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Picasso

Picasso

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Using Dance to Connect With Locals



On a trip to Austria in 2013, I took a drop-in waltz class at the Rueff Dance School in downtown Vienna.

I only paid for an hour, so I was limited to the basic steps, but even so, it was thrilling after just 15 minutes to actually be twirling around the floor in the arms of an Austrian for whom this dance was second nature, my instructor, Henry Karesh.

Like many Viennese, Mr. Karesh has been waltzing since childhood and knows all the variations that turn a simple three-step into something a lot more sophisticated, none of which I did that day.

But as he gently steered me around the polished wood floor in the dance studio, I was reminded that more than any other travel activity, dance connects visitor to local in a language that needs no words.

“Dancing with people breaks down barriers, and it doesn’t happen in another way,” said Mickela Mallozzi, a dance tour director who is also the host of the web and television series “Bare Feet.” “You make a connection physically. It is intimate, in an appropriate way.”

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  • Picasso

    Picasso

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    Chasing a Vision of Japan


    The rain misted down and I had two choices: the road up the hill, or the one alongside the river. I stood next to some kind of cement plant, most of it hidden behind a corrugated metal fence dripping with moisture. My pack pulled down on my shoulders. The river, engorged by two days of rain, roared and echoed against the mountains. A man in blue overalls emerged from behind a small Fuso truck.

    Like many people I’d encountered in Japan, he wanted to help me. I was grateful. I put roughly 25 percent of my Japanese language skills to work.

    “Sumimasen?” I said (Excuse me).

    “Hai?”

    “Tsumago?”

    He gestured down the road, I thought along the river. He said quite a few things that I didn’t understand. I thanked him and strode off, pack on back, hands on straps, rain on head.

    A half-hour later, after continuing along the river and then beneath a highway overpass, pressing against the wall because there was no shoulder, and then doubling back in confusion — this can’t be right — I found myself outside the same plant, beside the same fence, talking to the same man. He seemed mildly frustrated with me. He gestured again, and this time I went up the hill. Of course — when you have a pack on your back, the destination is always up the hill.

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    Picasso

    Picasso

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    In the June Light of Northern Italy, the Bliss of Bergamo


    A few years ago, I decided that the best time to go to Europe was June. It was mostly because everywhere we might visit, the local population was still at work, at school, at home, and it would be easier to sneak around, pretending not to be a tourist. When we decided to go to Bergamo, we intended to stay for a day or two, part of a mini tour of northern Italy, before visiting friends in Lake Como, but once we got there, we couldn’t leave.

    It was a lesson in being unprepared, in having bought the guidebook, but not having read it, in discovering for yourself what you soon realize millions of lucky travelers have discovered before you.

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    Picasso

    Picasso

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    A Poetic Journey Through Western China

    For years, Silk Road travelers made the grueling trek
    past towering mountain ranges and ancient cities now
    lost to time. Centuries later, one writer attempts to retrace the journey.


     
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