I heard this statement and I realized that in my experience it’s true. For 8 years I spent 4 weeks every summer at an international dance camp in Sweden with dancers from over 50 different countries. All we had in common was our love of dance.
Most of the other students spoke enough English to make it through the classes, which were all taught in English. The Russians and the French sometimes relied on a few English speaking friends to translate and I managed to make friends with people who barely spoke English.
When I was suffering from a neck cramp, one of the Russians noticed I was in pain and gave me a tube of some kind of ointment. I used it and it helped. After a day or two, I returned it to his tent. I had asked another Russian friend to write “Thank you!” in Russian for me and I left it with the tube of ointment.
When I saw him later that day, he said in heavily accented English “You’re welcome.” We were dancers, and we communicated very well through dance. It felt like a friendship even though we did not speak each other’s language.
It’s the Russians who stick in my mind because the culture difference was so dramatic. The first year they kept to themselves and were very stand-offish to the point of rudeness, or so it seemed. It was the first time most of them had been away from their homeland.
On the last day of that first year, they put on a little show for the rest of us. They taught us silly children’s games and cooked traditional Russian food for us to try. Afterwards, I approached a woman who had been in my classes who had always been very cold to my attempts at friendliness. I told her how much I appreciated the evening they had given us and how much fun it was. She broke into a wide grin and began to chat with me.
We had a lovely conversation just before the bus to the airport arrived and she took off. But the following year, when she saw me she came over and greeted me by name (!), gave me a big hug and asked me how my year had been. She’s the friend who wrote the thank you note for me.
Learning about other cultures and bridging cultural gaps has always fascinated me. Dance is a multi-cultural language, but shared passions are the best way to open hearts. For unforgettable experiences, I highly recommend dancing in other countries!