CriticalDance Forum

Politics and Dance
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Author:  Alex R [ Tue Jun 08, 2004 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I agree that i dread the day that people stop making dances such as 'Ghost Dances' (sorry to have to use this example AGAIN) to the extent that, although the issues in 'Ghost Dances' are still relevant today, it is about a political regime from the past, which makes it history, and i feel that people should be made aware of these kind of things that have happened in the past, so in that respect i'm all in favour! i expect you meant it in a different way though.
I too have found this a facinating discussion, of course i do not expect anyone to agree with my views, i'm just glad people found them worth discussing. i am relatively knew to the dance/art world, and i have not seen many of the art-political links that people have been listing, so maybe when i go a bit deeper into the arts world my opinion will change. i think i've said all i can, except for this: every time i have walked out of Sadlers Wells theatre i have been enthralled at the skill of the dancers, extremely impressed at the choreographers' creations, and found each occassion to be highly enjoyable, but only 3 shows have made me smile :D and generally feel good about life: Tap Dogs, De Frutos' Elsa Canasta, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. why? they were all fun, light, easy to watch and, most importantly, didn't tackle any difficult issues. they were just 60/30/90 minutes of FUN.

Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I've been gone and just ran into this topic.

I agree with what has been said above.

Pure entertainment has its as does highly politicized work. I go to see both depending on my mood and the company. It is easy to make negative generalzations about both (entertainment is trite, political work in pretentious), but they are mostly based on the worst examples of both forms of art.

My beef is with the artists making those bad examples. They are a waste of my time and money and I leave the theater or museum thinking "How did that jerk get the money to make that crap?" It's frustrating. Now maybe my standards are too high or I've gotten jaded from my years in the biz. But all I really want is to be moved in some way; be it amazement at physical ability or emotional connection or broadening of my understanding about a social issue. Do not bore me, please.

Maybe I am asking too much.

Author:  Alex R [ Tue Jun 29, 2004 12:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I don't think you are asking too much, the last thing i want to see is something put on by professionals that i could have written/choreographed myself! i agree a performance should move you, even if it's not a happy feeling, if you walk out of the theatre feeling exactly the same as when you walked in then you've just wasted time and money. like LMCtech when i go see a piece of dance i expect to be amazed by physical ability or emotional connection, because dance is such a competitive career i expect the dancers to show me something that i, and most people, cannot do, otherwise you can just ask 'why are you on the stage when i can do that too?' LMCtech i'm curious, without mentioning specific people, i'm just wondering if you could hint at a show where you've walked out thinking "How did that jerk get the money to make that crap?"

Author:  RaHir [ Tue Jun 29, 2004 2:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Alex R writes:
don't think that it can't be argued that some people, after recent events and decisions made by the British government, feel that the political situation in this country is appauling, so why when these people go to the theatre, whether it be to see a piece of dance or drama, would they want to be reminded of the appauling situation that they feel this country is in?
Maybe things are different in the U.S. I find that many people don't mind being reminded of the situation our country is in. It beings us back to reality. Take for example Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary that looks at the state of our politcal affairs over the past 3 1/2 years. In less than 1,000 theaters over a 3 day span, it took in more than $23 million dollars.

Many people are not content with our current government. By talking, discussing, expressing, and acting upon this, we can make some form of an impact. Change does not happen on it's own; it needs a catalyst. One vote matters, especially when that one vote is combined with lots of other "one votes". If you ignore politics and societal events, how do you make change? How do you become happy and content with life? And even if you couldn't make a difference, why not try? Many times political art cannot directly make a difference, but it can become the catalyst for a few, altering a perspective or shedding new light on a situation.

Alex R writes:
because dance is such a competitive career i expect the dancers to show me something that i, and most people, cannot do, otherwise you can just ask 'why are you on the stage when i can do that too?'
This statement bothers me. I enjoy watching dancers who can do what I can do. What I don't like is just watching dancers perform steps minus the emotion, direction, motivation, etc. This would be like watching a dance class as opposed to a dance performance. If a choreographer creates a good work, the quality of his dancers shouldn't matter. If the work is below-par, then the choreographer and not the dancers should be at fault. Why do you blame the dancers for what they are showing you? And, if the choreographer hires or uses dancers that are not up to the demands of the choreography, this again should not be the dancers fault.

I personally enjoy both political and apolitical dance. The snow scene from Nutcracker is one of my favorite ballet memories, but I also like to come away from a performance with a new thought, perspective, or idea. Even a new emotion or varied mood counts. It would bother me if the arts were political. Then are they just fluff? Where does the expression go? And how do we create and communicate our ideas in a medium outside of words? Entertaining arts are great, but by limiting the arts to solely serving an entertaining purpose, you are limiting the creativity and artistic exploration, production, and display of multiple ideas.

I agree with LMCtech, I don't want to be bored. So, you have incredible extensions and can do multiple fouette turns. So what? I don't want to pay to see competition-dance. To me, this is not entertaining. Instead, incorporate the physical prowess into the underlying theme of the choreography. Overall, I want my dance (and other arts) to make me think. I want it to mean something to me. I want it to be creative and thought-provoking.

<small>[ 29 June 2004, 04:14 PM: Message edited by: RaHir ]</small>

Author:  frma [ Wed Jun 30, 2004 1:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I am doing a research for the RSA in London about arts that engage with environmental issues. At the moment I am gathering information on Dance and it seems that it is one of the few arts that includes this issues in high quality performances (e.g. Tere O'Connor).

