Curtain Up

October 26, 2008

During this election season,
every American over 18 is trying to decide what or who is best for our country. While I hope you all go out and vote, I also want to say: Let’s keep our eyes open to the rest of the world. In the dance field we’re fortunate that what we do is universal. We are able to understand—or at least appreciate—a dancer across the globe because we understand the body, the dancing, and the choices.


Each corner of the globe has its own dance traditions, and these traditions grow and change as they encounter other traditions. In this issue, our Global Issue, we concentrate on those cross-influences.


Akram Khan is, perhaps unintentionally, at the forefront of this movement of cross-influences. His dances are an exciting mix of the classical Indian form of kathak and contemporary dance. In our interview, he recounts how he came upon this fusion—he calls it confusion—by allowing his body to make its own decisions. This organic mix was the foundation for an international career that has spanned working with his own company to making a duet with superstar Sylvie Guillem to working with dancers from the National Ballet of China.


One tradition that’s even older than kathak is the Aboriginal dances in Australia. Bangarra Dance Theater mixes these stomping movements with contemporary techniques to tap into the creation myths that Aborigines call The Dreaming. Read Deborah Jones’ “Dancing the Dawn” to find out why Bangarra calls itself both the oldest and youngest dance company in Australia.


Another old/young art form, bhangra, is sweeping college campuses. It’s got driving energy, a heavy beat, and acrobatic formations. Govind Rangrass, founder of the Yale bhangra team, tells us how the folk dance has traveled from villages in Punjab to the high-octane annual Bhangra Blowout in Washington, DC, where thousands of students cheer wildly for each other’s dances.


Obviously, covering dance around the globe is a tall order for one issue. So we chose 13 dancers to represent the many routes possible to arriving at a global style. As Akram Kahn says, “The more you learn about other cultures, the more you learn about yourself.” It’s a simple truth that has a thousand ways of being made real. For instance, Aparna Sindhoor, whose choreography graces our cover, allows western aerial dance to influence her classical Bharata Natyam roots.


We each have our own roots, but we can branch out to tangle with other parts of the globe, other cultures, other dance cultures. And becoming a citizen of the world doesn’t make you any less of a patriot.