"Branches of Words" sows seeds of peace

Posted by Jessica Rubin Cultural collision, far from inciting conflict, can yield constructive and even artistic results. All it takes is a little coordination.

On the evening of Friday, Sept. 26 in Skidmore's dance theater, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company provided that coordination with their performance "Branches of Words." The show was the first of six stops the company plans to make in upstate New York.

"Branches of Words" combines modern dance with Middle Eastern and African music. The dances reflected the poetry of Hafez, a 14th-century Persian poet.

Mahmood Karimi-Hakak and Zoe B. Zak, members of the company, recited the poems in both English and Persian, providing a vocal backdrop to the readings and the dances.

The artists said they hope to bring a new perspective to the turbulent political situation in our nation, adding that perhaps artists can do what politicians and academics have thus far failed to achieve.

"'Branches of Words' has gathered artists from the very parts of the world that too often seem to turn their backs on each other," the artists said in a written statement. "This performance says that it is possible to work together. It is possible to create together. It is possible to truly listen. It is possible to learn from each other.

"With this comes the ability to pull ideas from many sources and mold them into an arresting, viable and unique statement of truth."

The Poems of Hafez contain words of peace and love, themes that the company's dances explore.

"I thought that the interaction of the African music, the Sufi poetry, and American modern dance worked very well together in unexpected ways," said Piper Bonacquist '10.

The combination of the different elements was innovative and refreshing. The simple, vibrant costumes, modern dance moves, and poetic and musical conversations between the performers contrasted sharply with each other. However, they also worked together seamlessly, lending merit to the artists' idea that different worlds can interact in a non-violent way.

Mahmood Karimi-Hakak spoke of the performers' shared hope that their dance and their message will one day reach Iran. He reminded the audience that those living in countries plagued by violence are extremely intelligent and advanced; their world differs from that of the U.S. only in that their regimes function with guns.

Karimi-Kakak believes that "Branches of Words" may help start a dialogue with the Middle East. He said at first only their music might be able to make it into the area, but he is confident their dance will follow.

The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company's performance conveyed a strong message of political unity, and the dance itself was an innovative and interesting performance.

"I liked the progression of the dances and the music and I was grateful that they stuck around for a question and answer session after," said Katie Cullum '11.

The company's performance and work with some of Skidmore's dance classes brought their vision of resolution and communication to our campus, where it will not soon be forgotten.

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