Motion: The Spirit of the Time
The spin of the Asian dance corresponded to the spirit of the time in Europe which, with the development of steam engine, celebrated speed and motion. The emphasis on dance interacted with an important philosophical shift at the time that again quickly gained a global following. "Movement" was discovered as the true characteristic of modern life, especially that of modern urban life, with its moving vehicles, motion pictures, gas and later electric lights that extended the day into night for work and leisure. It was claimed that these urban dynamics actually reflected the workings underlying the universe.
When West Meets East
While concepts of “movement” as the spirit of
modern times quickly spread to Asia especially to the countries engaging in political and social reform like Japan and China, dance movements in the sense of dance forms also migrated to the west from Asian cultures through the world fairs. Dancers like Loïe Fuller are a prime example of the fruitfulness of these cultural encounters. Asian dance became an inspiration for modern dancers, it stimulated their imagination of modernity. Fuller’s famous sash dance with its swinging motions is an example. It might have been inspired by East Asian dancers performing at the world fairs. In the 1895 poster (on the right) we see a Vietnamese-Chinese dancer dancing with colored sashes with movements indicating swinging and turning. Such a silent migration of forms, gestures, and accoutrements is a common and often overlooked feature in cultural exchanges.
Asia's Cultures as "Live Motion"
Dance, more than any other art form, created
an international language through which audiences around the world were able to communicate through aesthetic appreciation of other cultures. Asian dancers came to the different worlds fair between 1860 and 1900 sponsored by national governments (Japan. Korea), colonial governments (India, Cambodia, Java) or foreign advisors (China). The ultimate aim of their performances, however, was to present the best of the local cultural tradition. These dancers and their performances showed Asia's culture as live motion.