Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dance Timeline of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century

Some of the dances and events that I feel are important from 1950-2000.

1950- Martha Graham’s The Gospel of Eve and Judith.

1950- composer John Cage was looking for ways to impose as little as possible on musical elements as a way of rebelling against prescribed scenarios of one thing having to lead to another.

1951- Martha Graham’s solo The Triumph of St. Joan where she presents several aspects of woman, the Maid, Warrior, and Martyr. Jungian thought provided Graham with an approach to personae, she was stimulated by the idea of the collective unconscious and the power of the archetypal images that dwelt there.

1953- a new work was being planned for the New York City Ballet with a proposed collaboration between Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine.

1953- Merce Cunningham forms his Cunningham company.

1954- George Balanchine uses Charles Ives’s The Unaswered Question for a section of Ivesiana, a restless, yearning call of a melody never resolved where amazingly the female dancer never touches the ground.

1955- Anna Sokolow’s work Rooms about urban isolation in tenements.

1957- Agon premiered, the final product of the collaboration of Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine. It was perceived as a dazzling contemporary work, dense and lean, no fancy costumes only black and white practice clothes.

1958- Merce Cunningham and his company premiere Summerspace at the American Dance Festival. It was the first time Merce and his dancers had been invited to teach and perform at this bastion of modern dance.

1960- Liebeslider Walzer by George Balanchine and the music of Brahms, this ballet is poignantly romantic.

1960- Martha Graham’s Alcestis where a tipped, massive inverted L was a bed for the heroine’s unquiet slumbers.

1961- Anna Sokolow’s work Dreams about the horrors of the Holocaust.

1962 Judson Church becomes Judson Dance Theatre, it was a very experimental container for post-modern work.

1963- Suzanne Farrell’s status as a new muse is announced in Don Quixote, where Balanchine himself played the impotent and idealist Don to Farrell’s Dulcinea.

1965- Twyla Tharp left the Paul Taylor Company and started doing her own work.

1967- Cunningham Company does Rainforest, with glinting, gently bobbling stacks of helium-filled pillows that where designed by Andy Warhol.

1968- Merce Cunningham does Walkaround Time, which eventually erases the very notion of follow-up from the audience’s slate of possibilities.

1969- The Grand Union Collective is begun with Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, David Gordon and Trisha Brown.

1969- Cunningham Company does Canfield a dance where the order of sections or how many of them are performed may change from one performance to another.

1973- Martha Graham ends her performing career though she still animated and controlled her dancers, some say making them into appurtenances.

1974- a revival of “The Kingdom of the Shades” act from La Bayadere, staged by Natalia Makarova for American Ballet Theatre.

1975- Jiri Kylian joined the Netherlands Dance Theatre as resident choreographer and co-artistic director.

1975- Cunningham Company does Torse, a fast, bright, rather dry virtuosic piece, stressing five basic positions of the torso – straight, twisted, tilted, arched, and bent.

1976- the X6 Collective was formed in England and was similar to what the Judson Dance Theatre was doing ten years prior.

1976- revival of George Balanchine’s 1957 Square Dance where he inserted a new solo for the dancer Bart Cook because of Cook’s ability to blend lyrical plastic with a forthright farm boy persona.

1979- Glacial Decoy was the start of Trisha Brown’s lifelong exploration of the relationship between dance and visual arts. This quiet piece sees five dancers perform before Rauschenberg’s astonishingly beautiful slide projections.

1980- premier of Bell High for the Rambert Company by Richard Alston.

1981- Lar Lubovitch’s inward looking piece called Cavalcade to Reich’s Octet.

1986- Ulysses Dove’s Vespers, this piece has a postmodernist movement style featuring strong gestural phrases, a side-facing focus and a lot of waiting, along with a driving, percussive musical score by Mikel Rouse.

1991- Marie Chouinard first group work, Les Trous du ciel, was acclaimed in Canada, the United States and Europe. Critics and public alike felt the same intensity as in her solos, heightened by the numerous dancers.

1991- Ms. Tharp regrouped her company Twyla Tharp Dance and created a program with Mikhail Baryshnikov called Cutting Up, which went on to become one of contemporary dance's most successful tours, appearing in twenty eight cities over a two month period.

1999- Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake won the Drama Desk Award and two Tony Awards, Best Director for a Musical and Best Choreography. It was reviewed as pure theatre and most likely the most impressive and significant show to open on Broadway in a long time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tibetan Sacred Dance Part II

This is continued from Part I...

Padmasambhava came to Tibet in the eighth century C.E. and is often revered by Tibetans as the second Buddha. He established Buddhism on a firm basis and built and consecrated Samye, the first monastery. Under his direction Tibetan scholars translated innumerable tantras, commentaries, and ritual texts. The lineage of Padmasambhava is called the Nyingma Tradition and was the sole guardian of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition from the ninth to the eleven centuries. Other lineages prospered as well, from the eleventh century onward on the basis of new translations of Sanskrit texts. It is said that Padmasambhava entrusted his disciples with secret teachings in the form of parchments written in symbolic language that he hid in the sky, the earth, a rock, a lake, or a sacred image. The tradition of “revealed treasures” (terma) has played an important role up to the present day. Such revealed teachings are considered to have particular potency because they are specifically adapted to the epoch in which they appear (Govinda, 1996).

A number of these treasures contain instructions for new forms of sacred dance. The best known is that of Guru Chowang (1212-1270). In a vision he found himself riding a white horse that carried him aloft through the air to the glorious copper-colored mountain, the paradise of Padmasambhava. There he met Padmasambhava’s eight manifestations and received teaching from them on the nature of mind (Trungpa, 1992, 2001). He also saw a vast gathering of celestial beings dancing before the master. After this transformation experience he inaugurated the festival of the tenth day, which celebrates in the dance the coming to Tibet of Padamasambhava and the establishment of Buddhism (Govinda, 1996).

This process of new dances being created as a result of visionary experiences has been repeated again and again over the centuries. An example of one of these visions goes as follows: the great Bhutanese treasure revealer Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) had a dream in which Yeshe Tsogyel, the principle consort and spiritual disciple of Padmasambhava, showed him the dance of the five dakinis (feminine deities). When Pema Lingpa awoke he clearly remembered the images of the dance. He taught himself to execute the movements and then transmitted them to his disciples. Another example of this is in the sixteenth century when the great teacher Khamtrul Kunga Tenzin, in retreat in a mountain hermitage, had a vision in which the whole universe became the mythical pure land of Padmasambhava where he saw wonderful dances were being danced. Padmasambhava appeared and told Kunga Tenzin to leave his retreat and work for the benefit of all beings by teaching the dances he was seeing, for they would bring great blessings to those who saw them. Kunga Tenzin was responsible for establishing the Gar Cham, a dance festival that took place at Khampar in eastern Tibet and continues today at Tashijong in northern India (Govinda, 1996).