I would be grateful if any of the participant could help me with suggestions or comments.

many thanks

francesco manacorda

Author:  Alex R [ Thu Jul 01, 2004 11:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Fair point about 'If the work is below-par, then the choreographer and not the dancers should be at fault', and when i said that i didn't want to see something that i could do, i wasn't just talking about moves, i also meant emotion, direction and motivation like you said. but if a dance does just seem to be a load of steps with no emotion, surely that is due to the dancers' lack of ability to act, not the choreographer, especially if the choroegrapher is working with a particular company?
as for the political debate, as i said in a previous post, i think i've said all i have to say on the matter without just repeating myself, i don't deny that political theatre is certainly popular as you have showed me, but it is just my opinion, and to repeat what i have already said: 'i am relatively knew to the dance/art world, and i have not seen many of the art-political links that people have been listing, so maybe when i go a bit deeper into the arts world my opinion will change' so if you think my opinions are naive, you are certainly entitled to that.

<small>[ 01 July 2004, 01:31 PM: Message edited by: Alex R ]</small>

Author:  LMCtech [ Thu Jul 01, 2004 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I don't think a bad performance is alway sthe choreographers fault. I've seen some great choreographers' work fall sadly flat because of the dancers, either because of their lack of commitment to the work or because they were not techinically where they claimed to be when they were hired. Economics can have a lot to do with that. Some emerging chorographers simply do not have the resources to hire the best dancers thought the material itself is good.

Alex R to answer your question, I can't think of anyone specific off the top of my head, but there have been several performances in the Bay Area that I have left angry because they wasted my time and they took grant money from someone who would not have.

But I can't limit it to just small modern companies. the last time I saw ABT I thought they wasted my time with shoddy dancing and dismal programming.

Then there was the SFB principal dancer who ended a variation with a double pirouette and a single tour en l'air. I can do that. I was so disgusted I said something out loud.

Author:  RaHir [ Thu Jul 01, 2004 2:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

You're right, LMC, we shouldn't automatically blame the choreographers for a bad work. Maybe I didn't articulate myself enough earlier.

I wasn't trying to say that "sub-par" dancers was the choreographers fault, just that this wasn't the dancers' fault. And perhaps we shouldn't allow this to alter our opinions of the choreography itself.

What I was trying to convey was that you (the collective you) should to learn how to differentiate between what is the fault of the choreographer and what is the fault of the dancer. Sometimes you can fault society (and even make a political dance about it!). You can not just automatically point a finger. Being able to differentiate the choreography itself from the dancers' abilities may help you to determine "Is this a good work?" versus "Are these dancers' capable?". Eventhough you feel that the dancers aren't technically or emotionally superior to you, you can still try to appreciate the choreography or at least determine if you did or did not like it.

<small>[ 01 July 2004, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: RaHir ]</small>

Author:  Alex R [ Fri Jul 02, 2004 9:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I can agree with that, although so far i have been lucky enough to not seen a 'below-par' work in terms of choreography or dancing ability. LMCtech who are ABT? sorry i'm not familiar with that abbreviation. also, despite my opinion that dancers should show me something that requires skill and practice i.e that a lot of people cannot do, in some cases as long as the move looks good, skill level is irrelevant. to give an example from another art form that i study (magic), i can tell you that the best tricks are always the simplest to do! i think the same can be true with dance, but only to a certain extent. every performance should contain some 'professional' movements.

Author:  djb [ Fri Jul 02, 2004 3:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Alex R, ABT = American Ballet Theatre.

Author:  Azlan [ Fri Jul 16, 2004 10:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

I believe there was a story and a roundpanel on NPR today about starting the process for the US to resume a cultural exchange with the Middle East. Did anyone happen to catch it?

Author:  trina [ Sat Jul 17, 2004 5:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Referring to earlier posts. (I just happened upon this topic) Someone referred earlier to wanting art to be "political, not propoganda". To quote the eminent dance critic, the late, great John Marin, "modern dance is not a technique, it is a point of view". Where would we be without a point of view? How strongly or stridently this point of view is conveyed can be an issue, which the audiences and critics can decide upon. I guess my question would be "what is the difference between propoganda and a point of view". For example, The Green Table by Kurt Joos is anti-war, but is that propoganda?. Is it only propoganda if we don't agree with it?

Author:  Alex R [ Sun Jul 18, 2004 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Point of view: expressing your opinion e.g. i hate war
Propaganda: expressing you opinion and trying to persuade others to share your opinion e.g. i hate war and all you people who like war are bad people (a very simplified example). unfortunatley i don't think there is any clear-cut rule that distinguishes the two, it is a very fine line, so fine that people will always differ in opinion as to what is propaganda and what isn't.

Author:  Diana [ Wed Jul 28, 2004 8:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

According to US Newswire,

Renowned Choreographer Twyla Tharp to be Honored by Vietnam Veterans of America
Click for more

Author:  RaHir [ Thu Jul 29, 2004 10:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Politics and Dance

Since the earlier part of the 20th century, the word "propaganda" has had a negative stigma attached to it. It was often used to refer to Nazi communication materials and their attempts to recruit others for its mission and still today many people connote "propaganda" with "Nazi propaganda." In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler discusses successful propaganda methods. If you go to, propaganda is defined as "information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause". Here, propaganda does not carry the negative connotations that we normally associate with it. Propoganda can be posters, ads, etc., really any way of conveying a message. I have included some links below which provide more information on "propaganda."

Some sources:
1. BBC
2. History
3. PBS

<small>[ 29 July 2004, 12:46 PM: Message edited by: RaHir ]</small>

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