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International Artists Share their Stories

“I just do my way…If I am happy, people’s opinions are just their opinions,” said South African choreographer Mamela Nyamza.  Artistic determination emerged as the theme of the evening at Thursday night’s international artist discussion. Six artists spoke, each sharing personal dance history, complete with video excerpts of their work. Despite the muggy lecture hall and occasional language barriers, festival students left inspired.

Many of the international artists wove political commentary into their art. Tatiana Mejia of the Dominican Republic became angered by selfish giving in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake. She responded with a driving piece of violent rhythms and sharp, linear movement. This abstract representation contrasted with Ketty Noel’s brazen wail against sexual violence. She set the work in an abandoned butcher shop, with the soloist beating parts of her body and grabbing her crotch amidst a set of harsh florescent lights. In this site-specific work, Ketty explained that “the space was even more important than the movement.”

It became clear that it is challenging to be a contemporary artist in any country. And, each culture poses unique barriers. Aparna Sindhoor is a New England choreographer from India. People here and in her country criticize her for abandoning Indian classical dance for a foreign form.

Money poses challenges. Mamela Nyamza of South Africa created and rehearsed a solo called Hatched in her living room when she did not have the funds to rent studio space.

Remarkably, these women wove these challenges into their art to make their work stronger. Aparna dances in sari and out of sari, embracing its current significance and ancient connotations. She utilizes the Classical Indian aesthetic; her training becomes a springboard for new movement. Mamela explained how her living room informed every element of Hatched, including set, costume, and movement. The effect: a cohesive piece of compelling art.