August 13, 2013

Inspiring Young Audiences and Building Bridges with Local Communities through Dance


Donald Byrd poses for a photo. Donald Byrd poses for a photo.
Donald Byrd and his dance company Spectrum Dance Theater recently embarked on a DanceMotion USA tour. The Artistic Director and crew began the tour in Nepal, where they used dance to entertain and engage with the local people.

“It is said that the first impression creates the lens through which all experiences that follow are seen,” says Donald. “With the first leg of our DanceMotion USA tour beginning in Nepal, a remarkable perspective was created.”

The first activity of the group’s stay in Nepal was to perform at a school in Lalitpur, one of the three cities that make up metropolitan Kathmandu.

“Though exhausted from travel, and confronted with a small dusty concrete platform of a stage, the Spectrum dancers were so inspired by the children’s dancing and spirit that they threw off their shoes and danced with a level of zeal and zest that surprised me,” says Donald. “Then the children were invited onto the stage to experience some of the movement they had just seen.”

Donald found it most striking to see how important it is to Nepalis to share their own culture.

“In this case, it was through dance-- whether it was traditional Nepali dance, what they had assimilated from watching American music videos, or absorbed from an Embassy sponsored group of break-dancers who had come through three years earlier,” explains Donald.

“There was such a desire to not only have these uniquely American experiences through the kind of dance we do, but also to have authentic and honest interactions and connections with Americans in general.”

Donald found the experience in Nepal to be complex and one that will have a deep impact on him in the years to come.

“In many ways, the interactions before and after the event were just as meaningful and important as the event itself, and these were just the ‘formal’ encounters,” says Donald.

More than anything, Donald thought there were many opportunities for him to share not only American values of individualism and self-expression, but also the diversity of America.

“This happened with not only the dancers that I interacted with but also with others who seemed so eager to share their aspirations with me,” Donald says. “I was glad to listen. I now have lots of new facebook friends and lots of e-mail addresses.”

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