I don't know whether the English or the Europeans are fond of
"theme" parties, produced with corporate support and donations in
kind which an arts or other charitable organization charges heavily to attend. Here in San Francisco, it is a common habit and relatively frequent. Museums are no exception.
The Asian Art Museum rented a gigantic white canvas tent and parked it in the broad walk way of the Civic Center Plaza April 27. It provided the shelter and vehicle for a spectacular bash called "Encounter Asia", 6p.m-1 a.m. Some forty culinary organizations and restaurants donated edibles for the crowd which gathered, semi-chilled, to witness music and dancing of The Silk Road and then to dance to the band Pride and Joy.
Since this was running at the same time Cal Performances had a stellar cast of genuine Silk Road musicians, you better believe that the Asian timed the event to coincide with the Berkeley presence. It also was devised to remind San Franciscans that yes the Asian is still alive and not too many months hence will open its doors in the Old Main Library.
Dancing surrounded by a circle of onlookers on indifferent padding over the cement is not an ideal atmosphere for a Bharata
Natyam Tillana. However, long before the proscenium many of those dances, or their precursors, were executed en plain air.
So I can not be too critical on that score. A group called Cirrus danced both Tibetan and Chinese dances, and I suspect they were heavily influenced by Soviet examples. I honestly doubt whether these Chinese-trained dancers realize that at 13,000 feet
few Tibetan dancers execute barrel turns, plus the slippers on the male may have had boot like uppers, but not the bulk one sees
sees in Tibetan documentaries.
Harsanari is an Indonesian group whose dances either come from West Java or perhaps nearby Sumatra. They share the sashes one sees in the classic forms from the Sultanate courts in Central Java and the wonderful flicks for emphasis, in addition to fluid shoulders and active head and heavy emphasis with the eyes.
Without being told, the costume proclaimed a solo dance had something to do with a peacock. I don't know when and how beads and sequins began to be added to Indonesian dance costumes, but they were in liberal evidence and in the ensemble number as well.
Filippiana is another local dance group which performed a dance with floral hoops which remind one of The Royal's opening of Aurora's birthday. This dance, however, was executed barefoot.
There was a stick dance for four young men who were later joined
by four young women as two couples essayed a Tinikling dance
hopping in between and over bamboo poles clapped together with increasing speed. A solo dance, three glasses of water balanced on the head and open palms, punctuated with a deep back bend was duly appreciated.
Earlier in the program a group of young Indo-Americans performed a stick dance. I vaguely remember we used to call it Bhumi when I learned it a half century ago, Bhumi, being the Hindu goddess for the earth.
Some of the food was utterly delicious.
One of the Museum's curators informed me, as I was leaving, that the crowd was large enough so that it was at least a break-even affair. While I sound terribly snobbish and critical about the
setting, costumes and certain interpretations, I am fully aware
that the aim of this elaborate effort is "Exposure". One cannot fault The Asian Art Museum for that.