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Does the U.S., as a society, contribute to the problem?
A: We in the United States are
taught to think of the international arts in terms of our own taste
and values. Issues of taste can have enormous consequences. For
example, the national dance companies of developing countries X,
Y and Z might be created specifically to accommodate our American
tastes. But their success in the international marketplace has a
suffocating effect on regional diversity at home. Local artists
are eager to imitate these famous companies and, as a consequence,
there is a codification of style, a rigidly set repertoire and a
negative effect on creativity and artistic development in those
What can be done to help?
A: While we have no control over
the destiny of traditional culture around the world, we can build
better two-way streets and find ways to break down the isolation
that exists between us. We are in a position to be good, altruistic
partners. International tours should not be limited to the taste
of the touring circuit. An interesting and difficult challenge is
to powerfully present to the American public those art forms that
speak more directly about the unique values of a culture and therefore
require more work to understand. A first step in trying to address
this problem might be to build better presentation strategies. An
evening at the theater, as it is presented today, does not necessarily
lead to greater understanding or appreciation. Programs should not
be seen simply as entertainment; they should be designed to include
information about the people, their history, the context of their
living conditions. We must stop measuring success simply by audience
attendance, reviews in the press or the length of an ovation. We
should look to the more important goal of understanding the deeper
significance of these art forms.
thing we can do is to reevaluate the transaction that occurs when
artists tour in America. International artists know little about
union protections regarding schedules and rest days. As a result,
they work to the point of exhaustion. We must remember that these
companies are comprised of promising youth and leading senior artists.
They come wanting to share their culture with America. They also
come wanting to know more about America.
they never go to a museum and they seldom see other concerts. They
are seldom invited into an American home. Touring programs should
be planned as educational field trips for our international guests.
Lectures, demonstrations, discussions and concerts should be planned
for them. Without much effort, we can put programs in place that
ensure that companies return home with more than T-shirts and souvenirs
or, even worse, a distorted view of America.