Training for these dances often takes place in the evening in the middle of the monastery courtyard under the watchful eye of the dance master who indicates the rhythm by tapping the cymbals he carries. The dancer monks often continue the training in the lamplight until late at night. To coordinate their movements they count the steps in a slow recitative. The boy monks are often enthusiastic spectators, and sometimes imitate their elders in a corner of the courtyard. When it is their turn to learn, they will already know most of the dances by heart. Once or twice a year the monks’ prowess is tested in the presence of the abbot and the dance master. They are the dance students in the monastery and are marked on their capacity to memorize the movements, their expressiveness, or, in the case of some dances, on their sheer athleticism (Garcham, 1992).

Drudi is a dance master who came from Tibet to transmit his knowledge of this art to the young monks of Shechen in Nepal. He explains the basic principles of what makes cham a dancing meditation. As in any spiritual practice, the dancer has to apply three essential points. Firstly he should prepare himself beforehand by having the right motivation, which means to have the ‘mind of enlightenment’, the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. Secondly, when he dances he should be perfectly concentrated, with an awareness that all phenomena are like dreams. His mind should be clear, watchful, serene, free from attachment, and conscious of the illusory nature of things. With his body, he should faithfully represent the positions and expressions of the mandala (Kyabogon, pg, 108, 1992).

The richness and vigor of the Tibetan religious tradition can be seen in its rituals, which often last all day. In a type of annual ceremony known as drupchen the ritual continues day and night nonstop for nine days and nine nights. A ritual is a call to reflection, contemplation, prayer, and meditation. The chanting of the liturgy is interspersed with bursts of musical offerings, which mingle with the sounds of long trumpets, bells, drums, and cymbals. For these grand ceremonies, a mandala is created which represents the pure land of divinity. Symbolically mandalas can be seen as meditation objects whose purpose is to gradually transform our way of perceiving the world until we rediscover its intrinsic purity. Externally a mandala takes the form of a diagram painted on canvas or drawn with colored powders. First the dancer monks dance the patterns of a mandala. Then the monks who are the painters in the monasteries, in meticulous detail, using colored powders, draw it. At the end of the ritual, the mandala is swept away, symbolizing the impermanence of all things. The powders are gathered up and thrown in the river, so that all who use the water, animals or humans, may be blessed (Garcham, 1992).

Sometimes the ceremonies end with dances which serve as a visual teaching, in which the world is transformed, negative forces subdued, and beings awakened to their ultimate nature and freed from suffering. Every hour in the monastery is considered precious, whether it is spent in study, in performing rituals, or contemplation. Each day brings a new enrichment and leads a little further toward perfection, at the same time helping to maintain the continuity of the universal values and truths, that many people feel, are essential not only for Tibetans but for the whole of mankind (Trungpa, 1992, 2001).

Tibetan Sacred Dance Part I

In this post I am going to cover some of the history of Tibetan Sacred Dance and how this dance form is evolving today and where. I will also give insight into the spiritual meanings and implications of these dances and how they tie into the Tibetan Buddhist Religion. Since the Chinese invasion in 1959, much of Tibetan culture and religion has existed in exile. In Nepal, Bhutan, and India the festivals of sacred dance have been able to continue without constraint. For example, Nepal straddles the Himalayas between Tibet and India and has a very rich heritage of peoples, cultures, and spiritual traditions. The people that dwell in the mountains of Nepal are mostly Tibetan refugees who are Buddhists; this is also true of the peoples of the Mustang and Dolpo regions. On the other hand, the religion and culture of the people of the valleys are mainly Hindu of Indian origin. The constant mingling of peoples and cultures between the valleys and the mountains has created a religious coexistence characterized by exceptional tolerance. This has allowed places like the monastery of Shenchen in Bodhnath, in Katmandu valley, to become a haven for the development of sacred art and dance (Kyabogon, 1992).

The traditional Tibetan Buddhist understanding of sacred dance, or cham, originated in India with Buddhism, and then diffused to Tibet where it flourished for centuries. In Tibetan Buddhist philosophy sacred dance has a different basis than secular dance, which often engages the emotions; contrastingly sacred dance pacifies the emotions (Trungpa, 1992, 2001). When the monks of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition dance ceremonially, they are meditating while offering a spiritual gift to the witnessing lay community. Through “symbolic gesture” and sound the monks transmit an experience that is the culmination of long contemplative visionary experience and meditation, and it is believed that this kind of dance liberates the audience. When I say liberate I am referencing the Buddhist idea of liberating oneself from the bondage of the five poisons that work against inner peace: hatred, covetousness, ignorance, pride, and jealousy (Khyentse, 1992).

In the West, we usually understand creativity to be the expression of the impulses that arise from personal subjective experience. From a contemplative standpoint this approach is not necessarily creative in its fullest sense because that subjective experience itself is limited by what Buddhism calls basic ignorance. Thus, what one considers to be an original creation is often the result of exploring one’s habitual tendencies and impulses that maintain the vicious circle of samsara, the wheel of existence. From this spiritual point of view, true creativity means casting off the veils of ignorance to discover the ultimate nature of mind and phenomena. In fact, sacred art is an element of the spiritual path. It takes courage to practice it, because its goal is to destroy the attachment to the ego. Furthermore, Tibetan dances are full of symbolic meaning. For instance, when a lone dancer in a stag mask cuts up an effigy with a sword it is not an act of violence but symbolizes destroying the ego with the sword of wisdom. The masked dancers who chase each other in a colorful noisy riot do not represent the pursuit of demons but the movements of inner energy, which give rise to the mental activity that continually agitates our mind. However, a few symbolic elements like these cannot encompass the profound meaning that the dances find in the much vaster sphere of the meditation on pure vision, the perception of the primordial purity of all phenomena, both animate and inanimate (Kyabogon, 1992).

At the time of the Buddha, in the sixth century B.C.E. in India, it is said that the Buddha appeared to certain particularly gifted disciples in the form of various wrathful deities, whose awesome appearance symbolized the indestructibility of compassion. These deities were said to have danced in a thousand majestic ways, symbolizing their innumerable activities to help all sentient beings. This is how the sacred dances came into being in India. The sacred dances were danced at spiritual feasts known as ganachakra where the monks would dance spontaneously, without hesitation or inhibition. Over the years the dances came to be codified and taught and their significance was explained. An uninterrupted transmission from teacher to disciple continues in some monasteries today, maintaining the continuity of the practice to the present (Garcham, 1992).

