The VCU department of Dance and Choreography teamed up with the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts to present “Cultural Intimacy in Motion” last week.
The two performances, FLASH and TORO, mixed American Hip-Hop with Japanese Butoh and Indian Kathak with Spanish Flamenco styles of dance in the same performance. Each routine was choreographed and performed by acclaimed artists who engaged in an open discussion with the audience after each performance.
“The theme of cross-cultural dialogue has never been more relevant than right now,” said associate chair of VCU Dance, Lea Marshall. “Dance is a particularly potent art form through which to explore it.”
The executive director of the Modlin Center, Deborah Sommers, said she was also excited to work with VCU to bring “Cultural Intimacy in Motion” to life.
“The idea of this project was to bring together these artists to open the greater discussion of sharing the aspect of our commonalities,” Sommers said. “Also, understanding, respecting and accepting our differences.”
The first performance, FLASH, was created by renowned hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris and interdisciplinary artist Michael Sakamoto, whose hands are in all areas of performance.
Harris and Sakamoto conceived the performance as a dialogue between hip-hop and Japanese Butoh, where they could wed their different cultures and histories.
The performance accomplished this through use of different mediums such as speech, text and video alongside the styles of dance.
TORO, the second ensemble, was modified from the original idea after Flamenco dancer Israel Galván wasn’t able to perform due to a knee injury.
Instead, Akram Khan, an Indian Kathak dancer and choreographer, combined his style with Galván’s into one routine that gave the four-person live band a more active role in the performance.
“(TORO was) a spell that left the audience breathless until the very end, when we leaped to our feet to scream and clap and give them back even a fraction of the magic they shared with us,” Marshall said.
After both performances, the dancers and choreographers held discussions with the audience about the meaning behind the movements and cross-culture collaboration.
“We’ve been considering questions about collaboration that reach far beyond any particular discipline, into the heart of who we are as people shaped by culture,” Marshall said.
Samuel Goodrich, Contributing Writer