Traveling around the world and dancing in different countries teaches you a lot about culture. I’ve traveled to most every continent and had the pleasure of sharing my passion and art with many. I’ve performed for fans that barely speak English and sometimes for fans that don’t understand it at all quite often. But the joy and excitement you feel, no matter what the venue is, never changes. I’ve left many performances in foreign countries with a new outlook and understanding for lives so different from my own.
I have a fond memory of dancing in Malaysia a few years ago. Malaysia is a country whose people typically adhere to the Muslim religion. Women are often seen dressed in long black robes revealing nothing but their eyes. Our first hint of their conservative nature should have been at the airport when we were asked to cover our toes, shoulders, and knees. But since being on tour for quite sometime we were prepared to do our normal show dressed in our typical Pussycat Doll costumes.
To ensure the concert wasn’t cancelled due to rain in such a tropical climate the promoter of the show hired a tribe of people to do a rain dance. Allegedly the tribe would perform their dance the afternoon of the show and that night the performance would be rain free. It has been said that on many occasions the entire island would get strong rain on show nights but the concert area would remain dry. The tribe is so confident that their ritual works that they promise the concert promoter their money back if it rains.
The night of our show in Malaysia we stepped on stage with excitement and gratitude for such a beautiful stage, stunning night, and awesome crowd. The night sky was filled with a big, bright full moon and stars that filled the sky. The next morning we woke up to a newspaper headline stating, to our surprise, we had been banned from the country of Malaysia. Our tour costumes showed shoulders as well as the belly button, which was forbidden. My jaw dropped in disbelief and confusion. But I left with a new understanding of the importance of becoming familiar with foreign culture. Take the initiative to know what to expect when traveling and performing in other countries.
Years later we were invited back to Malaysia for the MTV Asia Awards. A stipulation in place to approve that our cleavage and tummy were covered as well as wearing pants. The show was a success once again and was broadcast on televisions all across Asia. Thankfully we found our way back to acceptance from people of Muslim faith.
I find myself in Asia at this present time and still face the scrutiny of our costumes in many regions. Press conferences held in Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines address the issue. Our truth is that the show must go on and although costumes are a big part of what makes a show so fun to watch, in order to reach all of our fans we are willing to make changes. Having more knowledge on culture and religions in countries we had never set foot before would have saved us from the scrutiny we face today.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Isabella Boylston in "The Bright Stream" (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy American Ballet Theatre)
Beloved by ballet fans for her lucid technique and onstage effervescence, by her Instagram followers for the deftly curated photos and videos she shares of her glamorous life, and by fangirl Jennifer Garner for all of the above, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston is one of the rare ballet stars who's achieved mainstream fame. A native of Sun Valley, ID, Boylston trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet and the Harid Conservatory before joining the ABT Studio Company in 2005. She entered the main company as an apprentice in 2006, and attained principal status in 2014. In addition to her successes with ABT, where she dances nearly every major ballerina role, Boylston has served as artistic director of the annual Ballet Sun Valley Festival, which brings high-level performances and classes to her hometown. And speaking of famous Jennifers: Boylston recently appeared as Jennifer Lawrence's dance double in the film Red Sparrow. Catch her onstage with ABT as Manon, Odette/Odile, and Princess Aurora during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season this summer in NYC. —Margaret Fuhrer