Utah-trained dancer finds her way to Lanka as cultural envoy
It was just six months after a devastating tsunami ravaged the coast
of Sri Lanka, destroying villages and killing thousands on the small
island nation just off the coast of India.
Marin Legatt (left) was in Sri Lanka during tsunami.
Courtesy of Marin Legatt
In the aftermath of all that destruction - that’s when dancer Marin
Legatt returned to the country, lugging a boombox, eager to check on old
friends in a handful of villages on the southwest coast.
The killer waves caught most of Southeast Asia off-guard in December
2004, the result of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean. The
storm killed more than 31,000 Sri Lankans and displaced another
The 33-year-old choreographer from Midvale, who three years ago
launched her New York-based M.E.L.D. Danceworks company, had taught
dance in these same villages before the tsunami.
It was then that Legatt had fallen in love with Sri Lanka’s gorgeous
coast, its delicious rice curries, fresh fish, prawns and lentil stew,
and the friendly locals. All this charm in a country that had endured an
ongoing civil conflict among different ethnicities for some 25 years.
Her trips to Sri Lanka have inspired her to take action. Legatt wants
to use dance to bring people together, and is currently working with Sri
Lankan nonprofit agencies and writing proposals to fund more dance
“I want to use dance as a tool to bring different groups together to
share creativity in a neutral environment,” she.Advertisement said.
“Dancing can be used as a springboard to talk about the similarities as
well as the differences between us.”
Her vision came to life last month through a grant from the U.S.
Cultural Envoy Program, which sponsored her month-long trip to Mumbai,
India, where she choreographed work with the local Terence Lewis
Contemporary Dance Company.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, performing or visual
artists who are envoys serve as educators, in a program aimed at
strengthening ties between America and other countries.
Her spare time goes to finding money to continue her mission to bring
dance to troubled parts of the world.
“She’s not the typical scatterbrained artist,” said Rebecca Jennejohn,
a dancer and choreographer who works with Legatt. “She’s very grounded
and manages to work, dance and put time into the projects she’s working
The Salt Lake Tribune