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Students dance for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

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East will meet West on Wednesday as students celebrate culture through dance.

Diversity through Dance will take place on Wednesday in celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. It will feature demonstrations from Odissi Dance, a traditional Indian dance group, and Dance of the Soul from China, a student organization that blends contemporary and traditional dances from various cultures around the world. Kaustavi Sarkar, a graduate student in dance studies, will also speak on the evolution of dance as it reflects culture.

Sarkar said OSU’s recognition of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month provides the university community with an opportunity to explore different facets of cultures throughout the Asian world.

“They’re making space for a celebration not just of community, but of the communal arts,” Sarkar said. “A celebration of not just a culture, but a cultural artifact.”

Odissi Dance will present a nearly two-thousand-year-old traditional Indian style of dance live.

Odissi is a “curved linear” dance form whose movements draw S-shaped curves with the body and in space. The dance features crisp footwork that is accompanied by a percussive instrument called a mardela, Sarkar said.

As a performer and someone who studies the art form, Sarkar said the emotionally evocative nature of Odissi also reflects the context that surrounds it.

“The question I ask as a practitioner is, ‘What knowledge does this movement create?’ Not just cultural context, not just historical context, not just the scientific, biomechanical knowledge, but all of it,” Sarkar said. “So many layers of knowledge are encoded in movement.”

Sarkar said the Odissi performance at Diversity through Dance will also involve audience participation.

“We are hoping to have a very immersive, interactive experience with the audience,” Sarkar said. “We wouldn’t just do a regular performance because that wouldn’t serve to start a conversation similar to the one we are having here.”

Diversity through Dance will also screen a video of the Peacock Dance, produced and performed by student organization Dance of the Soul from China.

Luyao Zhang, a graduate student in economics and founder of Dance of the Soul from China, said the Peacock Dance stems from the Dai Chinese minority group, but is also performed throughout India and Europe.

However, Zhang said the group’s performances are not restricted to traditional Chinese styles, as they include a variety of styles from hip-hop to ballet to belly dancing.

“What distinguishes us from other organizations is that we are not promoting one culture, but we want to bring cultures together,” Zhang said. “We are open-minded to all different styles of dance.”

Alexis Li, a third-year in chemical engineering and co-president of Dance of the Soul from China, said different styles of dance enable communication between diverse groups.

“Dance is something like music or math — you don’t have to know the language to communicate with other people,” Li said.

Zhang said she hopes the performances at Diversity through Dance will create understanding for other cultures while stressing the similarities between them.

“We want to promote the idea that we are all very similar, if only in different ways,” Zhang said. “Dance is a way of mirroring, because I can see me in you and you can see yourself in me, so it creates empathy in our society.”

Diversity through Dance will take place in the Ohio Union Multicultural Center Alonso Family Room on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Odessi dance, which originates in India, often relies on elaborate movements of the dancer’s hands. Credit: Courtesy of Kaustavi Sarkar

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