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 Post subject: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2001 9:57 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2000 12:01 am
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Location: new york city
hi, y'all:<BR>as part of something I've been writing for the dance department newsletter (<a href="http://students.washington.edu/bean/dancepaperthing2.html">http://students.washington.edu/bean/dancepaperthing2.html</a>), I've kind of walked into quite an interesting question: the desirability of glamor and the casting of the dancer as "the other." <P>Because, on the one hand, this seems to be kind of...for lack of a better word, fun and an interesting part of things; those people on stage, to the general public, have nothing to do with the real world. The Nutcracker, for example, is so magical to so many people (bear with me, bear with me...this example is being used for a reason) because it is this otherworldly creation and the Sugar Plum fairy is beautiful and floating and the Prince is strong and noble and the tree is fifteen feet tall. There's this idea that dance is Magical *among the general public* (although I guess even that has to be hedged) and I would go so far as to say that is part of the allure -- people who can do these amazing things that "no real person could ever do." (I've heard this! Many times!) <P>But -- most *dance people* I know are fed up with the Nutcracker because, I would guess at least in part, it IS so over-the-top and magical in a world that, after a point, must become demystified to some degree. There's no magic in something you do every day, or there *is* but the magic is different. (The best analogy I can come up with is a new romance vs. a marriage, but having never been in the latter I'm just going off cliches.) And I wonder if bringing dance down to the level of the masses -- taking the mystery out of it, and the mystique out of it -- wouldn't do something to increase the *audience* of it, and the participation in it, and the ever-presence of it (how many kids do you know who play with choreography as well as drawing and poetry in elementary school?)...but, then, that magic-loving audience would be gone and, wait, shouldn't dance be about magic and transcending everydayness on some level?<P>I know I am generalizing, dangerously, about The Masses -- esp. in the more or less de facto assumption about dance equalling ballet. But I would say that many, many more people have some idea of the ballet and what that entails than people do about, say...some of the choreographers who *are* doing more "normal, everyday" work. And this *is* a discussion about The Big Sweepings...so....<P>is that enough for folks to chew on?<P>back to the glamor (cuz let me tell you, there's *plenty*),<BR>--ari <BR>(edited to make that link *work*)<p>[This message has been edited by ari (edited January 09, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2001 6:26 am 
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Location: Australia
well ari - i am surprised no-one has bitten on this (poisoned?) candy cane yet....! Image<P>love your "glamorous" homepage, btw....<P>you raise quite a few issues, chief among which, it seems to me, is this idea of whether ballet (in particular) is better off with its perceived glamour intact? or whether its audience base could be broadened by demystification....?<P>then again, your main issue COULD be about the glamour/reality as experienced by the dancers - and yes, your marriage analogy seems not innappropriate to me....<P>then again....your main issue may come down to : "what do people want?" (i.e. audience / potential audience....)<P>i don't have any answers....<P>sorry! Image

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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2001 6:46 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Well,Ari that is certainly enough to "chew on" ha ha . First let me say that the link did not work for me - but that is probably just "me". <P>I think that the dance does both. It deals and presents both the day-to-day world and the magical world. I would say, perhaps, in my limited experience that modern dance does more of the day to day world. It is a more grounded art form.<P>The ballet grew up and many of its classics still come from the romantic era of the 1800's and so it does deal with the thought processes of that era. And, yes, even well into this century it has added ballets of such a nature. The use of the pointe shoe certainly facilitates that. One doesn't find pointe shoes in everyday life on everyday people.<P>But in this century the ballet has added several Shakespearean themes and for the most part they are not magical in the sense of miraculous things happening (The Dream being an exception). I am hoping that I am understanding the thrust of the ideas behind your post.<P>You might also ask what does an audience seek? People who buy tickets to see Swan Lake know full well, that what they are seeing is magical and they paid money for that magic. The theater takes us away from ourselves. That is why, I believe, it thrives in times of strife and hardship. Like the Second World War and the Depression. In Port au Prince, Haiti, one of the poorest places on the earth, art literally teems, almost flows out of the buildings into the streets. I was overwhelmed by it.<P>I would not call most of the choreography of Balanchine magical - his plotless ballets. They are his vision of the music. And, I think as well a magical there is an audience that comes just to see "beauty".<P>As for children playing with choreography as well as writing poetry and drawing - I wish more opportunities were given for that. I have seen it done, even in ordinary classrooms. And, as a ballet teacher I have given my students many opportunities to choreograph their own pieces to present in a recital. They loved it. One of those little girls who was my student is now choreographing in Los Angeles 20 yrs. later.


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2001 6:30 pm 
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I thought that Ari's questions and ideas were interesting so I am taking the liberty of giving this a bump up........


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 8:08 am 
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so i think i need to stop posting things and then neglecting them; this quarter is just taking off like nobody's business. so, for now, lurking, but....<P>to take a different tack with this: what about the need for 'magic' in dance as the dancer? i know that, personally, as i have gotten more and more involved with dance that first thrill of "ohmigosh, i'm *dancing*! i'm *rehearsing*! for something that will go *on stage*!" has evolved into something different and a little more mellow and less -- novel is, i think, the word.<P>so, extrapolating as i tend to do, i've been wondering about how this changes as one goes more and more pro-dancer. it seems that at some point, no matter how awesome your life is, it *is* still "wow, so i'm going to work today" -- even if work is this awesome dance thing, i would think that at some point it would just be a job like anything else...even if it is a job you just love...?<P>anyone who's actually had experience with the *practice*, not the theory, have any thoughts?<P>--ari