The fifth Dalai Lama explains that the trained dancer should flourish the tails of his robe like a great garuda gliding through the firmament, and shake his hair like a now lion shaking its turquoise mane. His body should have the grace of a tiger gliding through the Indian jungle; his trunk should be straight, his waist should form an elegant curve; his calves should be elastic, his elbows and knees fast-moving, his footwork elegant, and every movement of his body should be ample and majestic, full of ease and grace, precise and clearly defined. It is also said that the dancer should move as if his feet were drawing a lotus on the ground, and that his movements should be like the wing-beats of an eagle, (Kyabogon, pg, 157, 1992).

The symbols that the dancers hold are often in the form of weapons symbolizing the combat of enlightenment against ignorance and the victory of serene clarity over the whirlwind of emotions. The terrible laughter and song put to flight the legions of Mara, the demon who embodies attachment to the notion of self, the belief in the reality of oneself and phenomena, (Kyabogon, 1992).

This post continues....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Thought On Butoh

Butoh is often viewed as Japan's equivalent of modern dance, but in actuality it has little to do with the rational principles of modernism. Butoh is a theater of improvisation which places the personal experiences of the dancer on center stage. The dancer is used as a medium to his or her inner life, but not for the portrayal of day to day existence. A Dionysian dance of nudity, eroticism, and sexuality, Butoh's scale of expression ranges from meditative tenderness to excessive grotesqueness. By reestablishing the ancient Japanese connection of dance, music, and masks, and by recalling the Buddhist death dances of rural Japan, Butoh incorporates much traditional theater. At the same time, it is a movement of resistance against the abandonment of traditional culture to a highly organized consumer-oriented society. An alliance of tradition and rebellion, Butoh is one of the most fascinating underground dance movements. "Butoh: Body on the Edge of Crisis" is a visually striking film portrait shot on location in Japan with the participation of the major Butoh choreographers and their companies. Min Tanaka and Maijuku; Yoko Ashikawa and Hakutobo; Akaji Maro and Dai Rakuda Kan; Kazuo Ohno; Isamu Ohsuka and Byakko-sha; Natsu Nakajima and Muteki-sha; Sankaijuku; and Tatsumi Hijikata.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alexander Technique Part II, ....continued

The first part of this article is here.

Michael Gelb, in his book Body Learning says direction is the new experience of trusting one’s reason rather than one’s habit, even if it feels awkward. He says that the best conditions for good use are brought about when one released the tension in one’s neck, so that one’s head could go forward and up and one’s back could lengthen and widen. One must give up any attempt to ‘do’ anything about securing these conditions, as one understands the word ‘doing’. In a word, direction becomes a matter of thinking: ‘up’. This has been very interesting and subtle for me. I have experience with these ideas of not doing from studying Buddhism and particularly Zen. In those cases the similar instructions have been focused on mind training and it is so wonderful to be able to relate to these instructions through the body. I feel like it has all the useful qualities of training the mind but actually being able to relate through the context of the body makes the experience very lasting and real.

I feel Gelb’s approach to the learning process is a very effective approach that embraces all the qualities that are needed to truly encourage good use from an early age. If I had had Alexander Technique as a young person along side my ballet training I feel I would not have developed the poor use inspired by ballet that I did. The emotional aspects of the readings were very interesting to me. Everything Gelb talks about as being the effects of Alexander Technique on the emotions are the very qualities I strive to achieve. The possibility of not always reacting to my environment and instead letting there be a gap before I respond would make everybody in my life much happier. In general I can check in with myself, bring my attention into my back and let my defensive initial responses pass, but when I am tired I generally snap and that is when problems in my life occur. I appreciated they way Gelb approached that subject and find it very useful.

The idea of loss of fear is important to me, to be able to make the structural choices that are of the best use and most effective would not only relate to my everyday use but to my climbing technique as well. I love the idea of being able to organize my body in an instant, the way it needs to be organized with optimum strength and the least strain. My husband Peter calls this being able to think on the rock, similar to the Alexander approach of letting there be space in the mind to move beyond the habitual patterns and into good use. Interestingly, I studied Japanese archery throughout elementary school. I have only a vague memory of those lessons but I do remember that the Master Shabata Sensei had unbelievably good use when I look back on that time. He has lived into his nineties and I still see him sometimes, my employer is a kyudo student of his. Even now Shabata Sensei is strong when he does kyudo though when he is walking or sitting he looks old and hunched. But when he does kyudo he becomes very still and awareness comes into his body that is like a listening, his use changes and I can truly say he is using the means whereby.

I have had more positive change through Alexander than from the other things I have done, some of which are mentioned in the book, such as aikido. I understand and appreciate the premise of aikido but when I took it I always felt withdrawn when my partner would ‘attack’ me. I like the ideas of centering and blending with conflict that aikido provides, it just wasn’t the most effective thing to influence my use, I just could never become comfortable with the actual practice of aikido when we had to engage with another person, I never didn’t get scared. But Alexander combines all the principles of aikido, kyudo, meditation and other things I have done and has the gentleness that I can respond to and open to. I am truly enjoying this work and plan to continue throughout my life.

Alexander Technique Part I

The principles of Alexander Technique that I will talk about in this post are principles that I have some personal experience with. I feel it is important to have direct personal experience of an idea in order to truly understand the idea and bring it into form. The principles I touch on are all experiences I have connected to through both Alexander Technique and self-awareness.

In Christy Harris’s article The Influence of the Alexander Technique on Modern Dance Aesthetics, she addresses an Alexander Technique principle of not end-gaining. She talks about how it is “a deeply ingrained habit for dancers to end-gain or misuse the body in order to achieve the appearance of movement”; I feel that is very true. She suggests a heightened sensory awareness and the discipline to stay present with the directions enables the dancer to maintain integrity in the process of movement, rather than end-gaining for the result.

Christy Harris also talks about the idea of faulty sense of awareness. This was very interesting to me; she says faulty sense of awareness is the recognition that our habits feel right to us. That our perception about the world is clouded by our own habitually conditioned patterning. She says it is important that we take responsibility for our habits, recognizing that they control us, and that they govern our choices and how we respond to the environment. This is very spiritual advice and is the basis; I feel, for a happy, healthy life. The idea of taking responsibility for ones behavior and use both physically and in our environments is where the truth lies.

