The World Dance Festival: Dancing Across Cultural Borders 2023 is the latest season of a festival that brings together four folk dance traditions from around the world every year.
At first glance, the traditions may seem quite different. But when you slow down, take a deep breath and observe deeply, you start to notice how similar they are. People do similar things around the world and across time ~ because we are people. We have been migrating and trading since we learned to walk, and especially since we learned to use boats, so our traditions are often blends of one another. Our deepest roots can be surprising.
Every culture sings, drums, and dances, and those traditions bind communities together. Before mass media, there wasn’t anything else to do, so everyone participated. A lot of human culture began as religious ritual at home or in the community. Much of those meanings have fallen away, but if you are spiritually inclined, you may still feel them. In fact, dance is one of the ways people transcend their bodies to achieve a spiritual connection.
The beauty of this festival isn’t our differences, it’s our similarities.
World Dance Festival: Dancing Across Cultural Borders 2023
The World Dance Festival: Dancing Across Cultural Borders 2023 features disabled Guinean dancer Sidiki Conde, the Sri Lankan Dance Academy, the Songhee Lee Korean Dance Company, and the Zerd Buryat-Mongolian Ensemble; for Robert Browning Associates and Lotus Music & Dance; at the Manhattan Movement Arts Center in Lincoln Square, Manhattan; on Sunday, October 29, 2023 at 5pm. From $30. $10 livestream. robertbrowningassociates.com 🇬🇳 🇱🇰 🇰🇷 🇲🇳
Each of these artists is steeped in tradition, but also updating the traditions for now.
This Guinean traditional dancer lost the use of his legs as a young teen. That’s more than a physical challenge, because traditional Guinean culture considers disabilities to bring bad luck. When Conde came of age, which is marked by a ceremonial dance, he knew that if didn’t dance with his community, he would be banished forever. His solution came in a dream. He rejoined his community by dancing the traditional steps with his hands.
Conde is a hero of his people, a really inspiring dancer, and a great singer too. He leads New York City’s Tokounou Dance Company. sidikiconde.com 🇬🇳
Sri Lankan Dance Academy
South Asia is a large region with lots of people and many different cultures. Sri Lanka is a big island near the coast of India, that has always had its own unique culture. It’s an Indian Ocean crossroads. Sri Lankan culture is mostly Buddhist with Hindu influences.
The Sri Lankan Dance Academy preserves classical Kandyan dance traditions from the heart of Sri Lanka, in New York City. sldany.org 🇱🇰
Songhee Lee Korean Dance Company
Songhee Lee is a traditional Korean dance master from Pusan, Korea. Korea is a crossroads of East Asia with its own unique traditions. Like many folk arts, Korean traditional dance is often about the relationship between people and nature. lotusmusicanddance.org 🇰🇷
Zerd Buryat-Mongolian Ensemble
This is a group of singers, dancers, and horsehead fiddlers who preserve Mongolia’s nomadic traditions in New York City. The horsehead fiddle, played like a cello, is a symbol of the Mongolian people.
This is a great show. Go see the artists, and tell us on social media what you recognize from your own culture in these cultures.
[Editor “Kiko” Keith ~ I was partly raised in Bangkok, Thailand; but live in the Caribbean, so I recognize parts of my cultures in each of these dance companies.]