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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waters of Tibet


My first performance of a Tibetan dance is now under my belt!  After having worked tirelessly on keeping my upper body held and yet my knees very loose - such a difficult combination for a classically trained dancer! - I feel that I've finally had a taste of this unique and beautiful style.  I have yet a long way to go to get anywhere near fluent in it, as most dancers who take ballet class regularly know well, it's a real challenge to be relax the body and be "down" rather than tense and lift "up" on a strong beat.  

This dance was quite special for me, as through my research to prepare for the dance I was able to learn an intriguing aspect of Tibetan culture.  As you might have heard, water is scarce these days in the region, but the relationship Tibetans have with water has a quasi-religious quality.  The dance, whose title translates best to "Wellspring" (源), is a celebration of this wonderful element that gives us the gift of life.  And yet, it is to be revered with seriousness, given the destructive quality it can have when it overwhelms that to which it gave life.  

The piece's movements reflect this relationship with water: The opening is serious, almost dirgelike.  This soon progresses to frolicking and then gleeful splashing, finally giving way to serene contemplation.  

Not only have I begun to internalize a new style of movement, I am widening my cultural vocabulary.  I look forward to this every time I learn a new dance, even if it's in a style I have studied before.  And, I find it personally fitting that I dance a piece about the wonder of water, as "Ocean" (海) is my middle name in Chinese.  It's true that there are no oceans in Tibet, but the urbanity and yet mystical quality of water itself is worthy of reverence. 
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