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 Post subject: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2002 7:44 am 
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hi ive been set a horrible essay question if anyone has any ideas for me i would really appriciate it-- DISSCUSS ELITISM AND DEVELOPMENT IN DANCING<P>so if you know anything about:-<BR> funding for dancing<BR>Is dancing is sport?<BR>how to become an elite dancer<BR>etc<P>and issues about this topic <P>please help xx<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2002 9:46 am 
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I don't understand the development part. Does that mean fundraising or advancement of the art form?<P>I don't think dance is a sport anymore than I think football is an art. Though I do think dancers could qualify as athletes under certain medical statutes.<P>How to become an elite dancer? Training and luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2002 8:51 pm 
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Hello There, Jody,<P>Perhaps I can take a shot at ways to spiff up “Elitism and Development in Dancing.” Yes … this is a toughie and I don’t envy you this assignment … but I don’t think it’s as “horrible” as all that.<P>But first, two hints and a warning:<P>First, you might not want to be so negative about the assignment … * hint * you never know who is reading this Forum.<P>Second hint, can your teacher or professor help point in some directions. As LMC Tech has picked up, the word “Development” can mean fund raising and audience education or it can mean personal development and training. Or, it can mean evolution of dance as an art form. Even if the teacher can just steer you away from what he or she wants, that can help save you a lot of time. Unless you are in a art administration program, that your teacher wants a discussion of fund raising, but you would be in the best position to judge.<P>I don’t claim to be a historian so if I’m talking about something so obvious it’s boring, or if I get something just plain WRONG, please don’t hesitate to pipe right in.<P>OK, on to brainstorming:<P>“Elitism in dance” leads me towards topics in dance history, especially ballet. 2 ideas right off. First, ballet started out hundreds of years ago as dance done by the elite of society. I’m talking Italy and France in the 1500s. The ability to dance well according to strict rules of conduct was considered as necessary for social and political advancement as knowledge of different languages, the Bible, how to hunt and use a sword. Ballet performances were huge state affairs lasting hours with dozens of dancers and musicians and the choreography and librettos were packed with political meaning. The first commonly recognized ballet, “La Ballet Comique dela Reine,” was given by the French court to celebrate a state wedding. Its message had nothing really to do with enjoyment and aesthetics. “Ballet Comique” essentially said that France was the most powerful and resourceful country because it could mount such an extravagant production.<P>The culmination of French court ballet was Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” who often appeared in the role of Apollo, a god and the giver of reason. The lesson was that he was the embodiment of the divine sanction of rule and reason. Louis founded the Paris Opera including the ballet and its school. Ballet was not meant to be enjoyed by just anybody, but by connosieurs who were hip to its political and social messages.<P>Second riff on elitism and ballet history. Like Louis XIV participated in the ballet performances, so did other courtiers. But, as the steps gradually got more complicated, the dancing was moved away from including everybody to emphasizing professional performers. This is what they call the professionalisation of dance. Basically, it got too difficult to be done except by performing professionals. That’s how ballet and most of theatrical dance is now. I think we’re talking professionalization starting about … hmmm … 18th century, but I’m not a history student.<P>Maybe another area for development could look at dance that developed in a rejection of ballet’s elitism. It might be a little of an exaggeration, but there is a sense in which modern dance (Graham, Denishawn, etc) developed as a reaction to the elitism and restrictions of ballet.<P>The early modern dance pioneers said, ballet is unnatural and no way am I stuffing my feet into those little pointe shoes. Isadora Duncan tried to return dance to its “origins” free from the rules and conventions of the ballet’s dans de Ecole, the four hundred year old school of movement based upon the five basic positions of the feet with its hundreds of codified movements and prescriptions for everything from the right direction to point the head for a croise or efface to what to say to the teacher at the beginning and the end of class. Martha Graham, particularly, was influential by rejecting ballet’s emphasis on the vertical (lightness, effortlessness). Tons of others, too.<P>Also, like most anything in art, there is a political dimension. Early modern (20th century) Americans looked at ballet and saw the oppressive heritage of the Old Europe, the ancien regime, the degraded nobility – in other words, a bunch of old, snobby, cigar smoking, serf whipping, alcoholic, syphilitic, tubercular counts and dukes with titles nobody could remember or care about. ...Not to put too fine a point on it... Think of those stories of Parisian or Russian balletomanes pulling the ballerinas’ carriages in the snow or cutting up and eating their favorite ballerinas smelly old pointe shoes and you think, hey pal, get a life. By contrast, the moderns saw in modern dance a dance form as young and free as America was.<P>If history isn’t that interesting and you’re into more contemporary issues, maybe do as LMC Tech was sort of getting at, which is a cultural critique of dance looking at the oppositions between high and low art. Elitism can refer to the distinction between high and low forms of dance. <P>The Judson Church choreographers made the most extreme point by highlighting the division between dance movement and everyday movement, but their questions persist in the tension between distinctions if social and performance dance. [I’m not forgetting Merce, LMC Tech, BTW really well written review of the recent show.]<P>I’m NOT talking about those arguments about Michael Flatley “Lord of the Dance” which is what made me shun internet discussion for years, but more interesting questions raised by recent shows like “Fosse,” “Swing,” “Contact,” etc. Do I dare mention the recent Smuins thread?<P>Does ballet make use of the fact that most of its audience (as judged by looking at the faces around me at shows) are relatively socio-economically perhaps even culturally homogenous? Does modern dance?<P>Where do obviously choreographed musical theater shows like “Cirque du Soleil” fit in? What about ice dancing? Fine arts choreographers have done pieces for ice dancing, too. A few years ago, San Francisco Ballet resident choreographer, Val Caniparoli, was interested enough by the subject of ice dancing that he investigated the gliding-on-ice effect in his work, “Slow” w/ music by Graham Fitkin as I remember it.<P>I remember there being some interesting discussions among various and sundry threads in this forum. I'm sure interesting ideas could be found by doing some searches with the search function located at the top of the page.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Jeff (edited February 09, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2002 7:09 am 
