A recent performance found me in a Dai group piece called "Beautiful Flowers" or "女兒花". The music reflects the evolving traditional-modern push-pull of Chinese ethnic minority dances: one hears the whispers of Dai ladies in their native language and the sounds of running water, then an acoustic guitar reminiscent of Spanish flamenco. Eventually the audience is jarred into a screeching electric guitar solo that would make "Guitar Hero: Dai Edition" proud, if it existed.
I recall my mother, who was born in China, mention that she had never seen Dai dances before my first performance and swore they were an invention of modern society. How tenderly ironic that I, the American born daughter, would come to share a slice of Chinese culture with her. Every time I watch or rehearse a Dai dance, I am reminded of how much our understanding of culture is limited by our own experience and curiosity.