Posts Tagged ‘ballet’

Scholar’s Corner: DANCING COMMUNITIES

hamera

Finally, I arrive at a book that is explicitly about dance: Judith Hamera’s Dancing Communities: Performance, Difference and Connection in the Global City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Although this book does not have quite the coherent structure or unified argument of the previous two, it does accomplish something that I called for in my previous post: It places ballet and Pilates training (among other examples) side by side and examines them each as embodied practices, rather than segregating them on account of dance’s public role as one of the “performing arts” and the status of Pilates as a personal rather than public practice. Read the rest of this entry »

masculinity as a lineage of technique

Tomorrow is the symposium on Masculinity and Embodied Practice. Apart from a problem with the digital projector, everything is going smoothly, and I am looking forward to an extremely interesting set of paper, presentations, and performances.

In my academic work, I am trying to re-theorize “technique” as something much deeper and more complicated than is usually assumed. Given how fundamental technique is in the performing arts, it is surprising how little it has been theorized. As far as I know, Foucault is the only major theorist to have written extensively on bodily techniques, and that from a perspective of domination and social networks of power rather than on the craft developed by practitioners of embodied forms.

A word, then, about masculinity as technique.

Let us compare masculinity with ballet. There are many iconic images of ballet, but ballet is not fundamentally an image. Nor is it fundamentally a language, even though some aspects of ballet seem to work like semiotics. Once upon a time, in Euro culture, ballet was dance and dance was ballet. Ballet, then, is the name for what people used to do when they danced. It also names a complex legacy of teachers and students, performers and choreographers, painters and royalty.

What if masculinity is not a single role or image, not a biological category, and not a universal signifier… but rather, like ballet, a powerful historical and formerly hegemonic lineage of embodied technique?

Ben Spatz
Artistic Director
Urban Research Theater
MR-AIR 2010-2012

Critics say the darndest things

“You can’t watch it just as “democratic” dance — everyday movement made poetic — because some of its jumpy passages are a bit too fancy, and neither they nor its more pervasive passages of ordinary movement are ever compelling for more than five seconds at a time. And you can’t watch it as a demonstration of skilled dance technique, because several of the performers are out of shape.”

“The exotic as tourist package: the undulating torsos and rhythmic stamping footwork that connote an African heritage, and the stretched, balletic limbs and light, airborne jumps of the European colonizers. Fabulous dancers, catchy music, striking costumes on a shiny, black-paneled stage. That’s a lot — the audience, who gave the company an ovation, thought so — but at no point is it art.”

“No matter the sense of occasion that a ballet gala affords — the gowns, the celebrity sightings, the air kisses — once the actual dancing gets under way, it’s best to consider the expression ‘one step forward, two steps back.’”

“Hallelujah for restless imaginations and ambitions, and for good artists leaving solid ground in order to get better.”

Can you name the critic? The artist being criticized? Can you free yourselves from this dysfunctional feedback loop?

Join us Tuesday (9/29) at Abrons Arts Center at 7pm to find out how.

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