Myra B's question to dance artists provides a good introduction to these contributions from Deborah Barnard, Director of Ludos Dance and Jonzi D, dancer, which were part of this year's Dance UK/Dance Umbrella seminar. The full account of the seminar can be read here.
I'm looking forward to reading a range of views on the comments from Deborah and Jonzi:
<img src="http://www.ballet-dance.com/200401/articles/images/arts-dance-255x312-jonzi_d.jpg" alt="" />
<small>Jonzi D</small> <big>Living in a political world?
A symposium hosted by Dance UK in collaboration with Dance Umbrella
October 2003 -- South Bank Centre, London
Sue Hoyle opened the symposium by introducing the speakers. These were Paul Davies, Artistic Director, Volcano Theatre, Deborah Barnard, Company Director, Ludus, Jonzi D, Artistic Director, Still Brock Productions, and Frank Doran, MP, Aberdeen Central. Deborah Barnard
began with a personal position statement in response to the questions posed for the symposium:
1. Can dance comment on political issues or influence world events? Yes
2. Is there an opposition in dance between aesthetic concerns and social and political debate? No
3. Do artists have a responsibility to engage with political and social issues, making works of contemporary political resonance and relevance? No
4. By not engaging with real issues of real concern to real people is dance failing to connect with audiences and missing the opportunity to change how people think? No/Yes
Deborah then set about explaining each of her answers working backwards through the questions.
4. My answer is not ambivalent as it is hard to see the polarity in terms of there being a conflict. I believe it is down to the individual. To be concerned for one is to also strive for the other. I think sometimes we concern ourselves with what makes good art when in actual fact there is no set formula. Art can be made and viewed in so many different ways and the thinking should be as supple as the art form itself.
3. This question assumes that dance fails to connect if it is just aesthetically pleasing. This is also political and can be food for thought.
2. A number of my colleagues were surprised that I answered no to this question but it makes me feel anxious and puts me in a dilemma. At Ludus we want more artists to engage with political and social issues but it is not a prescribed responsibility. On the other hand if artists do not have a desire to engage with the viewer then we could question why they are making work for the public.
1. Commenting on political issues is a trade-mark of the work of Ludos. We work with strong messages and a strong purpose and strive to achieve a political dance aesthetic. Finally, we are also clear about the audience and how and why they wish to engage. Jonzi D
began by discussing his background and how politics has impacted on his dancing. He came into dance as a hip-hop artist in the late 1980’s because he loved the culture as it reacted to a social and economic structure. He struggled with establishing who he was because of racism and alienation until groups such as Public Enemy gave him a sense of hope. When Jonzi decided to dance he was influenced by break dancing because of the dynamics involved and the sense of urgency coming from the environment in which it is made. Often frustrations could be released through fight situations but through a more healthy means.
At college Jonzi came to terms with the fact that dance is about aesthetics. It was in the evenings that he would feel most motivated to make art because he would be talking with friends about political situations and issues. So for example, he created a piece about being ‘safe’. He demonstrated how he developed this piece through one simple action of intense energy through the body, the head, foot and hand and then bringing that back in to being neutral. He then considered how he could do this with sound and continued his demonstration by talking calmly and then losing control vocally when discussing racial inequalities, before bringing his voice back to being neutral again. The piece therefore became political which was not planned. It was a case of being honest, not because he believes he can change the world but because he would like to change someone’s world. Jonzi doesn’t believe that artists have a responsibility to be political as long as we aren’t scared of the work they are creating. He thinks that we are all political anyway.
Jonzi believes that politics and dance go hand in hand and that isn’t necessarily based on theory, it is just because it is today and now and this is how he is feeling.
<small>[ 26 December 2003, 05:34 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>