My posts have been general because I am attempting to skirt the question Sweeney asks of me: is western dance superior? I don't like to use words like inferior/superior because in this day and age of political correctness and multicultural celebration of all people and traditions as equally valid, it is a "no no" to make any asumptions about the qualities of one cultural form over another. To praise anything from the West is particularly "uncool". So,I will try to avoid saying directly that the western classical style of dance (ballet and modern) is superior.
Dance is essentially stylized body movement, performed to rhythm(s) (or not) and it is beautiful, all over the world. It is however only in the West where dance goes beyond serving a purely functional role -- i.e., a religious, ceremonial, storytellng, or entertainment role --- into a true art form. Although ballet and modern dance developed in the West, these dance forms can be viewed as all encompassing culturally. They have the versatility in technique and composition to represent all of humankind. There are many countries all over the world that have found this freedom of self-expression in ballet and modern dance: for example, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, National Ballet of China, Royal New Zealand Ballet, The South Africa Ballet Theatre, The Company of Performing Artists Thailand, to name a few. They have been able to utilize this style of dance simply because of its creative flexibility and because of no fixed presupposiitons as what costumes to wear, what music to use, what story, if any, to tell, who dances a role, male or female, etc.
A few people have brought up Kathak dance which is the traditional dance form of Northern India. Initially, this dance form developed to tell religious stories, but it has now become more of an abstract exploration of rhythm and movement. Costumes and rhythms are still traditional, and reflect only those of the Indian culture. These culturally exclusive characteristics, and the fact that it is danced only by women, greatly diminishes the creative ability and versatility of this dance form.
Similarly, Balinese dance is very beautiful and striking because of the elaborate and colourful costumes and asymetical movement and posturing of the body. Traditonal, classical Balinese dance grew primarily from Hindu religion and Indian influences, it represents in its style and form the flklore and ethnicity of the Balinese culture. Their dances are the expression of Good and Evil, religion, mythological stories of the past. Artistic self-expression is not a known concept to the performer, the objective is to perform a pre-established idea.
I have heard of Akram Khan and the fact that he is incorporating or melding Indian and western dance and creating an interesting style of his own. (Roger Sinha, from Montreal has also been doing this for several years now). Unfortunately, I have never seen Kahn's work and cannot comment. Perhaps Kahn found it necessary to turn to the western style of dance because he found his ability to choreograph with only traditional Indian dance limiting.
The point I have been trying to make all along resurfaces here: only ballet and modern dance give the choreographer the flexibility to create "great dance", freely. There is flexibility in technique which can be used, transformed and readapted to suit the artistic vision of the choreographer. Eventhough this dance form was created in the West there are no cultural preconditions; it was precisely the melding of cultures in the West which gave rise to a higher dance form, unfettered by national, local cultural restrictions.