Transcultural Dance

After attending the Celebrating Tagore event on Thursday December 6, I was amazed by the level of professionalism that the dancers had. The dancers were extremely convincing in their visual portray of Tagore’s poetry and I was able to understand the meaning of the poem without understanding the language it was written in. I have had similar experiences like this during the semester, such as the Japanese benshi performance earlier in the year. So it was not a new experience to witness language demonstrated through art. However, what was very different about this performance was the fact that not only was the culture being translated, but the music was as well. While watching the dance, I noticed that the music sounded strange for the theme of the performance. It did not sound ethnically Indian, but rather had heavy Jazz influence to it. As someone who has been involved in music for the majority of my life I found this translation to be extremely interesting and entertaining. Normally a dance is matched to the form of music that it was developed for, but when a different type of music is applied to the same dance it creates a noticeable gap between cultures. It is clear that there are differences between cultures, but it may not be clear what the difference always is.

I feel that this difference in musical culture from visual culture enhanced the experience and made me more aware of my differences from other cultures. In a way, it made me feel foreign to the situation, not the other way around. I realized that my culture did not belong. It is extremely difficult to find situations in your native country in which you are the one that does not belong. While there was some universality to the performance, mostly from the expressions and moves of the dancers, there was an odd mixture of foreign and native influence. This mixture was by no means a negative aspect of the night, in fact, it made it all the more enjoyable. It is not very often that I am able to experience a foreign culture interspersed with elements of my own.

Justin Randall

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