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Friday, July 26, 2013

DanceMotion USA 2013 in Review:
Spectrum Dance Theatre in South Asia


by Sophie Shackleton

Since 2010, BAM has produced DanceMotion USA, a program funded by the US Department of State to promote diplomacy and cultural exchange through dance. This year, we sent four contemporary American dance companies to represent the United States on artistic missions in four regions around the world. Using dance as a language, they forged lifelong connections—both artistically and personally—with the artists and audiences they met during their travels.

The dancers were our eyes and ears on tour, sharing videos, photos, and blog posts as they traveled. Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature highlights from each of the four companies’ journeys on the BAM blog, starting with Seattle-based Spectrum Dance Theater, who brought their diverse styles and visionary theatricality to South Asia.


Their tour started in Nepal, where Spectrum discovered b-boy and b-girl culture was thriving (check out these moves!) alongside traditional dance customs. Company member Ty Alexander Cheng  reflected on the power of dance and cultural diplomacy after being impacted by the students in his workshops, and the dancers saw the Himalayas for the first time. The local audience in Kathmandu went wild when Spectrum performed Nepali traditional dance during their final performance in the country.


The company arrived in Bangladesh during the hartal strikes. The friendship of their fellow Bangladeshi artists drowned out politics—over the course of a week, lasting friendships formed with the members of Shadhona, one of the most established companies in Dhaka with whom Spectrum led a collaborative residency. Spectrum visited the amazing JAAGO school, started by a young Bangladeshi to use education to alleviate poverty, and met Rafiq (aka Robbi), whose unique interpretations of Michael Jackson and Justin Beiber enthralled viewers around the world. One Bangladeshi photographer shared his beautiful photos of the dance workshops at Shadhona’s studio, and 17-year old Lamia wrote a poetic reflection on her week in residence with the company. The dancers were noticeably changed—dancer Shadou Mintrone’s moving post about saying goodbye ‘to her Bangladesh family’ after ten days of master classes and collaborations showed us the deep connections that were made.



Sri Lanka brought photos of sea turtles and beaches and snake charmers in the fishing town of Galle, where Spectrum led workshops with local students. Then there were tuk-tuks and traditional Kandyan costumes in Colombo, where the company collaborated with the renowned Chitrasena Dance Company. A young Sri Lankan media collective made a whole webisode about the American dancers. And in a final incredible performance, the group united dancers from both Sinhalese and Tamil groups to develop a Sri-Lankan-American fusion dance—a feat that even gained some buzz in the American dance community.


More from Spectrum Dance Theatre in South Asia:

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