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PERFORMANCE ART REVIEW : Kwong Explores ‘Centerfield’

The emotional core of performance artist Dan Kwong’s “Secrets of the Samurai Centerfielder,” seen Thursday at Highways in Santa Monica, is a series of slides depicting his family’s emigration to the United States and subsequent internment during World War II.

Around that story, Kwong provides a sprawling, discursive, sometimes fiercely moving account of his mixed Asian heritage and experience of racism as revealed in his love and pursuit of the great American pastime--baseball.

Kwong was most appealing in his vulnerability, most striking in his dance movements and most incisive in his satiric commentary about internalizing oppression.

Still, the young artist seemed essentially an emerging talent who has not yet found his own voice. He explored a number of personalities, not all of which contributed dramatic impact or structural value. Nor did he always resist the temptation to editorialize, as if not fully trusting his powerful material or the intelligence and emotional capability of his audience.

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He essentially ignored developing aspects of his Chinese heritage until the closing section, which introduced his reactions to the student democratic movement that culminated in the bloodbath at Tien An Men Square in Beijing.

His worst miscalculation here--besides a shifting focus--was haranguing the audience to remember the news photo of the lone man who stopped the line of invading Peoples Liberation Army tanks dead in their tracks.

Anyone who saw that picture is as likely to forget it as to forget the face of his own mother.

“Secrets” will be repeated at Highways tonight, and Oct. 5-7 and 14 and 15.

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