Phyllis Richmond addresses, in her article The Alexander Technique and the Dancer –Preventative care during Activity, kinetic chain dysfunction. She says every thing comes back to technique, to the dancer working in a way that encourages injury. I definitely know what that is about, and she goes on to say more. That if the way of working interferes with normal joint stability and mobility, then the bones and muscles cannot perform their functions of posture and movement in the way the body is designed to function. The brain will compensate by automatically recruiting other muscle groups that take care of these functions and we develop compensatory kinetic chain dysfunction, which may prove to be the primary cause of injury.

Phyllis Richmond also addresses the idea of poor use, which she says is the underlying principle behind faulty technique. I feel like poor use is very influenced and caused by kinetic chain dysfunction. She says that a dancer with poor use is not only performing choreography but also is also expending additional, unnecessary energy and misapplied muscular bracing that interferes with the performance of the choreography. I spent years looking for ways to untrain my body’s habitual use while dancing. I was in pain so often, during performance and even while I slept. I was rolfed over and over and that helped some but I truly needed to change my use. My use did become better from the self-awareness and the rolfing, but I feel it improving in an accelerated way through practicing the Alexander principles and I am thankful for that. It still is an evolving process and I know that but at least I have some concrete teachings to work from and apply.

The Actor and The Neutral State by Joan Diamond interested me very much when the neutral state was addressed. She says the neutral state is the basis from which everything else should arise and express itself. She relates it to a driver who must go into neutral before changing gears, an actor needs to cultivate the neutral state in the body before entering the character one is going to play. Joan Diamond also talks about the idea of healer in the performing arts rather than critic. She says she encourages actors to observe each other in performance from the neutral state in the workshop setting. “Sitting in the neutral state, aware of one’s own structure and energy, staying well in one’s back, the actor comes into a big hearted, wide seeing perspective that the actor can observe his colleagues’ structure: where energy is blocked, where it could be released, where the sticking point lies. Observing one’s fellow colleague from this perspective enables the actor to bring constructive observations that help, rather than destroy.”

What a revolutionary idea this is to me. It seems like the perfect working model to create an atmosphere that I know people are wanting more and more in classrooms and workshops, but that is actually hard to create because people are so conditioned to be offensive and defensive. The idea of coming into this neutral state and then relating to the world, whether it be observing one’s classmate’s use or watching a performance, seems like a very enlightened and effective approach that I am experiencing in my own life.

This post continues.....

Cabaret Voltaire

In this post I will talk about how Dadaism came into being and the people who brought it into being. I will focus mainly on the happenings of the Cabaret Voltaire and the philosophies, performances and literature that arose from the evening’s presentations. I will also try to convey how and where Dadaism continued to grow after the original collaboration in 1916 of the Cabaret Voltaire.

In 1915, after World War I was declared in Europe, a number of artists including the future Dadaists converged in Zurich, Switzerland because of Switzerland’s remaining neutrality to the war. Zurich became a place of retreat and the ideal breeding ground for these artists’ manifestations against war, jingoism and outmoded aesthetical traditions. These artists were Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings both German Poets, Jean Arp, an Alsatian painter, sculptor and poet, and Rumanians, Marcel Janco, a painter, and Tristan Tzara, a poet, among others. They all shared an antimilitaristic, antiaesthetic attitude which was conditioned in part by the horrors of World War I, but also, in a more professional way, by a revolt against the established traditions in art and literature.

At the beginning of 1916 Hugo Ball rented an empty hall belonging to Ephraim Jan, an elderly Dutch sailor. There, Ball planned to open his own cabaret together with his wife Emmy Hemmings, who was a vocalist as well as a poet. For a name they chose the “Cabaret Voltaire”. They asked Jean Arp, Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara, members of their circle, to collaborate, and the cabaret was opened on February 5th, 1916.

The cabarets premise was the idea of artists’ club, exhibition room, pub, and theatre, combined into one. The performances consisted of works, which had never before been seen or heard. Noise music, simultaneous poems recited by four to seven voices speaking all at once, avant-guard dances in unusual masks and outrageous costumes, interrupted by readings of German and French sound verses, and solemn incantations of texts by the mystic Jacob Bohme as well as Loa-Tse. Paintings were presented by artists whose names had been mostly unknown until then: Arp, Paolo Buzzi, Cangiullo, Janco, Kisling, Mack, Marinetti, Mopp, Picasso, van Rees, Slodki, Segal,Wabel, and others.

On May 15th, 1916, Hugo Ball published a pamphlet entitled “Cabaret Voltaire”, which contained a collection of artistic and literary contributions by many of the above-mentioned artists and writers. In his introduction, Ball wrote these programmatic words:
When I founded the Cabaret Voltaire, I was of the opinion that there ought to be a few young people in Switzerland who not only laid stress, as I did, on enjoying their independence, but also wished to proclaim it. I went to Mr. Ephraim, the owner of the “Meierei” restaurant and said, ‘Please Mr. Ephraim, let me have your hall. I want to make a cabaret’. And went to the friendly press of Zurich and said, ‘Write a few notes. It shall be an international cabaret. We want to do some beautiful things’. And they gave me pictures, and they wrote the notes. So, on February 5th, we had our cabaret. Mrs. Hennings and Mrs. Laecote sang French and Danish songs. Mr. Tristan Tzara recited Romanian verses. A balaika band played some charming Russian folk songs and dances. Much support and sympathy came from Mr. Slodki, who designed the poster for the Cabaret; and from Mr. Hans Arp, who placed at my disposal a few works by Picasso, in addition to his own works, and who also got me some pictures from his friends: O. van Rees and Arthur Segal. There was also much assistance from Messrs. Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and Max Oppenheimer, who willingly expressed their readiness to appear at the cabaret. We organized a Russian soiree, and soon after a French one as well (with works by Appollinaire, Max Jacob, Andre Salmon, A. Jarry, Laforgue, and Rimbaud). On February 26th, Richard Huesenbeck came from Berlin, and on March 30th we performed fabulous Negro music (always with the big drum, boom, boom, boom-drabatja mo gere drabatja mo booonoo…). Mr. Laban was present at the performance and was quite enthusiastic. Thanks to the initiative of Mr. Tristan Tzara, who along with Huelsenbeck and Janco, performed for the first time in Zurich and, indeed, in the whole world, simultaneous verses by Messrs. Henri Barzum and Fernand Divoire, as well as a simultaneous poems of their own composition. For the little pamphlet we are publishing today, we have to thank our initiative and the assistance of our friends in France, Italy and Russia. It is to exemplify the activities and the interests of the cabaret, whose whole endeavor is directed at reminding the world, across the war and various fatherlands, of those few independent spirits that live for other ideals. The next aim of the artists united here is to publish an international periodical. This will appear at Zurich and will be called ‘DADA Dada Dada Dada Dada Dada.’” (-Hugo Ball, Zurich, 15 May 1916)

The word Dada first appeared in print in this publication and designated a forthcoming publication, “Dada”. On July 14th, 1916, the first Dada Soiree took place at the “Waage” hall; and in the same month a series of books called the “Collection Dada,” began to appear. Other collaborations began to develop, some of which are, “The First Heavenly Adventure of Mr. Febrifuge,” by Tzara with illustrations by Marcel Janco, Huelsenbeck’s “Fantastic Prayers” and “ Schalaben Schalomai Schalamezomai,” and Tzara’s “25 Poems,” all illustrated by Arp.

