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Gods Who Dance: Viewing the Bhutan Dance Project


“In Bhutan, you don’t applaud after a dance is performed; you absorb the energy—so you can’t help but be transformed and take something away from it with you.” —Joseph Houseal      

Bhutan danceWalking by the dedicated computer station in the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, I am reminded daily of the Bhutan Dance Project, Core of Culture, that I co-cataloged and created in 2013.       

As I watch these videos again, I am transported to a fascinating world of unique dances, rituals, costumes, landscapes, and architecture. The Bhutan Dance Project contains 650 videos (over 500 hours of video documentation) taken by Joseph Houseal from 2004-2006 as he traveled between many dance festivals throughout the Kingdom of Bhutan.            

Since becoming a cataloger 11 years ago, I have viewed many dance performances and the Bhutan Dance Project videos remain close to my heart. They contain a profound sense of energy, spirit, and historic significance that is found throughout this extensive and thoughtful collection of sacred dance rituals.

Not only are these videos viewable at the Library for the Performing Arts but they are also available and open to everyone through Digital Collections or the catalog.

Check out these selections: 

  • MGZIDF 743: Entry Procession of relics to Nabji Lhakhang. Nabji Drup: First Day —using the outside environment to traverse the terrain as they approach and enter the temple
  • MGZIDF 811: Chorten Kora. Drukpe Kora, Locked down Camera shot of Chorten Kora from hilltop with Thoengdrel deployed  —A look at a beautiful architecture of the Chorton Kora, modeled after Boudhanath stupa in Nepal.
  • MGZIDF 929B: Dramitse Nga Cham. Thimphu Tsechu: Day Two —Program for the Masked Dances with striking similarities to modern dance.  I see elements of release technique in the dangling leg and swooping torso movements with hopping and twirling added.



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Bhutan dance blog post

terrific post!

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