During the 1990’s, highly-acclaimed choreographer/cultural activist pearl ubungen’s investigations of place/site/memory re-invigorated the field of community-based arts, re-negotiated the critical space between social activism and art making and placed cross-cultural, intergenerational work at the center of the art-making process. A native of San Francisco and a fourth generation Pilipina American, ubungen created many works stemming from the experience of subsequent waves of Pilipino Diaspora and her interest in cultural studies, interdisciplinarity, and in-depth community partnership.
As the recipient of many commissions and awards, ubungen toured nationally and internationally with her former company Pearl Ubungen Dancers and Musicians (PUD&M). Her groundbreaking work with communities originated in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods and expanded to many diverse locations including the Frogtown neighbhorhood in St. Paul, Minnesota as part of ubungen’s McKnight National Fellowship in Dance and to Sheboygan, Wisconsin where she worked for over two years with the Hmong, Mexican American and Dutch and German communities, commissioned by the Kohler Arts Center through the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Arts Partners Program.
From 2002-2006, ubungen designed and implemented a BFA in Performance at Naropa University. The innovative curriculum centered critical theory and cultural studies while integrating conservatory-style training in dance, theater and voice with meditation and contemplative practices.
ubungen began to meditate at the SF Shambhala Meditation Center in 1989. Over the past ten years she has trained deeply in Tibetan Buddhist practices and is a vajrayana student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, lineage holder of Shambhala Buddhism. ubungen teaches meditation and is a Director of Shambhala Training. Her art making/performance projects are infused with the view and practice of the dharma. She is also a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method and has been refining/articulating language to describe the interconnectedness of body/mind somatic work and formal meditation practices.
Ms. ubungen continues to evolve an embodied artistic praxis that intertwines the view and practice of meditation with improvisation and composition. ubungen is desirous to find/create/support balance between academic rigor, textuality and extremes of “higher” education with the provocation of lively embodied practices and broader questions of access, mobility/fluidity, and the infrastructure of the built environment. ubungen is particularly interested in the subtle body geography of San Francisco and is currently developing: sf bArdo project: Sacred City. sf bArdo project weaves Buddhist teachings on death, impermanence and bardo or “the space in-between’” with striking manifestations of change and impermanence throughout the city’s internal and external landscapes.
Ms. ubungen directs West Coast Performance Works, a collaborative, project-based group that revels in the interstitial, drawing from San Francisco’s radical heritage of innovation, counterculture and diversity.
“She claims identity through an honest nexus of conflicting impulses, not 60’s dogma or happy myths of multiculturalism…Ubungen makes dances that reflect an authentic urban landscape. She realizes the motivation for artistic creation comes as much from the community as the individual…” (SF Weekly)