KATHMANDU, Feb 24: The small stage in Lalitpur Secondary School in Lagankhel, Patan, was overcrowded with enthusiastic school students and dancers from Spectrum Dance Theatre, yet the lot managed to make enough room from themselves to hop, stretch and turn around.
A company of eight dancers and staff from the Seattle-based Spectrum Dance Theater were interacting with the students, teaching them some dance steps, as a part of the DanceMotion USA cultural exchange program, for which the company had come to Nepal on Saturday.
The student of Lalitpur Secondary School performed some traditional dances for the company while the company also performed at the school in an outreach program held on Sunday.
“We performed a traditional dance and then volunteered to learn some hip-hop style steps from the visiting dancers,” shared Ina Acharya, a sixth grader.
As much as the students were excited about the whole dance exchange, the company dancers were also ecstatic to see the students. “This was a fantastic start to our program,” said Donald Byrd who is the Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater. “The students inspired us,” he added.
A partnership between the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the US State Department, the program is an exchange of cultures through dance and the arts. After visiting schools in Kathmandu and Pokhara and working with local dancers as well as artistic organizations, the group will also be touring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The company, comprising Donald Byrd, Ty Alexander Cheng, Vincent Michael Lopez, Derek Crescenti, Jade Curtis, Donald Jones, Shadou Mintrone, Kate Monthy, Stacie Williams, and Kate Ashworth is diverse with dancers from various disciplines of dance ranging from ballet to hip-hop.
“Beautiful costumes, gestures and different sounds, these three elements in the traditional dances performed by the students were very unfamiliar yet interesting for me,” remarked Ty who was surprised to see that even little boys were performing with such zeal. “When I was a kid, dancing was an alternate lifestyle. Boys who danced used to get outcast-ed and put into a certain category,” he shared.
“It’s remarkable these students are learning about the diversity of culture through dances and not just studying about it in the classroom. They’re actually embodying the aspects of their culture. We don’t have anything like it in the USA,” Donald added.
The rhythms, the costumes and the enthusiasm of the students impressed the group. “It’s great to see people who really want to experience dancing,” commented Kate Ashworth, the Technical Director for the company.
Four workshops at different venues will be held in Kathmandu this week. “The workshop will be an insight into American culture,” said Jade Curtis.
Summarizing the aesthetic of the project, Donald said, “These workshops are a way of sharing who we are, not saying ‘You should be like us.’ It’s also about giving these dance artists the experiences of a different culture,” he continued.
Although different in styles, the art of dancing was successful in surpassing cultural and age differences and bringing two contrasting cultures in a rhythmic sync.
The program will culminate with a public performance at Naach Ghar on March 1. Seats to the show are available to the general public on a first come-first serve basis.