In India, while dancing, Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Lavni and other classical and folk dance form, dancers wear ghungaroos (small metallic bells). These ghungaroos are also worshipped and taken great care of by the dancers. Gungaroos are placed at the feet of Lord Nataraj and before wearing them on the feet a dancer touches it to the forehead as a blessing of the God of dance.
In the international dance forms, there are no ghungaroos. But I believe that there are many people who are like ghungaroos. They bring people together, they come with great values and morals tied together and with their warm and affable personality they bond the entire dance community and the dancing world together. One such extraordinary ghungaroo swaroop (form) person is American choreographer and social activist Jonathan Hollander who recently has been honoured with Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany that Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has bestowed upon him.
I called him a ghungaroo because he is one person who has dedicated his entire life to dance, not just as a dancer or a choreographer but as a bridge who believed in ‘dance beyond boundaries’. And this strong belief of his has taken him world over performing and teaching. Super impressed with his dedication to his art German President Frank Walter Steinmeier honoured Sir Jonathan Hollander with the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit, which German Consul General David Gill bestowed upon him in the New York City recently.
The prestigious award has been presented previously to dancers Pina Bausch, Sasha Waltz and John Neumeier, and soprano Renee Fleming and now has been given to Hollander in the honour of his leadership in bringing together young people across borders through cultural exchange. Hollander has been cited for impacting the lives of people in America and Germany in a very remarkable way.
At the award ceremony, a short film on the illustrated work of Sir Hollander was shown. The film gave a short impression of why Sir Jonathan deserves this prestigious honour, his passionate commitment to international understanding, to societal solidarity and to strengthen the civil society in order to face social, political and cultural challenges was brought to light through the film.
While receiving the honour Sir Jonathan said, “I feel extremely humbled receiving this honour which has earlier been given to veterans and stalwarts from the art world. But I also know that with the award comes responsibilities and with an award as prestigious as a cross of merit, the pressure is even more. I promise that I will keep working towards the field of dance and take to it to a new level and break all boundaries and borders.”
Honourable German Consul General David Gill, before honouring Jonathan said, “Today, we are gathered to honour Jonathan Hollander’s commitment and his very special and outstanding contribution to the German-American friendship as well as to exchange and understand different people all over the world. What’s fascinating is to see Jonathan’s rooted commitment in social, liberal and humanistic values.”
From very early stage in life, Sir Jonathan was socially very conscious and developed an interest in the international cultural exchange through dance and body. Thus, at the age of 25-year-old, he founded Battery Dance and some years later the festival gained its prominence as the New York City’s longest-running dance festival and recently it celebrated its 37 years.
For more than 10 years he also exported its spirit to Germany. Out of the 2006 project “Dances for the Blue House” the educational program “Dancing to Connect” arose. This fascinating initiative toured in over 54 countries. What makes this project so extraordinary is the way it speaks to relevant issues such as the confrontation of the past with the extinction of European Jews by Nazi Germany, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent reunification of Germany as well as of the continent.
His current programme “Dancing to Connect for Refugee Integration”, launched in 2016, contributes not only to the integration of refugees but also creates a sense of familiarity among young people, between those who have not had to experience war and terror and those who arrived traumatised in Germany. By dancing together the participants lose their sense of mistrust, insecurity, and fear and instead experience empathy for each other and at the same time convey fundamental values such as human dignity, respect and tolerance.
To me, Sir Jonathan Hollander is a friend, who is active in so many countries. Let me congratulate and thank him today particularly for being aware of the value of the friendship among the people of different countries. He has many friends all over the world, indeed, partners in well-known foundations, he is connected to in order to pursue his successful outreach, and many admirers, who love him and his illustrated work.
But I feel Sir Jonathan, through his cosmopolitan, future-oriented work, he indeed makes a major contribution to solidarity across borders. He acts not only as a choreographer, but also as a social activist. He is a promoter of intercultural exchange and a source of inspiration for all of us. The energy and constant enthusiasm he generates while launching new projects is impressive and we do hope for more to come. Heartiest Congratulation Sir!
By Sandip Soparrkar
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of AFTERNOON VOICE and AFTERNOON VOICE does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)