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Ballet is often perceived as elite in a physical sense. There is a common belief that ballet dancers' bodies are somehow "different" from regular bodies, and that either you "have it" or you "don't". Non-dancers are commonly intimidated when they see dancers' bodies (see the article at the end of this post)<P>I used to believe this, but I don't any more; I think ballet as a whole is moving away from a sense of physical elitism as well. The fact is that people with a wide range of bodies can become ballet dancers, through proper training. <P>Also, "imtimidating" ballet things, such as splits, can be achieved by just about anyone through the same techniques used in ballet training: understanding of one's own body, training for appropriate balance of muscle tone and relaxation, careful stretching, and above all, consistency. Most people never achieve this because they don't spend 1.5 hours every day working on it with the right techniques. Most people cannot or do not want to spend 1.5 hours/day on their bodies in this way; it's actually very costly. And although many people exercise regularly, even daily, they don't necessarily do it in an intelligent fashion that will lead to change of their bodies over time.<P>So in my vision for ballet, I would say that it is "expensive" or "costly", but I would refrain from using the "elite" label. "Elite" implies an inequality of opportunity for the aspiring dancer based on the luck of the draw, and I just don't believe that any more.<P> <A HREF="http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=020208007759&query=ballet" TARGET=_blank>http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=020208007759&query=ballet</A> <BR> (posted recently under a Pilates thread in the Studio CD forum)<P>====================<P>OK, another sense of elitism in ballet: There is a tradition in which the dancers never really connect on a gut level with the audience. It's the "big eyelids, looking down in an elegant fashion because I'm too caught up looking at my hand" tradition. Modern dance threw this out and built a revolution that way. The modern dancers came down off the gigantic procenium stage and were willing to look the audience straight-on in a natural manner. This sense of elitism leads many potential audience members to feel that ballet is "snooty" and "disconnected". The poses and moves used on stage look so unnatural that the audience feels disconnected.<P>At my ballet company, we train to approach the audience in a way that connects with them and looks natural. All our technique is based on an understanding of movement that comes most naturally to human beings, "pedestrian" movement. But don't get me wrong, we're a very classical company, we look like ballet dancers, not modern dancers. I think it works: our shows have been described as "intimate". People who felt turned off by ballet feel an immediate connection, and say they've never seen anything so beautiful.<P>Ironically, our approach didn't always work so well for the Nutcracker. We did it this past year in a "cozy" 250-seat theater with the front of the "stage" less than 10 feet from the front row of seats, and at the same level as the floor that the people in the front row rest their feet on. At least a few reviewers said they didn't like their Nutcracker this way. "I don't want to see the sweat on the dancers' faces", "It looks better from far away" were some of the comments. Maybe part of the mystique of the Nutcracker is its connection to a traditional form of elitism.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 6:38 am 
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thanks guys given me lots to think bout there. <P>i disagree that dancing isn't considered a sport. it has an organising body, with its own rules and regs, it reflects society, it requires training, pysical fitness and strength, commitment and effort, allows for personal development and provieds competitive environments and those are the key elements to a sport--trust me im a pe student! <BR>and as for football being an art form-- well why not. it involves talent, creativity, spontieity, freedom of movement. etc<P>this essay is for my PE A level course so im looking at dance as a pysical activity, or sport as well as an art. <P>by development i mean personal development. does every individual stand the same chance of success? is there stil sexism? is ballet considered for women? <P>for funding--does the government provide funding? how is this distributed? is it disproportionate funding? ie money is given to the elite to promote sucess? rather than to schools to get more involvement? or is it disributed equaly--does this effect the chances for development?<P>as for elite dancers--can anyone give me names of a few? are they loads or are they a few? why are they not household names like david beckham (english footballer) or tim henman (english tennis player) are they used in a political way to promote any countries sucess? and aid them ecomomically?<P>dancing is a high culture activity, why has it not progressed to mass/ popular culture? or has it? if so y dosen't is have mass media coverage? <P>as u can see i have loads of ideas that need expanding on. so any further help or disscussion would be fantastic, and u'll all have the satisfaction of knowing you helped me achieve a grade A, whilst also addressing some interesting issues!<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 9:07 am 
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Hi Jody. First up a word of warning - in the essays i have to write for my course I have to give fully referenced sources and I don't think that quoting an Internet forum will carry much weight. You can use the information here as pointers, but you're going to have to use books and articles as your main source. <P>On the question of whether dance is a sport, you've given a reading that it is, which is fine. But I think you'll find that more than 90% of the people here would disagree, as I do. Ice skating has some similarities with dance, but the basic format of the former is competitive with marks awarded in categories etc and the competitors placed in order. This doesn't happen in dance with the exception of some competitions for younger dancers. The primary outlet for dance is theatre performance and different casts will bring different things to the table. People will have their preferences, but the ranking that takes place in sports does not take place. It's interesting to note that the ice shows that travel around are seen as theatrical events and not sport. This is how most dance fans and professionals will see the activity - a theatrical art form. <P>Dance can be competitive, but with the exception mentioned above, only in the sense that accountancy and teaching are competitive as people are competing for positions within the organisation. <P>On a number of your questions, if you look here in Issues i think you will find various topics which touch on the themes. You should also check the UK news and views forum and the UK performances for the names of some of the outstanding UK ballet dancers of the moment. <P>I see that you are studying in the UK, so you do need to be clear about that as the funding systems in the UK and the US are very different. Here is the link to the website of the Arts council of england which is the main funding body for arts organisations:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/</A> <P>And here is the link to the website of the Council for Dance Education and Training:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.cdet.org.uk/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.cdet.org.uk/</A> <P>Good luck with your essay.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 12:27 pm 
