29 June 2006

Going to see the dancers

A couple of weekends ago, I had planned a little outing downtown to see the Indian dance performance at the International Festival, held at Boulder's downtown pedestrian mall every summer. But one of our cats made it exceedingly clear that she wasn't happy about how quickly we'd tried to introduce a new cat into the house. So five minutes before two found me and my daughter Nani at the laundromat, stuffing a down comforter into an industrial-sized washer. I fretted about our cats as we got back into the car and lucked into a parking spot downtown a few minutes later; we slipped into the two empty seats right at the edge of the stage just as the Mudra Dance Studio started their performance. As we watched the women dance, my worries about my cat receded and again I felt fortunate to live in a place that honors not just its own people but people around the world as well.

This wasn't the first time we had seen the Mudra dancers. We had gone to their big fundraiser performance the fall after we'd brought our daughter home from the International Mission of Hope in Calcutta. We had been to three East Indian Heritage Camps, where the Mudra dancers teach the kids, camp counselors, and even adults from more than 80 mixed families, with the dancers giving a big performance at the Saturday night celebration. Nani had learned some dances and participated in these performances herself.

I sat at the edge of the stage feeling smug and virtuous for giving my daughter another opportunity to see something of India again. I watched my daughter quietly watching the dancers through her thick fringe of shiny black hair (growing out your bangs was all the rage in kindergarten this year). I noticed a handful of other families with kids from around the world in the audience, pleased that they could enjoy this celebration of Indian culture, too. And everyone noticed the little toddler boy who couldn't resist the twirling and the brightly colored costumes and kept toddling back onto the stage to join in the fun.

Then the director of Mudra Dance Studio came out and talked for a few minutes about how music unites people. That music is an universal language is so often said that it is almost a cliche; yet her impassioned insistence that music is one of the only things that can transcend linguistic, religious, and political boundaries somehow struck a chord with me.

As she and her dance partner gestured and twirled in their orange and red chiffon dresses, the dance and the expression of her sentiments took shape and form. As I sat alongside my daughter and felt the meaning of the words and sounds in my heart, I found tears flowing from my eyes. Suddenly it was clear to me that I was sitting there weeping because I needed to receive this message, a beautiful, healing bouquet of sound and color. I knew that I wasn't giving this to my daughter explicitly; whatever Nani would take away from this experience was up to her. But it gave me another opportunity to thank my child for opening my heart and helping me remember all that gives my life meaning and beauty.

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