Masks are now required in public indoor spaces on the CU Boulder campus regardless of vaccination status. Find out more

Author: Becca Vaclavik

Transformation without robbery: global citizenship in the dancing body

Dance is as old as human history itself. Throughout the centuries, its various forms have served as a source for religious rites, storytelling and social engagement. In a word, it is sacred: an archive of cultural meaning that endures across time and national borders.

It’s no wonder, then, that as globalization and a digital era have made cross-cultural information more readily available than ever, the fusion of cultures through melding dance forms has become increasingly common. While fusion has always existed, this new form, in particular, is called Transcultural Fusion Dance and has been on the rise since the 70s.

Transcultural Fusion Dance is not without its controversies. Mixing cultural practices and traditions can be an inspirational space for creative work, but it can also be fraught with cultural erasure and appropriation. It’s a delicate balance. How can artists embrace cultural transformation while still preserving unique identities? How can they investigate that friction while also celebrating it?

CU Boulder Associate Professor of Dance Donna Mejia seeks to find out. Mejia is the first-ever tenured professor in Transcultural Fusion Dance, working to establish a field of study surrounding the art form.

“Transcultural Fusion Dance is a rich arena for studying cultural imperialism, gender representation and electronic/digital globalization,” says Mejia. “It’s time to bring all the controversy to the dance itself and hold conversations about dance as it relates to socio-economic engagement and the agency of various subcultures. This is an intersectional issue.”

This fall, Mejia invites audiences into the conversations she and other Transcultural Fusion creatives are having during “[un]WRAP: Emerging Global Citizenship in Transcultural Fusion Dance.” The event will feature a week of interactive symposiums, culminating in a streamed, virtual performance, showcasing 13 provocative and jaw-dropping dance submissions from around the world. Mejia curated the symposium alongside collaborators CU alumna Joanna Ashleigh, CU MFA candidate Brittney Banaei, CU Denver research professional Elizabeth Sweitzer, and CU Boulder National Center for Women & Technology professional Jacqueline Westhead.

Audiences can expect to witness a variety of fusion forms, such as the blending of North African and Arab secular dances with hip-hop electronica and contemporary concert dance aesthetics, from artists based out of Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Mozambique, Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere throughout the world.

Mejia says that even though many of the artists participating in this year’s symposium don’t speak the same languages, their works speak for themselves.

“We’re showcasing nonverbal international conversations through movement. Movement can convey meaning in ways languages sometimes can’t. The body is its own language.”

What’s more: “The human body is a valid site of knowledge expression that is often neglected in academia. We use literature and data to build meaning; now it’s time to use the data of our bodies.”

The goal is to create a forum that is a safe place for artists to play and for audiences to be in relationship with each other through their bodies, to embrace curiosity and galvanize one another by asking difficult questions about what it really means to be part of a global family and culture.

“How can we be deliberate in our blending? What do we preserve and fight for? What do we allow to fall away?”

Enjoy “[un]WRAP” from wherever you are for only $10. Stream this performance Friday, Oct 8, 7:30 p.m. MDT through Sunday, Oct. 10, 11 p.m. MDT right here at cupresents.org.