On March 17th, 1917, the “Galerie Dada” was opened taking the place of the Cabaret Voltaire, which had been closed, prior. “Strum-Soirees” were offered and among them was a performance of Kokoschka’s play “Sphinx and Man-of-Straw,” and an “Evening of New Art,” exhibitions of ancient and modern art. From July 1917, to May 1919, four issues of the new periodical “Dada” were published with Tzara as editor. In February 1919, Picabia published No.8 of his ‘vagabond periodical’ “391” with collaborations from the Zurich Dadaists. October 1919 saw the publication of the last Zurich dada periodical “Der Zeltweg,” edited by Otto Flake, Walter Serner, and Tristan Tzara.

After the war when the borders between the countries of Europe had been re-opened, links with Berlin, Cologne and Paris were established. Huelsenbeck founded a dada-group in Berlin, Arp and Max Ernst founded one in Cologne. On Tzara’s initiative a particularly active group sprang up in Paris. Dada extended to Holland through van Doesberg, and Schwitters founded “Merz,” his own version of DaDa, in Hanover. And the influence of DaDa extended to Italy, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Spain, Russia, and the United States.

Dada was more than a movement, whose activities have been amply documented. Dada was also a state of mind and the original manifesto of the Cabaret Voltaire by Hugo Ball expresses this. The group who gathered together to create the Cabaret Voltaire claimed to be independent people, beyond war and nationalism, who lived for “other ideals”. This original group of brave and devoted artists who created the Cabaret Voltaire are a great source of inspiration for my own art. I feel challenged to drive my artistic work beyond the boundaries of the old and onto the frontiers of the new.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flamenco Dance Today: Part II

The first part of the Flamenco series is here. Continuing...

Andres Marin says he went back to dancing to recover his father's name, four years after quitting. Ever since then, circumstances lead to one thing and then another "little by little": teaching, working abroad, a tablao in Japan, Seville's 1992 and 2000 editions of the Bienal, Trilogía... a nascent company. The dancer from Granada claims to have freed himself along the way from the Andrés Marín Sr. connection and opted for a "very personal line, very me, because of my way of seeing it and of conceiving it".

When asked if he represents the flamenco of the future he says, “you can't really pigeon-hole dancing in present, past and future. That's absurd. But it's true that the future is more open to certain things, there are more possibilities of movement and expression.” He hopes the future will be synonymous with freedom of expression, “something which exists all too little nowadays. What you can't do is paint in the year 2000 with motifs from the year 500, because that can only go wrong. You have to paint about today and see things as they are now. Trying not to destroy, but rather cherish, caress. In order to dance flamenco you don't have to wear a polkadot scarf, you don't have to be a non-gypsy trying to be a gypsy because that makes you a vulgar puppet. Every individual does his things and you have to respect them.” He says that is his approach or way of thinking.

When asked how he sees himself as a dancer he says,” I dance the way I feel. I like cante a lot, I like music, I like the combination. But I don't like flashy junk. And I don't like phoniness either. Express yourself as you are, but don't try to fool people. I like dance that comes from the gut, that hurts. I like real dancing. and that doesn't mean to dance better or worse than anyone, but to dance being true to who you are. For me that merits more respect. I don't know what I contribute. I dance to the music, I think about it a lot, I'm concerned about the poetic verses. Each year that goes by I like minimalist things better... less is more. There was a time that I had to fill in every little spot. There wasn't a single empty moment.”

In terms of dress and costume he feels like flamenco is on the commercial upswing, it's abusing its commercial appeal. “And the fact is, when you create art, with good intentions, from within, with an honest artistic concept, exploring, that's going to cause a stir for sure, but it will never put food on the table. I prefer that to getting up on stage to jump around.” He refuses to jump through the commercial hoops. Each year he sees it more clearly, before, he might have considered it at a given time, but not any more. When he was young, he used to say, okay, "why is that guy up there, while me or someone else who dances better, isn't? Circumstances, because he knows people, because he has friends, he's involved in the politics... All kinds of things we have no control over. Once you've got your name people come knocking, but it's hard to make a name.”

When asked about innovation he says, “the only way to innovate within flamenco is by being personal. The personal way of innovating is by being yourself. You don't have to invent anything, you have to dance as you are, you have to paint yourself as you are, you have to walk the way the you are... A lot people think this or that because you dance modern... I don't dance modern, that's just what people think. I probably dance more old-style than a lot of people, because I get everything from what already came before. Things aren't done just to be copied.”

In terms of technique, he thinks it is important for big spaces, in order to have control of the body, ”so you don't fall down on stage or stick your finger in your eye, and to not be repetitious or reiterative. But technique is at the service of art. And you realize more and more that technique is only worth what it's worth. You can't forget that. And more so for those of us who have to continue studying because new people are coming up who dance very well. What I see is that people are very afraid when it comes time to express themselves... monkey see, monkey do. You go to Holland, to New York, to Stockholm... you walk down the street and you can't believe it because people have another personality and a kind of courage. And you see someone in the street with the most outrageous hat in the world. Or look at Prince, who's really got class, but they see that over here and people laugh because they haven't got any respect, they're ignorant. But not only the flamencos, but people in general, the collective. Most of the people who go to the Bienal de Flamenco haven't got a clue. And I'm sure that in Seville's plaza which years ago was a hotbed of flamenco, reduced now to a show-window for alternative lifestyles, a place where this artist who harmonizes with the space-time continuum can fit right in) I can start playing palmas and you can be sure that everyone will join in. And that's the least of it, the thing is they'll start talking to you about flamenco and teach you something too. People have no guts. Always worried about what others will think. That's how I see it.”

When asked what elements foreign to flamenco he is in favor of he says, “I incorporate a viola. I like everything which is added. People come around with their "but...but...", but if you don't have the courage to do things, then you complain and get embittered. It depends on how you put the instruments in, how they sound, the thrust. It's either well-done or poorly-done. It depends on who's doing it and how they do it. I'm open to everything. I see flamenco in everything, I can't separate it from anything. I don't separate art from anything. Michael Jackson is just as flamenco as the most flamenco person over here. Because I view flamenco as a kind of energy, I don't see flamenco as a style. The other stuff I see as a copy. Flamenco is a way of being and feeling for me. As far as I'm concerned the others aren't flamenco, they're people who study flamenco, and they're the ones who make it, but they get there backwards... that's the bad news about this.”

