Letter to the Editor

By

To the Editor:
I would like to congratulate the participants of the Fall Dance Concert on a truly excellent show. I feel the need, however, to comment on the piece entitled “Goddess Party.”

In it, an American woman lets loose dancing to Indian music, using modified dance moves from Indian and African traditions. She and her friends who joined her on stage threw around themselves various colorful scarves, belts and skirts and appeared to dress themselves up as non-Westerners of no particular heritage. It was, like the music, irrelevant to the performance what culture was being imitated; only the fact that it was “ethnic” and exotic. There was no thought given to the fact that this tradition of parading as the Other for entertainment (think blackface, think “What Makes the Red Man Red” in “Peter Pan”) is a long and insulting one.

In meeting with the choreographers, I learned that the intention was to merely portray a fun dance party and leave race out of it. It was not their intention to “become” anything other than themselves, which I was happy to hear, but the fact remains that going only by the visual, aural and aesthetic experience, this transformation does occur.

In other words, there was a gap, as there so often is, between intention and end result. Lately I’ve experienced too many of these accidental gaps, and it’s upsetting. Assuming that one can merely leave questions of big identity issues like race, sexuality, religion, or tradition out of a piece by ignoring them is a common cause of this.

We, as artists, as intellectuals, as humans, don’t get to decide what issues we’re going to address and what issues we’re going to ignore. To do so is to turn a blind eye to a problem and risk making it worse.

Carlye Sikkink ’09