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 9:58 am 
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Ari - I have always, always found it to be magical. I just came back from ballet class this morning - I am into my 31st year of study - and this morning it was MAGICAL. I am not sure I could do it if it were not.<P>I can't tell you that every single class is magical - but cetainly the vast majority. They take me out of my everyday life. I am blessed with a very good everyday life - but still the dance (ballet for me) takes me away to another place - a place of mists and music.<P>I would like to compare two marvelous male ballet dancers - Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. I don't think that anyone would argue that Baryshnikov's technique is far superior. But in my personal view, he is not magical - for me. Nureyev always was, always. <P> I felt this but could never explain why, until on day I saw an interview with Baryshnikov. In this interview he was asked what he thought about dancing and he said "it's my job, it's what I do for a living". And that is what I felt - it was just his job - it wasn't magical for him.<P>But for Nureyev it was magic, and he made it magic for me. Whatever his best was at the time, that's what he gave. He spoke of that magic, and Fonteyn spoke of how he made it magic for her. <P>If I go to ballet class and for some reason it is not magical - sometimes it means a bad pianist that day - then its just exercise. Dance emptied of its magic is just exercise, for me.<P>How much more so on stage.......... <P>


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 11:00 am 
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
Basheva, you are preaching to the choir today! A lousy pianist is the thing that can bring me down faster than any injury, soreness or other minor inconvenience I might be experiencing. A good pianist, well, hallelujah! <P>So, uh, getting back to your question Ari. Sometimes I find that it helps to approach every class and rehearsal in a new way, it could be by just saying to yourself, "today I am going to find places of joy when I dance" or "today I am going to work to find the peaceful moments in movement" or whatever works for you on that particular day--whatever pushes you to experience dance differently--especially when it's a class you have done a million times or a piece you know inside and out. I found that helped me (since I am not as full of magic spirt on a daily basis as Basheva is). And sometimes the emotion/feeling/motivation that I set out to explore changes because my body is actually in an altogether different space than my brain, if that makes any sense at all. This is a good way to find out if you are really connecting to the movement or if you are just going through the motions.


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 1:07 pm 
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska
I wonder if for Baryshnikov it was ballet dancing that was a job, because when I saw the White Oak Project there was a magic in his face. <P>Good questions/discussion, Ari.


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 2:02 pm 
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Well, Priscilla - that is a very good question. At the time that I saw this interview he was still only doing classical ballet with an occasional Twyla Tharp piece. So perhaps, you are right. <P>However, I could just sense that what he was doing through those ballet years was not magical for him. So I was not surprised by what he said in the interview.<P>I am glad if he has found magic now.


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2001 11:56 am 
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Ari, I just thought of something else, as an alternative to using an abstract idea for motivation, a dancer I know told me once that he dances for someone or something specific when he needs some inspiration. Like he might dance for people that he saw in a news story or someone he's close to, for just that class or rehearsal or performance...


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2001 1:03 pm 
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I guess another way to look at it might be.....<P>Can there be dance without magic? internal or external - can there be dance without magic?


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2001 8:04 am 
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finally! i have synthesized something more in regards to this.<P>re: baryshnikov -- this makes sense. on my Big Trip this winter i got to see alvin ailey in NYC and all of a sudden, i could see that magic...i had seen them previously in seattle, and they turned me off because it just was...movement, not dance. but in nyc to a mostly full house, they were *radiant*. they were *amazing*. they were so very *present* that i don't even have the proper superlatives with which to describe them. <P>and it was that sense of "magic" that made it something.<P>so, in answer to your question, basheva, i would say imho yes, the same way you need some kind of magic in acting. i was originally going to say "no, we don't need magic -- look at all that pedestrian movement stuff going on!" but even that just drives me crazy unless it's somehow...other. somehow amazing. otherwise it doesn't feel like anything more than just moving around. and, in the words of one of my teachers, "if you want to just wave your hands around and hop up and down for the heck of it, fine, but *here* -- you wave your hands around and hop up and down because it is the most compelling thing you have ever thought of doing and you *need* me to see exactly why it is so amazing."<P>that's part of what i mean when i say magic -- an utter committment to what is going on and a way of making it completely -- not natural. supernatural? i'm not sure.<P>hmm.<P>--ari


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 Post subject: Re: 'magic' & dance: worth keeping
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2001 9:09 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I suppose I am a hopeless romantic - the dance doesn't "happen" for me without magic.<P>It can't be bought, it can't be planned, it can't be saved, it may not show up on video tape or in a photograph ........but it cannot be denied. There is no doubt when it happens it is felt, experienced, treasured.<P> In my own dancing I can pick out a few times, here and there when something "clicked". Several times it was in the studio, in the midst of a dance combination, totally unforeseen. Steps, a combination, I had done a thousand times before, and yet, there it was, the magic - unbidden. But, also unmistakeable. <P>There were a few times on the stage too - but there somehow, it is more expected than in the classroom. When it happens in front of others the invisable communication is almost fraught with the tension of that magic. But, strangely enough, I have had it happen even when I am alone - just me and a wooden floor and the music.<P>When I have experienced it from other dancers - both on the stage and in the studio - the magic is every bit as potent. Suddenly the event is etched in silver, and the mental photograph lasts forever.<P>I was taking a company class once taught by Robert Rodham (formerly principal dancer with NYCB) and he was demonstrating an adage combination at the barre. Every dancer there (all professionals) watched transfixed as he shaped the magic for us. It literally palpitated through the room. When he had finished, we were at a loss to know what to do. We were so taken up with the magic of what he had just done - and yet is was quite a simple combination - that we had not memorized it as one needs to do. Finally, Keith Martin (formerly with Royal Ballet) had to ask him to repeat the sequence, and tried to explain what had happened. Being such a wonderful artist, Robert Rodham, understood what had just transpired. And, he did it again. The second time, however, it was just a adage at the barre. <P>


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