Dance can shape culture, and it can also influence the way people see their societies. The music of India, Africa and South-East Asia offers a glimpse at what the world might look like if we let our culture define it. In South-East Asia, dance has been described as the music for people who come from a different country, race or culture. In Nigeria, the music offers people a way to find harmony amidst conflict.
In South-East Asia, the music offers people a way to find harmony amidst conflict.
In South-East Asia, there was a time when African-style dance did not exist. When people migrated to places like Malaysia in the late 1800s and the rest of the Malay Islands in the late 1800s, they found indigenous dance not only in the streets, but also in the houses of their grandparents. The music of those days inspired the way people spoke, danced and believed as well as, in many areas, the way they did business.
In the 1930s, the British colonial regime of their native islands, introduced to India dance to attract the masses (like in the movie I Want to Dance). But by the time they were forced to leave the country in 1947 following the partition, the colonial culture had faded away, leaving only their own music and dance to continue as tradition.
Similarly, in South-East Asia, the sound of their own dance is a reminder to people of their cultural heritage, and their own past. The music is just one part of the message. The other part of the message is how people live today, using music to communicate their values and hopes.
For instance, the “I Want to Dance” video was released on July 1 in an attempt to make the world aware of the plight of women in Southeast Asia. At any time and in any place, we can feel the weight of the world on our neck and our hips because our culture is at the mercy of cultural forces. If we do not stand firm in our values, we will be forever lost without a voice.
“If we do not stand firm in our values, we will be forever lost without a voice.”
We can only hope that the international dance community comes together to give dance its rightful place. In doing so, we can inspire more people to try new genres – and bring back old ones – so that we can bring dance back to where it all began.
This is a guest post by Akshaya K. Gupta
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