Cooper makes promoting Asia-US cultural exchanges her life mission

Updated: 2013-06-21 14:33

By Kelly Chung Dawson (China Daily)

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When Asia Society's Rachel Cooper was at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s, she spent a semester on a cruise ship, stopping at various cities on a voyage that changed the course of her life.

Although she had studied dance since she was 5 and remained focused on the performing arts, her visits to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and other Asian ports sparked a passion for the region that eventually led to a career in promoting Asia-US cultural exchanges.

As director for global performing arts and special cultural initiatives at the Asia Society, she has developed and promoted an array of cultural projects and exchanges.

"Looking at visual arts, music, theater and dance from a cultural perspective has been my passion for my entire adult life," Cooper says. "The fullness of the arts as a reflection of culture, and the kind of dedication to beauty as defined within that cultural context, is absolutely fascinating to me."

Cooper, a California native, later transferred to UCLA, where she majored in ethnic arts.

After graduation she moved to Indonesia, where she organized and promoted the Festival of Indonesia. She is also the co-founder and current board president of a Balinese music and dance company, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, based in San Francisco.

Cooper describes herself as a cultural ambassador, and believes that arts play as vital a role as policy or business in promoting cross-cultural relations.

Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society's Center on US-China Relations, believes that the occasional strain of bilateral relations between the two countries makes cultural exchanges increasingly important.

"We urgently need a neutral cultural zone to which we can sometimes retreat, refresh ourselves and remind ourselves that there is much more that we have in common than is sometimes immediately obvious from the perspective of Washington or Beijing," Schell says.

"Here, culture is an incomparable zone of mutuality, and Rachel Cooper wrangles this zone for all of us with impressive ability and insight."

As part of her job, Cooper has developed long-term friendships with performers and arts promoters in Asia and the US, forming bonds that she believes have informed her ability to serve as a cultural bridge, she says.

Cooper makes promoting Asia-US cultural exchanges her life mission

Cooper makes promoting Asia-US cultural exchanges her life mission

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