My-Linh Le gracefully moves between typically disparate worlds. At her day job, she practices law. But in her spare time, she choreographs groundbreaking performances that blend ballet with Oakland’s own turf dancing — meanwhile, dismantling cultural boundaries within the world of performance.
Raised in San Jose, Le attended UCLA to study theater, performance art, and activism, and then went on to UC Davis School of Law. Now, she works as a legal fellow at an environmental nonprofit. She’s also the first female member of the Bay Area popping crew Playboyz Inc.
Le started to learn both ballet and popping (a street dance style similar to turf dancing) ten years ago, when she was in high school. Eventually, she started to let the two styles merge in her own performance, and she realized that the resulting fluidity looked a lot like turf dancing, which can often be seen performed on BART or in the streets. That’s when she got the idea for Mud Water Theatre Project, her dance company that puts ballet and turf dancers on the same stage.The Mudwater website describes the project as, in part, an attempt to “traverse the barriers of understanding embedded in class/cultural differences, by facilitating honest dialogue through thought-provoking artistic expression and storytelling.”
After a long recruiting process, Le finally convinced twelve dancers to join the company last year. And with help from a Kickstarter campaign, she put on three performances that received standing ovations.
Le is currently fundraising to put on even more performances, slated to hit the stage this fall. Mudwater Theatre will also be doing a run of short performances at the University of San Francisco from November 17–19.
Editor’s Note: This story has been modified from its original version. We omitted statements that were incorrectly attributed to My-Linh Le.