I keep seeing this photo reposted/reblogged everywhere. I was a Dance Major and in our Dance Theory and History course we covered the career of Ruth St. Denis because she was a very famous and successful pioneer of Modern dance in America. She made amazing contributions and paved a path for the Modern dancers of today. My professor made sure to tell us about Denis’ cultural appropriation of Indian dance because it was part of Denis’ career. It’s important that people know who this photo is of, and why it’s not actually a positive photo of Indian cultural dance. Denis believed Indian dance was “exotic” and exploited what she found entertaining in her performances, making money of off her interpretations, ignoring the history, politics, spirituality, and religious context of Indian classical/cultural dance.
Why is cultural appropriation wrong?
“Cultural appropriation… has little to do with one’s exposure to and familiarity with different cultures. Instead, cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups–often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions. Accordingly, socially aware people tend to frown upon this phenomenon.” - RaceRelations.about.com
When you call something “exotic”, you are saying it’s outside the realms of what you consider normal. Indian culture is not exotic. It is not outside the realms of normal. It should not be exploited.
Just wanted to clear this up! The more we know, the more we can better preserve and share our cultural arts.