He is not very tolerant of the kind of dancing of jumping around and crowd-pleasing. To do a movement which is preconceived to please the audience, that's the worst thing to him. He says it doesn't reach him. “You shouldn't notice the movement, it has to be just the right moment. You can't be premeditating the air. Preconceiving the little tricks, that's phony.” He likes serious dance, straightforward dance and more so “when it's those things that are done by people who did them without thinking, and there you are thinking it all out. Because the beauty is in the unevenness, the virtue is in the necessity. All the rest is academic, plastic, pretty, you sell it and make money... and there's never any problem because everyone says "ole".”

The theater, that's his place and as far as a dance, what he likes best is seguiriya, and tangos. Soleá por bulería is where he feels the best rhythmically. He also likes to sing a lot because tangos are more femenine than masculine, he says, so it is more difficult for a man to dance than a woman. “Because that's where you can see if he's gay. The nice thing is to dance tangos like an old lady, but still being masculine, without losing yourself. And the difficult thing. In seguiriya you're dancing the song, and if anyone dares to say anything you pull your gun on them, it's too personal. And there aren't too many dancers who dance seguiriya. They dance it, yes, but who really communicates in seguiriyas... It's one thing to dance, and another to communicate. We all dance. It's very difficult to get yourself together, mark out a dance, and make it hurt... “

He says personality is most important, trying not to be a carbon copy so that we can all be different and we can have fun watching each other. “I might get things from watching a video of Greek dancing... dancing is dancing. When we start getting away from each other, we're on the wrong track. You can't dance like you're in an army barracks. Dancing isn't military... classical yes, flamenco no. You have to adapt it to a rhythm, and a taste.”

When asked what his perception of audiences is, he offers an interesting response, “I like the way flamenco comes across abroad, because it's received with innocence. Here it's received with a desire to understand and be know-it-alls... and that isn't knowing. You need only to watch television at any hour of the day... it's all garbage. Culturally, Andalusia is cow manure. And the ones over forty, worse, unless they've had a very good education, but halfway through, they weren't allowed to study. What people really like is the soap operas, telegarbage. Come on man. Right. At this stage of the game, we're not that stupid. Well, and the young people... There are some that are okay, but others, they're more conservative than my father.”

When asked if he were to set forth a professional challenge, what would it be, he answers with an inspiring artist statement, ”I haven't accomplished everything, but that's a bit much. Whatever comes my way, I'm going to take care of it. I went back to dancing because my parents quit dancing and for me it was a great satisfaction to put a little lustre back into his name. The challenge is to work with all my dignity. But there's a lot of envy if you don't go where they want. I live in my own world, and I think it's better that way. I understand people, but people don't understand me. That's good because I'm left to do my own thing. I know what the film's about, but I don't get involved in the film... because I don't feel like it. I've got my own movie, my short.”

Taken from an interview done by Candela Olivo
Translation: Estela Zatania

It is clear that Flamenco is changing but I find what seems to be happening very inspiring in its bravery and honesty. I have really appreciated meeting flamenco dance and taking the time to research the art form, that this paper has provided. Rhythm oriented footwork, like what is done in flamenco is not something I spend much time doing. It has been difficult and interesting. I find I have been incorporating elements that are more rhythmic into my modern dance choreography and that is very interesting. I will continue to learn flamenco, it has definitely had an impact on how I dance and choreograph.

Flamenco Dance Today: Part I

In these posts, I look at flamenco dance during this modern and critical phase of its development by presenting some of the thoughts and feelings of famous contemporary professional flamenco dancers. These thoughts and feelings will center on where they think flamenco dance is headed as an art, how it has changed, and their personal approach in relating to flamenco dance.

Sara Baras started out dancing in her mother's dance school, a dance academy in Cádiz, where she began when she was very small. Later on, she studied with other teachers, but she says that her mother was the one who made her fall in love with flamenco and grow within flamenco. Her first professional job outside the family was in the company "Manuel Morao y Gitanos de Jerez". “I was just a young girl of fifteen or sixteen. The show was called "Esa forma de vivir" [that way of life], they were all gypsies but me and I felt like such a kid, it was quite an experience.” She says for the first time she danced without thinking “'I'm going to do this, that, or the other', it was much more basic, and there I was on stage, at the same time I was learning in a natural way.”

Sara Baras always wanted to make her own dance company and when she was 26, she already had a mini-company, with a few musicians. The style of dress in Sara Baras' company is setting a fashion within the world of flamenco. In the beginning they used all the typical shawls, hair combs, and flowers, but when she had the opportunity to express herself the way she wanted, the company began to wear costumes of much softer materials, that allow one to see the body. She says you can play around with the fullness of the fabric, and that everything counts, the music, the sound, choreography, lighting, she is trying for a certain aesthetic when she dances.

She says she is always prepared to experiment, to work with fusion with other styles. For example in her piece "Juana la Loca", in addition to dancing there is an element of dramatic interpretation. The basic concept of the piece is going insane over love, something that is very akin to the intensity of flamenco. “The flamenco forms help you a lot, you're not going to dance por soleá laughing your head off, that makes it easier. Like my mother says, in this world you have to lose you head but not go through life without a head on your shoulders, I value bravery very much, and when you're brave you take risks and there must be risk in art, also in your personal life, if not, you don't get anywhere, you have to try things to see how they work, to find out if it's the right thing for you. With "Juana la Loca" I'm surprised to see that what with all the work we've done, there's still a lot of improvising on stage, you have to improvise without messing it up, very often you have to let yourself get carried away by what you feel in your heart, let your body feel right, do what you want.”

Taken from an interview by Daniel Muñoz
Translation: Estela Zatania

Medical and Psychological Bibliography of Studies and Statistical Research on Self-Esteem in Dancers

The bulk of my research deals with dance and self-esteem related issues with a particular emphasis on medical and psychological studies and statistical research that focuses on self-esteem in dancers. My research highlights how these studies are being translated into use in dance companies, dance schools, and in the larger dance community in general. I have been pleased to note that the dance community, on a worldwide scale, is taking into account the various available studies and implementing programs and change where needed.

