On Monday, April 8th, Moving Dialogs’ One World event will take place inside the Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center. Our Moving Reflections contributor for this event, the esteemed Dr. C. S’thembile West, offers some initial thoughts to ponder prior to this public “conversation”:
“Dancing bodies communicate on multiple levels with respect to kinesis,
physicality, emotionality, technique, nuance and insinuation. The
body contains and transmits cultural texts that are specific. In short,
the body is like a manuscript with multiple chapters, each nuanced by
particular life conditions and experiences. The dancing body is indelibly
marked by culture, the sum-total way of life of a specific group, as well
as nuances from persistent cultural encounters with difference.
Culturally grounded worldviews and perspectives shape not only the
protocols for dance in diverse cultures, but also determine, to some
extent, who moves, how she/he moves and the purpose/s for which
she or he moves. Hence, dancing bodies are ethnic texts, gender
texts, political and social texts. Each communicates in ways that
are sometimes proscribed by protocols, customs, idiosyncrasies, life
conditions and events. Despite formal structures stipulated by cultural
grounding, how a body performs or moves is inevitably unpredictable,
although individual nuance and form may reflect cultural roots.
However, when diverse cultural bodies come into contact with one
another, a cultural collision of sorts, as has occurred in varying locales
– cities, towns, countrysides – overlapping cultural texts appear on the
surface of dancing bodies. Borrowing, from multiple sources, like trying
on identities, people and funky clothing, has never been as problematic
as the failure to identify and acknowledge resources, especially as it
relates to groups that are marginalized in the U.S. and in the world
If, indeed, so-called Western forms, like ballet and modern dance,
are continually held in hierarchal relationship to styles generated by
marginalized groups – classical African dance, hip-hop, salsa, bachata,
capoeira, bharatanatyam and kutraputi – then, equity in the arts,
specifically in the dance arts, will remain an unwieldy phantom. On
the other hand, if dancers and spectators learn to engage colliding
cultural texts with imagination, interest, wonder and excitement, then
we might just find inspirations and modalities that not only change our
deepest truths, but also contribute to altered and more diverse ways of
interpreting and thereby, engaging the world.
In my commitment to engage dancing bodies, I reaffirm my commitment
to self-development. I trust that you feel similarly.
Yours in dance life,
Hotep and rainbows,
— C. S’thembile West
Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall,
78 E. Washington St.