SPEAK: A Community Perspective

By Kara Frame

January 1, 2008, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

I recently had the chance to work with Cambodian Dancer, Charya Burt, who eloquently described the meanings behind each hand gesture from a traditional dance she learned since childhood. The process reminded me to appreciate the rewards of a slow contemplation. As a culture headily involved with instant access and consumption in technology, food, art and performance, it’s easy to assume a full knowledge of each flavor rather than a sincere mediation on art. Knowledge of a living origin and awareness of ongoing cultural and aesthetic dialogues deepen the experience of the intangible connections that define humanity. So in this case slowness is defined not in terms of speed of movement, but of richness in focus and understanding. Edgy, fearless, communication in dance become meaningless unless juxtaposed with the time-honored boundaries of tradition that allows an informed context to develop.

My own history is one of in-your-face identity politics, followed by deep meditation in the Himalayas, then around again towards flamboyant performance, so I relate this on both as a multi-racial Asian American and as one who appreciates a conscious hybridization in art forms. Authenticity does not exist in a void. It is dynamic and porous, the relevant contemporary flip side of the coin to our ancestral foundation. It is only valuable when honoring where we come from as well as the vibrant complexity that moves between the transitory boundaries. I advocate for this kind of slowness. One that keeps it delicious and disarming, always urging us to rethink our contexts.