Dancing On Aero”. ASU Research E-Magazine. Publication Date: Spring 1999. 10 October 2004

This is the web site of “A magazine of scholarship and creative activity at Arizona State University”. It features an article on an ASU professor who revolutionizing the field of dance by training dancers more in line with how athletes are trained. He is interested in the serious health problems that plague dancer: nutrition deficiencies, menstrual and hormonal abnormalities, low self-esteem and the artistic aesthetic that results in low body weight. He includes in his teaching: nutrition, exercise science, physiology and a strong, healthy athletic aesthetic.

Taylor, Jim and Ceci Taylor. Psychology of Dance. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1995.

This book has an extensive section on the cyclic connection of low self-esteem and poor performance in dancers. They claim that self-confidence is significantly related to anxiety and an excessively anxiety ridden environments inhibits performance.

Earl, William L. A Dancer Takes Flight: Psychological Concerns in the Development of the American Male Dancer. London: University Press of America, 1988.

This book attempts to study and understand the motivation and achievement of those who invest their lives in the execution of a physical repertory to be performed before a paying public. It asks if neurotic coping styles are a companion to exceptional prowess in the world of dance. The book is essentially asking if or what particular aspects of a male dancer’s symbolic processes constitute the instrument of both creativity and psychological illness.

Dyck, Noel and Eduardo P. Artchetti. Sport Dance and Embodied Identities. New York: Berg Oxford International Publishers, 2003.

This book argues that the beneficial outcomes attributed to children’s participation in sport and dance is extensive and extraordinary. In addition to offering physical exercise dance is identified by many teachers and parents as being especially well suited to equip children with self-esteem and confidence; nurturing a sense of responsibility and sociality in children.

Hanna, Judith Lynne. Dance and Stress. New York: AMS Press, 1988.

This book supports the idea that dance is an excellent stress reducer, stress that can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. The book argues that the persistence of dance since the early times of humanity attests its efficacy in helping to resist, reduce and escape stress.

Adame, D. D., et al. “Physical Fitness, Body Image, and Locus of Control in College Women Dancers and Nondancers.” Perceptual Motor Skills 72.1 (1991): 91-5.

The article analyzed the measured physical fitness body image and locus of control in college freshman dancers and non-dancers. Through a variety of related tests and questionnaires it showed the dancers and non-dancers were the same in their relation to their appearance and the dancers had higher levels of physical fitness and health. This article was important to my research because it showed no difference in dancer and non-dancer self-esteem in relation to appearance.

Bettle, N., et al. “Body Image and Self-Esteem in Adolescent Ballet Dancers.” Perceptual Motor Skills 93.1 (2001): 297-309.

This study showed statistically that female adolescent dancers have a less favorable body image and self-esteem than adolescent male dancers. The article suggested interventions focused particularly on enhancing self-esteem could be useful in the prevention of psychopathology in adolescent ballet dancers. This article showed female dancers struggling over issues of self-esteem more than male dancers.

Clabaugh, A., and B. Morling. “Stereotype Accuracy of Ballet and Modern Dancers.” Journal of Social Psychology 144.1 (2004): 31-48.

This article addressed group stereotypes concerning ballet and modern dancers, where the stereotypes generally point to ballet dancers having lower body esteem. The groups actually scored the same in tests. This study shows that although ballerinas are often thought of as being hypercritical and perfectionist in relation to body image and technique, modern dancers suffer equally and must be addressed equally.

McCarren, Felicia. Dance Pathologies: Performance, Poetics, Medicine. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.

The author of this book chooses not to connect dance performance to beauty, grace, discipline, geometry, and the body’s transcendence of everyday bodiliness. Instead she chooses to point towards the complex and long-standing connections between illness, madness and performance, taking examples mostly from literature and history.

Golomer, E., et al. “Visual Contribution to Self-Induced Body Sway Frequencies and Visual Perception of Male Professional Dancers.” Neuroscience Letters 267.3 (1999): 189-92.

This article showed that professional male dancers were significantly more stable and less dependent on vision for postural control and perception than untrained male subjects. This essentially shows that male dancers were more stable in terms of balance because of extensive dance training. The study supports the idea that prowess in physical ability cultivates a positive self-image.

Healthier Dancer Program.” Dance UK. Last Modified 6 September 2001. 10 October 2004

This web sight offers literature and workshops on cultivating confidence boosting for dancers. It also talks about how to educate dancers on how to eat while touring and performing. There are events and talks on dance training and adolescent development presented by qualified psychologists and psychoanalysts. The site offers well-attended workshops on managing and overcoming performance anxiety and stress management. Self-esteem and motivation issues are addressed through talks and workshops along with eating disorders and dance and the female body presented by leading medical researchers.

Neumarker, K., et al. “Age- and Gender-Related Psychological Characteristics of Adolescent Ballet Dancers.” Psychopathology 33.3 (2000): 137-42.

The article shows that female adolescent dancers have lower body image and higher eating disorder tendencies than non-dancing adolescent females. Male adolescent dancers and non-dancing adolescent males were generally equal in those areas and higher than the females. This shows female dancers tend to have more issues regarding self- esteem than male dancers.

Radell, S. A., D. D. Adame, and S. P. Cole. “Effect of Teaching with Mirrors on Body Image and Locus of Control in Women College Ballet Dancers.” Perceptual Motor Skills 95.3 Pt 2 (2002): 1239-47.

This article addressed the effect of mirrors used in dance training. It showed that the use of mirrors in dance training definitely contributes to the low body image of the majority of the dancers in the study. It shows that when one is constantly watching ones self with a critical eye it causes over perfectionism and low self-esteem.

Edited by Ruch, Theodore C. Ph.D. and Harry D. Patton Ph.D. Physiology and Biophysics: Nineteenth Edition. Philadelphia and London: W.B. Saunders Company, 1960.

This is an indexical reference that supports the importance of movement in relation to health and longevity. I could not find an indexical reference that related directly to my research area of interest. This reference is supportive to the idea of physical activity as important to bodily health and when one feels healthy physically one is less prone to depression and low-self esteem; and dance is a physical activity.

Working together for healthy dancers at The Australian Ballet School.” Critical Dance. Last Modified 23 July 2003. 23 October 2004

This web sight has articles, information, workshops and special events that highlight how to cultivate health both physically and psychologically in dancers. For example an article on The Australian Ballet School students’ attitudes to injury are examined in general psychology class. They aim to de-stigmatize injuries and give dancers a feeling of personal control and self-responsibility/self-confidence.

