by Beverly Mislang, Individual Giving Manager
Nancy Wang has been a part of the Workshop family since our early days. The Workshop’s founder, Gloria Unti, mentored Nancy in dance, choreography, and satirical theater. Today, she sits on the Workshop’s Advisory Council. She recently opened up to us about how she met Gloria (her “west coast mama”), her storytelling performance organization, and her advice to young performers.
Performing Arts Workshop: How did you learn about Performing Arts Workshop? How did you get involved?
Nancy Wang: When I got to San Francisco in 1968 I began looking for a dance teacher. I went to an art festival of some sort and saw a troupe of diverse dancers/actors doing skits. They were from the Performing Arts Workshop. I loved what they did and looked into their classes, then at the YMCA on Geary, and signed up immediately! The rest is history! I studied under Gloria, began to teach for her, dance in her company and eventually when I met my husband, brought him into the fold as well.
The Workshop: What inspires you to support Performing Arts Workshop? What makes Performing Arts Workshop special or important to you?
NW: I will always be grateful to the Performing Arts Workshop, i.e. Gloria Unti. She gave me the tools, the skills, the support and encouragement I needed to fulfill a lifelong desire and passion to become a dancer. I started late. I was 28 but Gloria saw the raw material and gave me everything I know and use today in my own art form. Performing Arts Workshop became my family and Gloria my west coast mama!
The Workshop: Describe the importance of arts education in three words.
NW: Meaningful, holistic, joyful
The Workshop: What do you wish other people knew about arts education?
NW: How vitally important the arts are for self-development, personal growth and creating a deeper more well-rounded individual who will be able to give more to our needy society. Artists teaching the arts are providing people a valuable way to be in this world that brings joy, evokes deep conversation, and allows for people to view the world in a different way, to create from nothing to make something.
The Workshop: What’s Eth-Noh-Tec?
NW: It’s my (along with my husband Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo) Asian American kinetic storytelling performance non-profit founded in 1982. We tell Asian ancient folktales and myths and contemporary Asian American stories with movement, music and the spoken word. We are interdisciplinary and our stories always have a value to impart. We travel the world with our work. Our mission is to build cultural bridges that celebrate diversity and create compassionate communities through stories that reveal our common truths.
We have award winning dvds and cds. We were inducted into the ‘Circle of Excellence’ by the National Storytelling Network, and awarded the ‘Artist of the Year’ by National Young Audiences. We perform in schools, libraries, colleges, conferences, museums, theater series and produce our own concerts and programs such as ‘Salon! You’re On!’, The Orcas StoryFest, the Nu Wa Cultural Storytelling Exchange in Asia, and most recently produced the world’s first Asian American StoryFest presenting in all these programs the nationally renown tellers of our time.
We have had the privilege to perform at the Clinton and the Obama Inaugural Celebrations. Most exciting is our new training program to pass on our works and our style of telling to the next generation.
The Workshop: What advice would you give to someone with a big case of performance anxiety?
NW: Like I said to my little ones at Performing Arts Workshop, shake your hands quickly! Let the nervousness flow out of those fingertips. And I used to ask: “Who are the performers? The costumes or you?” It still applies today, only I say, “Don’t get in the way of the story, or the dance, or the poem – that’s what’s important and on stage. You are simply the messenger.”
The Workshop: In middle school, what was your favorite kind of music? Who were your favorite musicians?
We’re going way back to the 50’s. Big time Motown! My sister was always practicing piano so I also loved all the classical music as the background to homework. I even gathered all the girls in the neighborhood, passed out scarves, put on the classical station and we would dance stories we made up in my living room.
The Workshop: Who is your favorite author or poet?
NW: No favorites. I read all over the place. I love Rumi though.
The Workshop: What is one art form you wished you learned as a kid?
NW: Since I eventually learned dance…I suppose gymnastics…or singing …or drawing…any art form!!
Thanks for sharing, Nancy!
If you, or someone you know, were part of the Workshop’s early years, we’d love to hear your stories! Email Beverly at email@example.com.