Sharing the struggles and celebrating the triumphs of being African American in the ballet world and beyond.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Universal Language

Does dance speak to everyone? Can it bridge socioeconomic, gender and cultural divides? I pondered this question as I watched videos featuring different forms of dance this past week. Though very different from the classical style that occupied so much of my career, I still felt a kinship with the dancers—a oneness with the movement.

On the news the other day, a group of dancers from Oakland, CA were featured. The group was impressionable, not only for their talent but for their message.  The commentary described dance as an "international language." However, clichèd as the description may be, this time it resonated quite differently with me. It caused me to reflect deeper on the power and potential of dance. With this realization, I wondered if we as dancers are maximizing its potential. I'm not so sure.


A former Alvin Ailey member posted this Brazilian dancers emotional interpretation of The Dying Swan on Facebook. Although, utterly different from any interpretation most of us were accustomed to, its impact was no less powerful, and prompted dozens to share their thoughts and feelings.

This is an example of how one voice can open minds, change perspectives and unleash worlds of posssibility. In the same way, dancing as a form of expression can be used as a vehicle to wash away institutions of thought that keep people divided and our humanity deprived of its colorful beauty. I am noticing this trend more and more with Urban styles of dance, I wonder if ballet could create this type of impact?

If dance truly is a universal language, what would you want your art to say?


  1. I think some dances may be able to do but not all. Same with Music, same with Art. I will be honest and say that I don't get a lot of Modern Dance pieces and find it hard to find a meaning in them. My dad's the same way with classical music. So all in all I really don't think Dance is a universal language. I would argue music more so than dance.

  2. I wanted to see if there were any other responses to this comment, as I think it creates a more colorful discourse if there are more opinions than my own shared. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a response to this yet, so I will take the time to give you my take.

    You are correct in that every form of dance will not speak to every individual, nor will it mean the same for everybody.This holds true for Music and Art as well. I believe what makes Dance a universal language is that a young hip hop dancer in Brazil is able to "speak" through his movement and reach individuals who don't share the same backgrounds, culture and of course language. I have personally witness this on some of my many tours around the world. Although, not speaking to everyone in the same way, it is able to reach beyond geographical divides, cultural differences, gender and language barriers and speak directly to someone. It's true that not all genres of Dance, Music and Art will speak to all people. With that being said, the fact that I could even communicate a message through my dancing and speak to someone for whom I would never have a chance to in my everyday life, is not only powerful but beautiful. That to me is truly a universal language.