CriticalDance Forum

Politics and Dance
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jul 30, 2004 5:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Thanks for those links, RaHir. The development of the usage of "propaganda" is interesting, but I don't share the view of Jepson (no.2 in the list) who believes we should return to the original definition of the term ie expressing ideas. Word usage develops and moves on and in an age when the media has become increasingly important, we need a word to cover statements, be they verbal, written or visual that are designed to persuade people of circumstances that are not based on reality or a reasonable interpretation of reality and often appealing to emotional or Dionysian approaches as opposed to rational or Apollonian ideas.

Nazi propaganda was sophisticated and very successful. The detachment from reality of Nazi propaganda was particularly evident when Hitler was still proclaiming final victory when the Russian artillery could be heard on the edge of Berlin.

So how does this apply to the arts and dance? The Nazis used the arts as one aspect of propaganda and Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" and similar works which glorify Nazi thinking can clearly be seen as propaganda. similarly, the wonderful film "Alexander Nevsky" I am assured by a historian bears little relation to reality or an interpretation of reality and can thus be called propaganda.

trina posed the same question about "The Green Table". Emotionally I do not consider it to be propaganda, because I agree with much of the thrust of the work. However, from a rational point of view, it is heavily influenced by the artist K├Ąthe Kollwitz, who lost a son in the First world War and thus I believe it is sufficiently close to true experiences to avoid the lable "propaganda".

Similarly, Christopher Bruce's "Swansong" deals with the reality of individuals tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Thus although it is certainly political, I do not see that the label "propaganda" is appropriate.

In fact, I am struggling to think of dance propaganda pieces. I guess some of the Soviet era ballets can be seen that way. But "Spartacus", currently on show in London, is grounded in oppression of the slaves, so misses the term "propaganda" for me.

When Rudolf Laban was running dance for the Nazis he made a work for the opening of the culture festival associated with the 1936 Berlin Olympics (not the Olympics themselves, that was Mary wigman and others). Laban's huge movement choir piece was meant to reflect Nazi philosophy, but Hitler and Goebbels, Laban's boss, were unimpressed and pulled the opening event after a dress rehearsal. So, here we have an important artist trying to make a propaganda piece and failing.

Propaganda as we use the term today does imply distortion or lying. Is it more difficult to lie convincingly with dance than other art forms?

<small>[ 30 July 2004, 08:09 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Alex R [ Fri Jul 30, 2004 12:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I was under the impression that Bruce's Swansong is not actually political, he created the piece to represent his struggle to break away from his career as a dancer, and did not actually have any political motives towards the piece. i remember reading a brief quotation from Bruce which was simply "Koen is me" (Koen Onzia being the original 'prisoner'), and as (to my knowledge) Bruce has never been a political prisoner, can Swansong be taken literally?

PS political or not, i agree that none of Bruce's works can be labelled as propaganda

<small>[ 30 July 2004, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: Alex R ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jul 30, 2004 2:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Like many artists Bruce explores multi-dimensional meanings to his work and, you're right Alex R, the end of a dance career has been mentioned by the choreographer as an alternative reading of the piece. However, the basis of "Swansong" is a book about the experiences of a torture victim and when Rambert prepared a student guide to "Swansong" thay approached Amnesty to help prepare case studies and Bruce approved local Amnesty groups setting up tables in theatres when the work was performed.

When he retired from Rambert, Bruce was presented with Honorary Life Memebership by Amnesty and it clearly meant a great deal to him.

Nevertheless, Bruce has made it clear that the key point for him is whether he has created a successful piece of dance, not the political content or its success in convincing people of a point of view. And that is another reason why his work is not propaganda, in my view.

<small>[ 31 July 2004, 06:00 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Alex R [ Sat Jul 31, 2004 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

that's a fair point i guess i should have read my Rambert study guide again before writing my last post! i agree about Bruce's political works not being propaganda, he is making his audiences aware of the situation and nothing more.

<small>[ 31 July 2004, 03:16 PM: Message edited by: Alex R ]</small>

Author:  salzberg [ Sun Aug 01, 2004 2:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Even the simple act of making the audience aware of a situation is an implied statement and value judgment; he's saying, "This is something important of which you should be aware."

Author:  Alex R [ Sun Aug 01, 2004 10:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

yes, but he is not telling us how to interpret the situations

Author:  Azlan [ Sun Aug 01, 2004 10:16 am ]
Post subject:  Politics and Dance

Misery and hope in a report on artists in post-Saddam Iraq:

Iraqi artists strive to capture misery and hope. Horrors of war spill onto canvas in reborn nation
Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times in the SF Chronicle

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed May 11, 2005 4:03 am ]
Post subject: 

"It is scandalous to mix politics and art," Cezary Szyjko told AFP news agency.

The Bolshoi Ballet, currently performing in Poland, is facing a serious boycott from the Poles.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed May 11, 2005 4:40 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for the link, Cassandra.

"It is scandalous to mix politics and art," Cezary Szyjko told AFP news agency.

Well actually, you can never separate politics and art. Funding decisions, the selection of material, even the selection of dancers (slim or skinny-skinny) involves policy or gender politics.

Russia's WWII in Poland does not make happy reading, so it does not surprise me that there has been this outcry. It is a shame that the opportunity to build bridges and heal wounds has not been grasped. While there is little doubt that the Russians were the primary force in winning the WWII in Europe, Putin's speech does seem insensitive. A former Russian leader did admit to and apologise for the Katyn massacre of 4000 unarmed Polish officers by the Russians, but I'm not aware that they have apologised for refusing to enter Warsaw at the end of the War and prevent the death of hundreds of thousands of Poles.

A joke: even in the Soviet era, the Poles hosted the leading avant-garde music festival each year - Penderecki and even more difficult material. One foreign visitor asked why the Poles liked this music so much. The reply was: "Because we know the Russians hate it so much."

Author:  KANTER [ Fri May 13, 2005 9:55 am ]
Post subject:  Making Hay while the Sun Shines

The problem is that our little friends in the USA, have been very busy making Hay while the Sun Shines with certain historical resentments, whether in Eastern Europe, or elsewhere.

And some people in Eastern Europea and the Caucasus are not very particular about choosing their New Friends.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri May 13, 2005 10:19 am ]
Post subject: 


To look on the bright side, let's celebrate the wonderful Daimohk from Grodzny. But don't forget there is a clear political message that there is more to Chechnya than what we read in the headlines:

Author:  shallot [ Fri May 13, 2005 12:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

I do not understand kantner's comments..."little friends" what does that mean? "Little" what aspect of us is he referring? :shock:

Author:  KANTER [ Sat May 14, 2005 3:07 am ]
Post subject:  Little Friends

Given their ponderous corporeality, if one refer to the likes of Cheney, Bolton or Karl Rove as "little", it has doubtless to do with non-corporeal aspects.

But do we stray too far from the dance ?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat May 14, 2005 3:32 am ]
Post subject: 

"But do we stray too far from the dance ?"

I agree - let's move on to other themes within this broad topic of "Politics and Dance".

Author:  Matthew [ Wed May 18, 2005 5:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think protesting/boycotting a ballet company where the average company members'birthday is probably about 1980 is a little ridiculous. Sounds like a version of "freedom fries " to me.

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