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Global Dance And Music Project Debuts In Berkshires

Cari Ann Shim Sham / http://www.translucentborders.com

Tonight, a globetrotting project that explores dance and music at borders debuts in the Berkshires.

Three years ago, a working group at New York University’s Global Institute for Advanced Study asked a question: what if borders weren’t ends, but beginnings?

“We’ve had to coax people to be together in some cases, and then we find that the moment we start the music and start moving, there’s just a natural engagement," said Dr. Andy Teirstein, a professor of the arts at NYU’s Tisch School Of The Arts. “When people are engaged artistically, creatively — it just short circuits the political hotwires.”

He’s traveled around the world to assemble a group of dancers and musicians divided by cultural, geographic, and political boundaries, but united in art. Teirstein, accompanied by fellow faculty members, choreographers, and composers, visits places near borders, such as “Ghana, which is a country that has 67 distinct language groups and cultures," he told WAMC. "Such as Israel and Palestinian territories where we work with artists on both sides of the wall there developing collaborative techniques and looking at their creative approaches to dance and to music and comparing them. Cuba is another place that we’ve been to several times and developed relationships with artists there. And now we’re finally bringing all these artists together in New York for the first time to collaborate across these oceans together here.”

While they landed at JFK, the group of disparate creatives were whisked off to the Berkshires to begin their collaborations in earnest with a three-day intensive residency at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts.

“The Pillow has generously opened themselves up to this idea of allowing us to work in their studios and to develop material together and have encounters across these borders in music and dance,” said Teirstein.

“Really, this project exemplifies what the Pillow aims to be and has always been," said Jacob’s Pillow director Pamela Tatge. “A place where people can reach across geographic and cultural borders and create. They’ve been here since Sunday night, they’ve been working together all day and night, and they’ll have a first ever performance together.”

Wednesday’s debut performance on the Inside/Out stage at Jacob’s Pillow represents the culmination of three years of Translucent Borders’ quest to overcome traditional understandings of where culture begins and ends. The setting was carefully chosen.

“They were looking for a place where it would be a retreat like setting for artists to come together," said Tatge. "This was easily 18 months ago.”

“The seclusion, the creative environment, the other artists who are there at the same time, the spaces, the mountains, the whole thing," said Teirstein. Familiar with Jacob’s Pillow from his days as a dancer, he knew that environment was key to making the project come together.

“Let’s take the case of putting Palestinians together with Cubans, for instance," said Teirstein. "You come over here, we can find a place to begin that is apart from everything, apart from the hubbub of New York, where we can just simply work together. Israeli musicians, Ghanaian musicians, Palestinian musicians and dancers, apart from everything.”

The first ever Translucent Borders dance presentation starts Wednesday at 6:15 at Jacob’s Pillow. The event is free and open to the public. For more on the series, including its appearance in the Hudson Valley next week, click here.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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