Despite their different geographic and cultural origins, dances rooted in India and Cuba share a deep foundation in musicality, movements that accentuate specific body parts, and an implication of the body as a sound-making device. As part of the Music Moves Festival this coming weekend, a double bill featuring works inspired by these two traditions allows us to apprehend both intersections and distinctions between them. How do Namita Kapoor’s choreography and Rueda Con Ritmo’s dances converse with each other?
It so happens that both Bharata Natyam and Cuban rumba were sources of choreographic inspiration for dance artist Jack Cole, often hailed as the “father of American jazz dance.” In her piece, Kapoor revisits Hindu Swing, the genre that Cole created and that successfully melded Indian and Western dance and music. One only has to recall Cole’s most famous trainee, Marilyn Monroe, performing her legendary “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” to picture Cole’s style, and particularly his talent to bring forth the performer’s sultry and mesmerizing physicality. Respectively versed in jazz and Indian music, the two musical directors of Kapoor’s Hindu Swing worked together to create a score based on Cole’s major influences, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, as well as on sample songs from his most well known dance pieces.
In both art forms, movement and sound operate in close proximity and support each other. As Ryan Mead explains, “my process in designing choreography always starts with the music. It could be a horn line, or a lyric, or a series of accents in the rhythm section, but I always strive to give visual form to the music. The dancers’ movements embody the hits in the percussion, the melodies in the horns, the meaning of the lyrics.”
Retaining the colors and textures of their place of origin while assimilating rhythmic influences encountered during their journey, the sounds and movements of diaspora intertwine, harmonizing beyond cultural and geographic divides.