Eating Disorders in Dance.” EDancing. 23 October 2004

This is a web site that posts articles and discussions on dancer health and lifestyle. The site educates the reader on the topics of eating disorders in dance and possibly how to eliminate the onset of these disorders. The site states that dancing, particularly ballet teaches people to be highly self-critical and encouraged by their teachers to focus on their imperfections in order to improve technique. These are some of the factors that may contribute to the development of eating disorders as they feed the negative side of the young dancers personality.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shirley Clark’s Moment in Love

Shirley Clark and Anna Sokolow Moment in Love

1957/8, color, sound,design, directed and edited by Shirley Clarke, choreographer: Anna Sokolow, dancers: Carmela Gutierrez, Paul Sanasardo. Music: Norman Lloyd, Production: Halcyon films

In this post I look at the art of dance and film, Shirley Clark and Anna Sokolow’s Moment in Love from Shirley Clark’s Dances for the Camera. I offer that Moment in Love is about the dialectic of the struggle between the male and female, and their classes, which fuels the most interesting aspect of the film, the “dance” between these two opposing forces.

I think it is important to discuss what first struck me about this piece, how I reacted to the superficial structure of the piece. What initially struck me as interesting in the Sokolow and Clark piece was the indefinably of the subject matter. At first, I really had the feeling that the two artists were touching on and commenting on an archetypal idea, the idea of love and it’s qualities, but after several views, other feelings arose. For example, the use of color, layering, and solarization brought up ideas of death and blood, as well as futility and fleetingness, all of which seemed to complicate my first impression.

Before moving forward I must relay that the dance for camera piece Moment in Love was thoughtfully choreographed and filmed. No words needed to be said that were not already better said through the dance. The interaction between the two dancers/characters seemed natural and unaffected, as was the movement. There was not an overwhelming sense of political or social commentary in the piece, allowing it to transcend its historical nature and to be valid fifty years after its creation.

The free quality of the movement made the lovers seem totally available to the discovery of their feelings for each other. The timelessness in the piece suggests freedom; freedom from the worries of the day-to-day minutia. The film begins with two lovers cavorting on green pastures and on top of the world – literally dancing in the clouds. The movement is grounded in modern dance with a very ballet feel, though more loosely executed. They linger and love, dance and woo. One truly gets the feeling that real life does not exist and the day-to-day is this joyous play.

Then the young man appears in the rubble of a dilapidated city. The woman he loves is in the window of a building high above the young man, brushing her hair in a lovely shift. There is a distinct feeling of class separation, the man is standing in the rubble gazing up towards the woman existing above him. He begins to look abject and wanders by himself for a time, an apparition of the woman appears before him in the rubble, then disappears as if she were a fantasy, a faraway untouchable dream.

The young woman then appears in the flesh and they run off together, the coloring of the film then changes to a deep passionate red. They dance as if they are seducing the other and something akin to an explicit love scene takes place. Shirley Clark uses filmic editing to make it appear as if the two dancers were actually merging with each other and the red atmospheric glow that surrounds them. The next scene shows them having to part and one never knows whether their love affair lives on or if it is truly just a moment in love as the title suggests.

As the dancers were moving, the camera not only follows them but exceeds and breaks their trajectories. It manipulates their perceptible movements to such an extent that the dancers appear to be gliding among the clouds, suspended in endless and even supernatural bliss. As Clarke herself explains: "I started choreographing the camera as well as the dancers in the frame". With bright, lustrous tone, Clarke goes beyond subjective camera work to the point that her camera becomes subject itself.

Dance for the Camera or Cine Dance

In this post I will be talking about the diverse genre of dance for the camera also called cine dance, video dance and screen dance, as well as covering some of the history of the art form. Dance for the camera is movement-based work that is conceived and choreographed for viewing that exists as a work in its own right. I am using the term dance for camera as an overarching term to describe this relatively new art form that fuses avant-garde approaches to dance making with technological innovation.

Dance for the camera can be based on already existing live dance works, but the work will often have gone through a complete re-working to create work unique to the screen, where dance and film/video are both integral to a work. This separates dance for camera from archival records of stage or site-specific dance compositions. The inclusion of the camera, the process of editing, the collaboration between the cinematographer and choreographer adds to a dance, so that it becomes work that could only be realized in this way.

Still and moving images of dance can be profound, and timeless. A dance filmmaker can incorporate the imagination of the dancer, which can restore that dimension lost in filming dance. Dance on film can expand one's understanding of dance as a metaphor. For example, instead of seeing only moving bodies, films can emphasize the dance of nature or the rhythms of emotions. Ideally the viewer is led into a world directed by poetic and abstract thinking.

Up until recently the idea of dance for the camera was not widely spread or even taught much in schools, even though dancers, choreographers and filmmakers have been filming works for well over a century. Visually, when dance was filmed, it was taken linearly and viewed and thought of as how the video and camera related to dance on the stage. However, the camera can look at movement from any point of view, through the camera eye, dance is not limited to the stage in a formal sense. The audience doesn't have to watch the work from the classic audience perspective. Instead, it can see a whole new aspect of dance, thanks to editing and splicing. For me, it's about an expression of two different ways to convey an idea and how those ways can come together. Not only do I feel dance for the camera is a study of the dancers' movements, but also a study of how the camera moves to capture the subject, to make a piece that stands on its own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reflections on Alvin Ailey Dances

Revelations by Alvin Ailey

I recently watched Alvin Ailey's Revelations on film and again I was struck by the power of this work. Alvin Ailey studied in Los Angeles with Lester Horton, whose strong, dramatic style and views about multiracial casting influenced his dance choreography and artistic direction. He moved to New York in 1954, where he studied dance with Martha Graham and Charles Weidman and acting with Stella Adler. In 1958 he formed his own company, the American Dance Theater, which, multiracial since 1963, has been internationally acclaimed and has brought recognition to many African-American and Asian dancers. Typically, Ailey's work combines jazz, modern, and African dance elements.

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater (also known as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company) is one of America's most renowned dance companies. Taking popular music, gospel and jazz and mixing the classical vocabulary of ballet with contemporary styles, the Company radiates an energy that cannot be ignored. International ambassadors of African-American culture, the Company has performed for over an estimated 19 million people in 68 countries on six different continents. From its first performance in 1958, it has changed the way people view dance and the African-American aesthetic. Alvin Ailey's most famous work, Revelations, is a glorious celebration of the gospel and spiritual music Ailey grew up with in Texas during the 1940's. Created in 1960, this classic piece of modern dance theatre still inspires audiences whenever it is performed.

If "Revelations" is no longer revelatory, it nevertheless retains its dramatic power and kinesthetic kick. Choreographed by Ailey in 1960 as a tribute to his Baptist boyhood, its devotional fervor and half a dozen now-iconic images still present a compelling picture of people connecting to a higher power. The dancers, as if responding to the enjoining title of the final section -- "Move, Members, Move" -- ride this gospel soundtrack to heaven.