Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | dance
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Mudra Dance Studio Mudra Dance Studio has been celebrating the dynamic traditions of classical Indian dance, and putting a contemporary spin on it, since long before Bollywood films became a popular genre here in the US with non-Indians. Namita Khanna Nariani, a brilliant, energetic dynamo of a teacher and choreographer, founded the troupe 17 years ago and turned it into a non-profit organization eight years ago -- all while raising a family and maintaining a career as an architect. We first met Namita in the second year of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival (the photo above is from this summer's festival), and she's been a regular every year since, closing out the festival with a one-two punch of her Mudras followed by the very popular Denver Taiko Japanese drummers. Starting the third year, at Erin's suggestion, the Mudras started collaborating with Denver Taiko and now that's become a regular cross-cultural highlight of the event. The powerful Japanese drums have come to fit so well in Namita's South Asian vision of cultural fusion, in fact, that Mudra Dance Studio now incorporates a taiko drummer, Thomas Knight, as a regular part of its exciting annual performances. ILLhamThis year's performance, ILLham, opens this Sunday at 2 pm, and then repeats Saturday, Nov. 20 at 5 pm and Sunday, Nov 21 at 2 pm, at the Lakewood Cultural Center. Tickets are available online at the Mudra website. Each of the annual Mudra shows are carefully structured to be showcases not only of fabulous dance, music and multimedia, but also of an innate spirituality that is a part of the Mudra lifestyle. All its members seem imbued with this spirituality, because it flows down from Nariani herself. She explains the idea of ILLhaam, which is about cycles:

These dancers are just paert of the 70-person touring troupe for "Carnival China Style" that will perform in Denver on Jan. 13, 2010. UPDATE: THIS EVENT IS NOW FREE! (Ticketmaster processing charges still apply) It probably irks Chinese people to no end that their centuries of culture is often crammed into just a couple of off-hand images: Bruce Lee and martial arts, Chairman Mao holding up his Little Red Book, Jackie Chan and martial arts, the traditionalist flash of a Beijing Opera performer in full makeup and drag, Jet Li and martial arts. Oh, and martial arts of any kind, whether or not it's from China. The mainstream American consciousness seems to be oblivious to the depth and richness of Chinese culture, and to its vast variety. But Chinese culture spans a huge area and a long timeline. Remember, China is so big and diverse that it even has seven separate groups of language dialects. A Chinese person from Beijing may not be able to understand someone from Hong Kong, because Mandarin is spoken in Beijing and Cantonese in Hong Kong. The country's government has been on an international campaign since before last year's Beijing Olympics to educate the world about all of China. Because the country's taking over the world stage as a economic power (by most accounts, it'll eclipse Japan as the world's second-largest economy in 2010, second only to the U.S.), it's been keen to promote cultural exchanges and send performers halfway around the world. You can expect this public-relations campaign to continue through at least next year's 2010 World Expo, which will be held in Shanghai. The ongoing effort to showcase China's riches is great for those of us who are interested in the breadth of its culture. Here in Denver we have a rare opportunity to catch a spectacle of an event, "Carnival China Style," that will bring 70 performers and support staff from all over China to the U.S. and Canada starting after the new year. A Denver stop's been announced for Wed. Jan. 13 at 7 pm at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the classy auditorium at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Other stops on the tour include Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, St. Paul, Denver, San Francisco, Sacramento, Reno, Seattle and other cities. President Obama enjoyed some of the performers traveling in this troupe during his recent visit to China. The evening of entertainment is based on a Chinese traditional festival format and it'll highlight the long history, grace, beauty, populism, diversity and folk nature of Chinese culture. The evening won't just be traditional dance and music, either. There's a segment featuring Wang Feng, a popular rock star in China, and even the woman who hold the Guinness World Record for twirling the most hula hoops at once. Who knew that's a Chinese cultural heritage? Here are some descriptions from the event's press release:

Super Cr3w, the Las Vegas-based group of b-boys that includes Asian Americans, has won the top honors for the second season of producer Randy Jackson wildly popular show, "America's Best Dance Crew," on MTV. Congrats to the six-man group. We took a break from incessant Olympics viewing to watch the live MTV season finale program last night, and were holding our breath. An astounding 39 million votes were cast for these two finalists, a reflection of how huge the hip-hop dance culture has become. We wanted the other finalists, SoReal Cru from Houston, because they're all Asian Americans, two of the members are women, and one of the members said poignantly during the season premiere that their parents expected them to be lawyers and doctors but they wanted to pursue their passion for dancing.

. Saw this via Angry Asian Man (a daily must-read): Young Asian Americans are proving they can dance, and not just on MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew." This cool video is performed by FarEast Movement but created by Wong Fu Productions, a trio of Chinese Americans from UC San Diego who started making cool content online in 2003 and now run...


Dance MTV User =About Me= Video - video powered by Metacafe
We happened upon a two-hour special tonight for the final auditions before the second season debut of "America's Best Dance Crew," and got entranced by the amazing moves by the groups from all over the country that tried out for the series. These crews compete with incredible, acrobatic break-dancing and hip-hop popping, spins, leaps and tumbles. (The video above is from MTV.com, on its page of bonus videos from the auditions.) This is the show that ended its first season by crowning JabbaWockeeZ, a mostly APA group from San Francisco, as the champions. One of the other first-season finalists, Kaba Modern was also APA.

Whenever I see an Asian on TV, either in a program or on a commercial, who's the brunt of some comedic joke, my first reaction is to clench my stomach in anticipation of some personal embarrassment, as if the Asian on screen could easily be me. But here's a TV commercial that makes fun of an Asian guy, that manages to be funny and doesn't bother me (although the first time I saw it I did clench up, expecting that slap in the face), and respectful of the Asian dude's dancing ability -- that is, until, he screws up. The commercial, for Southwest Airlines, makes me chuckle every damned time, and I've seen the thing a lot. What makes me feel good about the video is that the African Americans in the scene start out skeptical of the Asian guy's ability to impress the woman (that's Ellen Cleghorne from SNL, isn't it?, but then everyone in the club, includig the DJ, give the guy his props and start urging him on. That's when he knocks over the turntables.. and the tagline for Southwest comes in: "Want to get away?"