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My comments are based on the state of dance, particularly ballet, in the United States.<P>There is no organizing body for dance in America.<P>Dance is certainly athletic, and I would consider dancers to be athletes. However, I would be hesitant to call dance a sport, for the reasons Stuart Sweeny mentioned.<P>It was explained to me like this: Fitness, Sports and Dance all share a certain focus on training the body physically. However, they differ in their goals. The goal of fitness is to build the body to its maximum working potential in certain ways. The goal of a sport is to do something faster, longer, farther, etc than someone else (eg running, swimming, diving, etc), or score points against an opponent (football, boxing); overall body function comes second. The goal of an art such as dance is ultimately theater.<P>This difference between fitness, sport and dance becomes apparent as training continues. In the beginning, dance training is very fitness-oriented: how on EARTH do you put your body in those crazy positions, and is your knee feeling OK today?<P>Later on, you become more used to it, and start thinking about goals: move the leg towards the corner of the room, walk in a circle, etc.<P>But for the really experienced dancer, all the previous things come as a matter of course, they've been practiced so much. It is assumed that you can do whatever steps will be needed. The focus during rehearsals and performance is purely artistic.<P>Again, just because ballet involves intense physical activity, and just because dancers are athletes (in my opinion), does not make it a sport. Nor does the fact that many things developed in ballet are also necessary in football make football an art. The goal of dance is theatrical, the goal of footbal is to score points. If you look great on the field but you don't score points, you're a lousy football player. If you don't look good on stage it doesn't matter what you do, you're a lousy dancer. That's the key difference.<P>There is debate on who stands a chance of success. Success in ballet requires the development of dozens of areas in oneself, both physical and psychological. Some people are "naturals" at some things: for example, one student may point her feet easily, another may have natural "stage presence" even as a young child, another might have an intense focus and discipline at a young age.<P>Traditionally, many of these factors are taught in a ballet training program, and some are not. For example, it is never assumed that you can do tendue naturally (although a very few do). On the other hand, stage presence is not usually taught: it is believed that either you "have it" or you "don't" in those areas.<P>Oftentimes, ballet training assume you're already adept at "natural" forms of movement: it builds upon their mastery, but does not try to teach them.<P>Much more can be taught than most people probably believe. Stage presence does not involve any difficult physical feats, so in theory, everybody is capable of it. A few teachers try to analyze these things and teach them. Obviously, the more required factors a teacher is able to teach, the more true it is that all students have "equal" chance of success.<P>No matter how well trained the dancer, some will still have an easier time than others in the business. As a woman, it's just harder to get hired if you're tall. But dancing is never easy for anyone, and those who really want to do it badly enough usually find a way.<P>There is certainly sexism; look at past threads in the Issues forum.<P>The US government provides no funding, although some states do. In Massachussetts, it is distributed, I believe, by a committee of representatives from arts organizations in the state.<P>Most funding is private, and private donations usually go to well-established organizations. Hence, money begets money. It is very difficult to build a new dance organization; this aspect of the system could seriously endanger American artistic innovation over the next century.<P>Most of the ballet organizations with money are both schools and professional companies. Schools are sometimes profitable, professional companies really are not, not even the most successful companies. Private donations and subsidies from the associated schools pay the balance for the companies. Both schools and companies promote interest in and involvement in dance.<P>To find the elite dancers, just look at the principle dancers in the major ballet companies: NY City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Bolshoi, Kirov, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Ballet, etc. By and large, these are the only dancers you might consider "well paid" by normal standards. Elite ex-dancers are a bit harder to find, but they can be tracked down too.<P>There are only a few elite dancers; otherwise, they wouldn't be elite. I believe the word "elite" rules out large quantities. For example, today's "good" runners perform about as well as the "elite" runners of 100 years ago.<P>In Russia, I'm told, elite dancers ARE celebrities; I suppose Russians are really into their ballet. But in America, no one cares about ballet, so it's very rare that a ballet dancer will become a household name. Baryshnakov and Nuryev are probably the closest any dancer has come to celebrity status in America.<P>Baryshnakov made a movie, "White Night", that explores some political connections. But as I said before, dancers are so low-profile in the society at-large that it's largely an a-political pursuit.<P>Dancing has progressed to pop culture, just as music has. For example, watch Madonna in concert: you'll hear music, and you'll see dancing. Of course, pop music is different from "high culture" music, and pop dancing is different from "high culture" dancing. You might rephrase your question as, "why is high culture not more popular?", and look at the broader cultural spectrum: dance, music, literature, painting, etc. Ultimately, I think you'll find yourself asking, "why will many people work hard to live in a big house and drive an SUV, but very few will work hard to produce beautiful art?" There's profound insight into the modern world in the answer to that question.<P>Again, dancing doesn't have mass media coverage because the masses don't care about it. Sorry to sound so cynical. But actually, dance regularly feature on the front page of the New York Times "Arts" section.<P>OK, I've given some help, as have others. I'd love it if you could share your paper when you're through with it. I'm interested in seeing what you've dug up, and what you had to say.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 12:52 pm 
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My big question is why it would be "progress" for ballet to move from high culture to mass/popular culture. I'm assuming you mean ballet and not actually "dancing," because dancing has always been a part of mass/pop culture, from ballroom waltzing to street hip hop.<P>Also, in terms of ballet going mass culture, in the late 1970's-early to mid 1980's ballet enjoyed a spike in popularity, mostly owing to flashy personalities and the high profile defections of Barysnikov, Nureyev, and Makarova. They were household names, and ballet enjoyed a lot of buzz in the media at large, not to mention movies like "The Turning Point."<P>These days ballet still has its mass culture moments, as in the recent movie "Center Stage." That might be an interesting film for you to see in relation to your topic, especially as it is a Hollywood representation of what young dancers go through in their efforts to become "elite" members of ballet companies.<P>I think citibob's refutation of the idea of dance as a sport (we're talking concert dance here, not competitive ballroom dancing or rhythmic gymnastics) is especically well-articulated, and I have to say I agree with him fully. But if you feel strongly that ballet is sport, there are certainly parallels to be drawn, and I admire you for sticking by your guns. <P>Good luck with your essay!


