Tibetan singer performs with area dance group

Sascha Matuszak

A Tibetan performer enchanted Minneapolis audiences this weekend at the Southern Theatre.
Sherap Wangmo, an internationally renowned singer and musician, performed solo and danced with the Ethnic Dance Theatre cast for their production, “The Fabled Silk Road.”
“Her voice is magical,” said Tamara Layman, Southern Theatre managing director.
Indeed, the crowd was still as Wangmo delivered her performance — magically captivated into silence and complete attentiveness.
Wangmo has woven her musical spells on audiences from India to Canada. Since 1997, she has been in Minneapolis with her husband, Sonam Sangpo, also a performer. They plan on making the Twin Cities their base.
Minneapolis is also home to the largest U.S. Tibetan population, and the couple hopes to establish a group of Tibetan artists here.
“They are always asking me to sing,” Wangmo said. “So I sing for the children.”
The Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota is instrumental not only in providing support for Tibetans here in Minnesota, but for keeping Wangmo here as well.
The foundation pursued an O-type visa for Wangmo. This visa is reserved for men and women with extraordinary ability in the arts. According to Winthrop Square Law, an applicant for an O-type visa must hold “a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.”
As a member of the prestigious Tibetan Institute for the Performing Arts, a leading actress in the film “Kundun” and a prominent musician in the film “Seven Years in Tibet,” Wangmo fits the bill.
The visa enabled Wangmo to perform with the Ethnic Dance Theatre, a mainstay in the Twin Cities performing arts community.
The theater was founded 25 years ago at Macalester College to preserve ethnic folk dance in the Twin Cities.
Marge Maddux, associate professor in the theatre arts and dance department at the University, was a founding member. She has watched many University graduates move on to the theater she founded.
It acts somewhat as an internship opportunity, she said.
“The dancers find out that folk dance is much more difficult than anything they have done so far,” Maddux said. “A lot of the solos you wouldn’t be able to do if you were not a trained dancer.”
The theater employs choreographers from around the globe to train the mostly-American members of the cast.
“The Twin Cities has become rich in terms of choreographers,” Maddux said.

Sascha Matuszak covers international affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]