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Dance Translation Essay

1073 words - 5 pages

Dance Translation

“Music and dance have different grammars, syntax, and lexicons in different cultures, and presentation to a culture other than that of origin requires translation, because explanation is never sufficient to elicit enjoyment or understanding of the original.”

When watching a dance performance, one often fantasizes about the potential story behind the movements of the dancers. Perhaps, the “unknown” is what keeps the viewer interested. Art often does not require an “explanation”, a reason to be, and therefore narrative in the sense of “story-telling” is not a priority. However, when watching a performance related to another culture, the viewer appears to put more effort ...view middle of the document...

Although the second part of the show offers an oral explanation of the stories in English, a work of translation is still required by the audience. Being unfamiliar with Hinduism is not an excuse to passively watch the performance without fantasizing on the parts of the show that are incomprehensible for a viewer not accustomed to the subject. Indeed, it is extremely amusing to fulfill the missing parts of Shivalingappa’s explanation with personal interpretations.
Shivalingappa acts out the lyrics being sung by her musicians, but the public is free to imagine and interpret the dances. The cultural clash between the audience and the performers does not create a barrier to interpretation; on the contrary, understanding what each movement represents becomes integrant part of the show. In this sense, the public appears to be even more active than in other circumstances. For instance, if we are going to watch something of which we have studied the content before, it is going to be easier to put less effort in trying to understand the meaning behind it. This is because we already know what is going to happen, and we have certain expectations from the beginning. The experience might result similar to that of reading a book of which you have already watched the movie.
From a personal point of view, I can relate to the feeling of curiosity that arises from watching something unexpected or completely unknown. Being from Italy and constantly listening, watching, and reading in English is not a problem any longer. However, I still remember that feeling of incompleteness that comes from not fully understanding a movie, or a song. Dance often allows us to “read” without using grammar, or to “speak” without knowing how pronounce. The viewer “reads”, or in other words, watches a performance without necessarily knowing what the choreographer wanted to express. At the same time we can “speak”, or give our opinions of a particular dance without knowing the technical aspects behind the movements watched.
Differently from literature, dance does not require immediate translation. While one might need a Russian dictionary to translate Tolstoy’s work into his own language, Tchaikovsky’s work can be “immediately” enjoyed, from anyone, all around the world. This is the power of...

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