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ARTIST PROFILE: Salgado’s Dance Road takes her around the world

September 8, 2018
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID-Olga "Sisa" Salgado has a distinctive approach to an ambitious mission involving the study of indigenous people and traditional cultures in Asia and South America.

Her approach could be based on the thoughts of British psychologist, essayist and physician Henry Havelock Ellis, who said, "Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts. For it is no mere translation or abstraction of life. It is life itself."

For Salgado, it all began as a master's degree project in the Amazon jungle in her native Ecuador, where she spent two years living among the indigenous people.

Article Photos

Olga “Sisa” Salgado
(Photo provided — Steve Lester )

"I wanted to learn about the traditional culture in the Amazon jungle and about me as a human being," she said. "The schools in Ecuador teach history from when the Spanish arrived but not before."

Salgado is a Mestizo, one with combined European and native South American heritage, who wanted to learn more about the native side of her ancestry. In the beginning she showed up with her note pad and a list of questions, she said, but she soon learned she could gain a more thorough understanding of her subjects by engaging with them during cultural activities such as dancing.

"The element of the dance became the tools of my research," she said.

Or as Mikhail Baryshnikov said, "When a body moves, it's the most revealing thing. Dance for me a minute, and I'll tell you who you are."

By the time Salgado ventured into the jungle, she had delved into theater and dance extensively while studying journalism, anthropology and community development in college. She quickly developed an interest in Asian cultures after the theater company with which she was involved showed videos of them performing native dances.

"I felt very connected to this unknown world in Asia, and I don't know why," she said.

The connection was strong enough to make her want to go there and study more dancing with native populations, she said. So with little money but lots of curiosity, she traveled to Asia and hit every southeastern country except for Myanmar (nee Burma) because of the tense political climate there.

She intended to travel to India, Mongolia and Siberia before crossing the Bering Strait for Alaska and the Canadian and American west coasts. She did make it as far as Mongolia, but while in India she met Tashi D. Sharzur, a musician from Tibet who goes by the name Techung who was there visiting his family who had long since fled from Tibet to escape Chinese oppression.

Techung was already a U.S. citizen by this time, and before Salgado made it to Siberia, she too moved to the states. They lived apart but kept in touch until about two years after he moved to Lake Placid when she moved up as well, and they soon married.

While Salgado enjoys her life in Lake Placid, she insists that her travel and discovery days are hardly over. As part of a personal project she calls "Dance Road," she still plans to visit indigenous populations in Siberia and then head across the Bering Strait for Alaska as originally planned.

"Lake Placid was not supposed to be part of the Dance Road, but now it is," she said. "But to finish the arc from Mongolia to Alaska, that's still my goal. We have a common past as a humanity. I want to walk and travel these roads by myself."

Salgado is not naive to how vulnerable a young woman can be while traveling alone, but she said she has reason to believe she can face the challenges.

"I survived the Amazon jungle for two years," she said, "and I enjoyed it. When I was in Asia before, everybody thought I was Asian because of the similarities between them and Native Americans. So looking local helps."

Her first stop on her Dance Road, she said, will be in Siberia in the winter where she plans to embed herself with a nomadic community.

"It will be my first time in a super cold place in winter," she said. "I don't know how it's going to be, so wish me luck. I admire these nomadic people in Siberia for being so traditional. It's so easy to just move to the city where you always have hot water and everything, but these people still move around a lot without all those comforts we take for granted."

Salgado said she wants her Dance Road to end where it started: in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador where she can revisit the same people she first studied almost 10 years ago with special interest in how the children there have grown.

To the indigenous people of Siberia and Ecuador, Salgado's Dance Road could be passing through your town some day soon, so get your dance shoes ready.



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