Translucent Borders

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A border can be represented by a line. But it can also be viewed more expansively, as its own space, fertile with the potential for either confrontation or learning and evolution. This article examines ways that music and dance can engage cultures across borders. Focusing on “Translucent Borders,” a research Working Group at New York University, we consider the use of improvisation at points of cultural juxtaposition. Beginning in refugee camps in Lesbos in 2016, the Translucent Borders Working Group has facilitated global conversations between dancers and musicians in Israel, Palestine, Greece, Cuba, and Ghana through interviews, knowledge-sharing circles, improvisation, and performance. Over three years of meetings at these global sites, “Translucent Borders” encountered some recurring commonalities and differences in the ways that time is perceived musically and choreographically, a dynamic tension between repetition and development, extending also to concepts of improvisation and performance. The resonance of the “mother-tongue” as a cultural well-spring of both tradition and innovation is inseparable from these time-perceptions. We will look at the ways that these differing approaches affect roles in inter-cultural collaboration, and discuss some of the inherent tensions over the course of the project’s meetings and performances.