginning on making sure that everyone understands the overarching story and the meaning of scene.

Q. What is the story that the performers must convey?

A. PURE Reflections tells the story that we have all experienced, growing up in a culture where TV, movies, magazines -- even our own friends and families -- tell us our bodies must be "perfect", and judges us cruelly for not being flawless. The story shows how, when we are young children, we discover The Mirror and enjoy learning about ourselves (this is the "Angel" role). But as we get older, and learn from the media and those around us, we feel that we need to be "better" in some way (thinner, taller, shorter, prettier, etc.) in order to be loved and valued. We let these criticisms and judgments into our minds, and they become a "demon" inside of us (this is the "Demon" role). Soon these demon voices from inside us become very strong and compel us at first to "improve" ourselves, but the demon lacks compassion and goes too far, often driving us to injure ourselves to become "beautiful" (some people be anorexic or bulimic, some work out too much, some get plastic surgery -- and others numb the pain with drugs and alcohol).

Whether we keep trying to do what the Demon demands, or even fight against it, the Demon still gets stronger -- until we finally realize we can no longer dance to the Demon's tune; we must turn away from the idea of "perfection," and finally let go and collapse. At this point, the Demon loses its power. We close our eyes to the Mirror and we are able to reconnect with our true beautiful selves, deep inside. (This is the Ocean scene).

We connect with others on the same journey, and rediscover our bodies through movement -- NOT the mirror. When we are stronger, we can return to the mirror, and once again find our Healthy Reflection/Angel -- but we also find the Demon. We learn, however, that even though the Demon had hurt us, it is still part of ourselves, and we must connect with it as well. And then we celebrate! :-)

Q. What are the exact roles, and how should the show be cast?

A. The show is made up of eight separate roles. They are:

  1. Mother Goddess
  2. Father Sky
  3. Selves
  4. Angels Yin
  5. Demons Yang
  6. Dark matter
  7. Ocean Spirits
  8. Ocean Goddess

In addition to these specific roles, all dancers will perform three group choreographies together at the end of the show. The show is cast according to three main considerations: the dancer’s availability (how many rehearsals she or he can attend), their acting ability (certain roles call for more or less acting), and their dancing ability (certain roles call for more or less dancing ability). Please refer to the “cast roles” section of the Preparation Guide for more details on each individual role, to discover how many dancers are necessary for each role, and the level of ability/time commitment recommended for each part.

Q. What is the costuming?

A. We have the costuming for all the roles except for the last scene. Any dancer appearing in the Sun Spiral, Foundation and/or Healthy Reflections MUST have the signature PURE white costumes with blue veils. These dancers do NOT have to be in any other roles in the show. And dancers in the other roles are not required to be a part of these dances if they do not have the costume, or if they do not know choreography for a particular dance.

Q. How much time will this production take?

A. PURE Reflections works best in a format that allows for a week’s worth of rehearsals, beginning on a weekend and ending with a show on either a Saturday or Sunday. We also recommend planning to have at least 2-3 months in advance to market and promote your show, raise any necessary funds, and conduct at least one preparatory workshop with your show participants. This timeline includes rehearsals that run for each day of the week, generally starting around 11 a.m. and lasting until 8 p.m. or later. Rehearsals are structured so that the entire cast need not be present for each individual date, however, allowing participants to still be in the show even if they cannot attend every rehearsal. Different roles will have different rehearsal requirements, but everyone should plan to attend, at the very least, at least one rehearsal the first weekend, and generally Wednesday night, Thursday, and Friday as well as full rehearsal days the next weekend.

Q. Do we need musicians?

A. No. Although we have performed live with singers Kristin Hoffmann and Tamar-Kali as well as the PURE drummers, all of the music is available in pre-recorded form.

Q. Do we need special lighting?

A. No. Basic red, blue and gold lighting can add atmosphere to the show, but is not absolutely necessary. Since we project colored images onto a screen behind us, that can provide some of the atmospheric lighting.

Q. How much does the show cost?

A. We recommend that sponsors plan on budgeting approximately $1000-$2000 in order to produce the PURE Reflections show. This budget covers show rental space, rental of rehearsal space, marketing materials, and crew fees. It is important to remember that none of the facilitators or out of town dancers are charging for their services; they come to perform and direct the show on a voluntary basis. The only cost for the facilitators is the airfare to the show site and, if possible, housing during the week of the intensive. Out of town dancers pay their own airfare and are responsible for their own housing and food. Out of town dancers may be given a supplemental gift after the show, depending upon the amount of show revenue, whether the costs have been covered, and whether the sponsors decide to do so.

Q. How will the performers benefit from participating in the show?

A. This show affects performers on a number of different levels. At the most basic, they have a unique opportunity to perform in a theater stage show alongside dancers from around the world. They will learn more about stage presence and emoting while dancing as they work through acting exercises in order to create their individual character. They can spend a week training with a master dancer. As they work to develop their role, the show may move dancers to undertake a personal journey of reflection and growth. Some dancers say that the show has provided them with an opportunity to heal. Overall there are many benefits to participating in the intensive week long experience, and each dancer will find that it is an incredible unique opportunity.

Q. Do I need to be a member of PURE to participate?

A. No you do not. In 2014, the PURE Reflections show was the ONLY project that was ever brought to Mexico City that united many members of different schools and enabled them to build community and foster friendships in a shared common goal.