Article Title

Inspiration vs. Appropriation: Representation of Indigenous Cultures in Western Dance Companies


Author #1


In modern, Westernized society, we are often fascinated by cultures that differ from our own. The well-meaning interest in other cultures, especially the cultures of indigenous tribes, can become problematic when people unknowingly treat these very real cultures and people as fictional entities. Our words and actions can perpetuate stereotypes harmful to these minority groups, contributing to an idea of “otherness,” the idea that these people are separate from us. Artists have a high degree of responsibility when using other cultures as inspiration for their work. A long, brutal history of genocide, racism, and theft of land and identity makes dealing with indigenous tribes a sensitive and complex matter. Concurrently, it is important their cultures be shared and appreciated. This paper will explore how dance choreographers have successfully navigated the terrain between inspiration and appropriation, focusing specifically on Jiří Kylián, director of the Nederlands Dans Theater, use of the Aboriginal cultures for his ballet Stamping Ground, as well as the Limón Dance Company’s piece based on Native American tribes. Their works will be compared to pieces performed by the American Indian Dance Theatre. This paper will also discuss cultural equity, an ideal championed by Alan Lomax, an American ethnomusicologist.