In our upcoming show Chotto Desh family traditions and values take center stage. A thrilling adaptation of choreographer Akram Khan's life, Chotto Desh or 'little homeland' spins the tale of Khan's relationship and struggle with heritage and tradition. We turned to our staff to ask them about their own families.
From traditions to folk tales to unbelievable stories, these eight members of the New Vic shed some light on what their history means to them. Do you have any similar stories? Let us know in the comments!
Zack's great-grandparents, Clifford and Ola Mae Yockey, circa 1915.
Growing up, we had a beautiful cedar chest in our living room, with perfectly curved sides and a lid that locked. When I asked where it had come from, I learned the story of my great-grandfather, Clifford Yockey, who fell for my great-grandmother when they were only sixteen. His devotion to her was strong and tireless—they were too young to be married, but he was persistent! He made her that cedar chest—a feat of carpentry you would naturally attribute to a professional—in high school shop class! Later, when he was working in Ohio and she had moved with her family to Buffalo, he would take an overnight ferry the length of Lake Erie every weekend to spend time with her. Naturally, his devotion paid off; and from his story I've learned that in life, as in love, perseverance is everything.
—Zack Ramadan, Digital Marketing Associate
Mia's favorite general store, Twilight!
Every year, my family and I gather with a large group of our family friends and go on a camping trip to North South Lake in Haines Falls, New York, for Labor Day weekend! We hike, bike, play games around the fire, make s'mores (the 'real' way, where you prep the s'mores sandwich and wrap it in tin foil ahead of time, then roast the whole sandwich over the fire so the chocolate melts into the marshmallow - yum!), go kayaking, swim in the lake and more! We've seen bears, deer and other wildlife, and when we need a taste of civilization, we drive out of the campgrounds to our favorite general store, Twilight, for delicious ice cream cones! Through the years, we've hiked underneath waterfalls, gotten lost in the woods, started fires underneath umbrellas in torrential downpours, seen the beautiful constellations that the bright lights of NYC don't allow us to see too often and most importantly, fostered a tradition that we all want to keep in our family for years to come. Our camping weekend has kicked off autumn for my family since I was born, and I could not imagine a year without it. Here's to the great outdoors!
—Mia Sommese, Education Apprentice
Alice's parents, George and Dolly Arias, in 2016.
In our household and in my Ecuadorian parents' generation, there are many proverbs used to get a message across. There's one that my Dad always liked to use when he wanted us to pay attention to his advice. It's "The devil isn't intelligent simply because he is the devil, but because he is very experienced." This is supposed to mean that the advice of an older person should always be listened to, but my siblings and I always thought it meant that my father was a bit of a devil! We always got a kick out of that one. The Arias parents are still smiling to this day with their experience and wealth of knowledge!
—Alice Arias, Controller
Greenwich Village circa 1919
My grandmother was born in Greenwich Village during 1910. When she was a child, a warehouse storing both chemicals and toys caught fire a few weeks before Christmas. She and some of her friends were convinced that Santa stored all of his presents in that warehouse so she decided to save the toys! A friend of hers lived in a building next door so in their Sunday best, they took running leaps over the gap between the roof of the apartment building and the roof of the warehouse. Fortunately they all made it across safely and went downstairs to begin grabbing toys. As far as they knew, the fire was under control but, in fact, fire was still smoldering elsewhere in the building and the fire department was still hard at work!
Luckily they were soon interrupted by a rescue party. The warehouse owners were so grateful that none of the children were hurt that they were allowed to keep the toys they had stolen. That's how my grandmother got her pogostick. She loved that pogostick and was still good at bouncing on one well into her early fifties (thoroughly embarrassing my mom as a child.)
To this day, I still believe it's a bad idea to go inside burning buildings, chemicals and toys should not be stored in the same facility, and the best things in life are gained by taking risks.
—Rachel Goddard, Production Assistant, Accounting
Allison celebrates zhuazhou with her son. He chose the calculator!
On family car trips, we would alternate parents' choice of music with kids' choice of music. Inevitably my parents would always choose Chinese opera or folk songs. One of our favorite songs was actually a theme song to a popular Chinese story about The Butterfly Lovers.
My sister and I are romantics and we loved hearing them tell this story again and again. It's about a willful young woman who was able to become a scholar and find love with her best friend because of the support of her father. It's a popular tale that obviously didn't belong to my parents but in the act of telling it to us over and over, we made it one of our road trip traditions.
Another tradition we celebrate is zhuazhou. In dynastic times, babies often didn't survive their first year, but when they did, Chinese people would celebrate the child's potential and play the "birthday grab" game. Koreans celebrate the same tradition because it goes back quite a long time. It used to be that babies would choose from a selection of more traditional items, like an abacus, a green onion, a peanut, a chicken stick or noodles to represent certain values or virtues. Nowadays, people throw in new objects like a stethoscope, a computer mouse or a microphone to reflect potential occupations.
—Allison Mui Mitchell, Director of Public Relations
Kali celebrates her 18th birthday with her father and grandfather.
My grandfather sold balloons at the opening of the George Washington Bridge. He was a man of few words, so I don't know much beyond that, but the anecdote has always made me feel very connected to New York City.
When his son, my dad, was about 18 years old, the belts in his sister's car broke and the car wouldn't drive forward. It did, however, still work perfectly well in reverse. Instead of calling a tow truck, my father ended up driving the 10 miles home backward—highways and all. After a few weird looks from pedestrians and fellow drivers, he was nearly home when he passed a police car. The officer either didn't notice or didn't believe his eyes and my dad escaped this escapade without a ticket. Someone recently commented that he was quite adept at backing up. His response? "Well, there was this one time that I had a lot of practice..."and I have never underestimated that particular skill!
—Kali DiPippo, Assistant Director of Artistic Programming
Lilaia with her two kids.
Although I'm not Italian, in my (Japanese, Greek and Ukrainian) family we had our own version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes... with sushi! We'd have a huge feast of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, broiled eel, mackerel and my favorite, scallops, at my parents' home on Christmas Eve. Then, I could travel to my in-laws' house for a more traditional Christmas dinner the following day. It worked out really well, as both meals were delicious, but very different. I hope to keep the tradition going so there's always a little Japanese flavor to our Christmas celebrations.
—Lilaia Kairis, Director of Digital Services
Waiting for Christmas!
Each Christmas morning my dad would always go into the living room first. My mom, brother and I waited and waited in the hallway while he "lit the fire so the room would be warm." Finally he would open the door and we'd get to rush in to see what Santa had left us. This was especially hard to do when my Grandma stayed over for Christmas because she took FOREVER to get up and get ready! I can still feel that anticipation and in hindsight, I thankfully learned a lot of patience.
—Rhesa Richards, Assistant to the Executive Vice President and Vice President, Operations
||Want to learn more? Explore an exhilerating evening of dance for the whole family with Chotto Desh!