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International Dance Day 2017: Celebrating Trisha Brown

Trisha Brown Dance Company. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
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Since 1982, International Dance Day has been celebrated on April 29. Also called World Dance Day, events are coordinated by the International Dance Council with the goal of raising public awareness of dance as an art form, highlighting the need for greater government recognition and for its place in education.

Every year the council votes for a key figure in the dance world to write a message that is circulated globally. Sadly this year’s pick, US dancer, choreographer and postmodern dance theorist Trisha Brown, died on March 18.

The International Dance Day Message 2017 she wrote is as follows: “I became a dancer because of my desire to fly. The transcendence of gravity was always something that moved me. There is no secret meaning in my dances. They are a spiritual exercise in a physical form.

“Dance communicates and expands the universal language of communication, giving birth to joy, beauty and the advancement of human knowledge. Dance is about creativity… again and again… in the thinking, in the making, in the doing and in the performing. Our bodies are a tool for expression and not a medium for representation. This notion liberates our creativity, which is the essential lesson and gift of art-making.

“The life of an artist does not end with age, as some critics believe. Dance is made of people and ideas. As an audience, you can take the creative impulse home with you and apply it to your daily life.”

Brown, who described herself as “a bricklayer with a sense of humour” and promoted ‘democratic’ dance and the ‘line of least resistance’, also had an earthier take on the mechanics of her profession, summed up in her response to critics who claimed that anyone could dance her 1983 classic Set and Reset. As she said: “Don’t they realise we rearrange our internal organs every time we dance it?”

Her Trisha Brown Dance Company will feature at a gala night during the International Dance Day Summit 2017 in Shanghai, which runs from April 27-29.

Hosted by the International Dance Committee, part of Shanghai-based International Theatre Institute, the summit has the theme We, Dance Together. There are three days of workshops and performances, plus a conference on the global relevance of dance on April 27 at the Fosun art centre, with keynote speakers from China and around the world.

The gala night on April 29 takes place at the Shanghai International Dance Centre, a major new complex that opened in October. With a 1,079-seat grand theatre and a 291-seat experimental studio, it is Asia’s first professional dance centre and is home to the Shanghai Ballet, Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble, and Shanghai Dance School (affiliated with the Shanghai Theatre Academy).

Alongside If You Couldn’t See Me by Brown’s company, the gala performances include Third Wheel by US-based company DanceAbility International, featuring performers with and without disabilities, showcases from disabled Chinese dancers and a tribute to Brown by Andromachi Dimitriadou Lindahl, president of ITI’s International Dance Committee.

Brown’s message will be read out on stage by Susan Rosenberg, consulting historical scholar at the Trisha Brown Dance Company and author of the recent study Trisha Brown: Choreography As Visual Art.

The International Dance Day Summit is at Shanghai International Dance Centre from April 27-29

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