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 1:23 pm 
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""Why will many people work hard to live in a big house and drive an SUV, but very few wll work hard to produce beautiful art." There's a profound insight into the modern world in the answer to that question."<P>A very thought provoking question, Citibob. I might add, and why are they not interested in supporting it.


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 1:35 pm 
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Actually, by "produce", I meant a broad range of involvements in ballet, not just dancing.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2003 7:40 pm 
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Quote:
'Arts' not for an elite few -- and McFerrin proved it

GIGI LEHMAN
Miami Herald

If there's any hope for public support for the arts in South Florida, it might just lie with Bobby McFerrin. And not because he's going to lead a mass singalong of his late-'80s hit, Don't Worry, Be Happy. <a href=http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/entertainment/6279148.htm target=_blank>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Elitism and development in dancing
PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2004 6:36 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Relegation battle
While sport has enjoyed a resurgence under New Labour, the arts has suffered under successive governments because it is unfairly perceived as elitist, argues Nichola McAuliffe in The Stage

Would a future Labour government refuse to sign the G7 agreement to protect the British theatre and film industry? I asked the question of Mark Fisher as he toured the country soliciting performing arts support for New Labour while they were still in the wilderness. His look of blank incomprehension was more eloquent than his answer.

click for more

<small>[ 26 March 2004, 07:36 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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