Posts Tagged ‘technique’

Scholar’s Corner: POLITICS OF PIETY

As a doctoral student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, I am currently preparing to take the long-awaited “Second Examination” in August. This consists of a rigorous set of written and oral exams on three scholarly fields that I myself have defined. In this way it is unlike the much broader “First Examination,” which covered all of theatre history and theory in the widest possible scope.

My three fields are as follows:

1) “Approaches to Embodied Practice” (30 books)

2) “Actor Training in the U.S. since 1930” (25 books)

3) “Affect, Politics, and Performance” (25 books)

With the idea that these topics could be of interest to the Movement Research community, I will be posting brief discussions of some of my favorite books here throughout the month of July. Each of the books I will address was published in the past ten years, and each is excellent overall. They are all scholarly works, although some are more accessible in tone and language than others. I hope that these blog entries will point theory-minded practitioners towards some new ideas in emerging scholarship — and perhaps tempt some scholars to the website of Movement Research.

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Polemic: “vocabulary”

The idea that performance work is based on a “vocabulary” of movements or gestures may be useful in some contexts but is also problematic and fundamentally misleading.

Technique is not language. Technique shares some similarities with language, but using language as a metaphor for embodied technique (as many people do) leaves out a huge aspect of technique and collapses the essential differences between performance and writing.

I am not blind to the advantages of 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

Teaching as a Primary Practice

Imagine if teaching were a central value, a touchstone of our culture. Imagine if pedagogy were considered a core practice, perhaps even the most central practice, and the achievements of art and science were understood as secondary to the transmission of knowledge, including embodied knowledge.

Focusing on teaching as a primary practice puts the emphasis on the long term. It also tends to deemphasize what individuals may be capable of through talent or luck, and points instead to what remains possible over time (from generation to generation) because of the care invested in hundreds or thousands of unique teacher-student relationships.

That teaching is not currently valued in this way  is everywhere apparent, not only in the continual encroachment of standardized tests on primary education but also in the lack of financial support for projects of teaching and transmission. Grants for performance have been steadily shrinking Read the rest of this entry »

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