Friday, December 11, 2009

Future Possibilities: International Collaboration

We're closing this week's "Future Possibilities" series with a look at international collaborations. It's no secret that street dancers from different countries do show unique flavors in the way they interpret the music. Whether you're a bboy, a popper, or a locker; your cultural upbringing and personal aesthetics inform your style. We are the product of our journey along the ongoing tension between "nature and nurture," as any biologist could easily explain. While there are examples of some international collaborations, we'd love to see more in the future. It can only help to expand the global street dance scene. (Photo above is from a Google Images Search for Juste Debout.)

Think about how international collaborations could affect our scene artistically. First, there would be more opportunities to have a creative dialogue about ideas, staging, choreography and personal histories. Collaborations would create a forum for this cross-cultural exchange. While we can still retain our regional differences, a new artistic hybrid of styles could emerge among street dancers. There are many cities around the world who are leading in their street dance cultures: Paris, Tokyo, Montreal, Seoul and the list goes on and on. Having international collaborations would be more effective than only casually knowing about each others' cultures through Youtube videos. Working together in person brings us face to face with the reality of who we are and what we represent. It also forces us to see past our differences and to work out a collaborative method of creating art together. Technology makes this possible as we find ourselves sharing information at a faster rate through the Internet. Why not make it real and bring our ideas to the table in person? Fostering more international collaborations will bring the best dancers together and will also bring out the best in all dancers.

Some examples of these kinds of collaborations are already happening. Poppin' crew Machine Gone Funk (MGF) has staged shows with elite Japanese poppers like Gucchon, Kei and others. Together, they form Animated Villains crew. In the bboy world, the Mighty Zulu Kings (MZK) stands as one of the most competitive crews that draws top bboys from many countries. While the Zulu Kings seek to represent the original flavor of the Bronx, they are bringing in bboys from Korea and Europe who also add their unique personalities to the mix. And what about the plethora of teachers who travel and stage shows in all the venues they frequent? Whether it's locking teachers like Tony Tee or the Electric Boogaloos, established teachers are creating opportunities for students to interact with dancers from other cultures.

On a deeper social context, international collaborations make the world a much smaller place. Think about how National Geographic expanded our world views in the early to mid 20th century. Many folks didn't have the opportunity to travel across the globe and visit the exotic locations that National Geographic photographers explored. But through pictures and text, we could look through a window to another part of the world. It broke down some cultural barriers and allowed us to have a greater understanding of nations, environments, and cultures different from our own. Film and television have done that as well when they are produced well. If dance is a universal human language, then there is much potential for increasing our global connection with each other if we promote more international collaborations. It can literally be one step in changing the world.

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