The Myth of an International Dance Language: Tensions between Internationalisation and Cultural Difference

Stock, Cheryl F. (2001) The Myth of an International Dance Language: Tensions between Internationalisation and Cultural Difference. In Burridge, Stephanie (Ed.) Asia Pacific Dance Bridge: Academic Conference, 2001, Singapore.


This paper asks a number of questions about how we, as dance practitioners, can value and maintain cultural diversity in a homogenised world. How can we effectively engage in a globalised world in which internationalisation seems in many ways to be interchangeable with Westernisation and still retain cultural specificity? In terms of the dance world are ballet and contemporary dance international languages or another form of cultural colonialism and expansion? Are they being superseded? What influences are at work within the dancing body and beyond the dancing body in shaping our current dance identities and our dance languages? What is the place of dance and dancing in an information age more and more reliant on digitalised forms of communication? What are the challenges for dance educators and artists in this environment and what can we offer of relevance?

Several issues are examined in relation to these questions, such as the increased importance of education as both an intersection between and an integration of professional and recreational dance. The paper suggests that the conscious development of this nexus may assist in accommodating and even shaping the rapid changes in dance practice and employment paths faced by all of us. In this re-education process a culturally inclusive approach to dance training and practice needs to go deeper than the ethnic smorgasbord we have often experienced hitherto, if we are going to embrace the concept of cultural literacy. In approaching the concept of cultural literacy, the paper suggests that context is of prime importance as is learning how to look - how to suspend one's own values and preferences in order to experience the world through other eyes.

Another challenge involves priorities and management. In preparing for the globalised and digital present, we are required to juggle specialist and generic skills and information literacy, in dance as in other areas. In attending to these requirements, what steps can we take to ensure that we to continue to nurture creativity, innovation and difference, and at the same time maintain a sense of community and knowledge of where we have come from, not only where we are going? In response to these issues, there are new dance languages emerging, live and virtual, to reflect and interrogate our changed world. Yet those of us who teach or are in a position of leadership may well be the very ones who do not know how to read or communicate in these languages. And is this necessarily a new phenomenon or merely a fast-forward version of repetitive (r)evolutionary human processes in which one species is transformed into another, one language replaced by another? Nevertheless, somewhere, somehow many of the old languages survive, are understood and maintain a transformed relevance - culturally, socially, artistically. The paper concludes that dance has many choices before it in terms its development of current languages including eclecticism, hybridisation and pockets of specialisation. And it argues, none are international in the sense of being commonly understood without prior learning and conceptual tools to decipher their meanings.

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ID Code: 348
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Dance, universal language, globalisation, cultural difference
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Dance (190403)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 26 Aug 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:21

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