CriticalDance Forum

General articles, Bytom 2009
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Author:  Bytom Admin [ Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:34 am ]
Post subject:  General articles, Bytom 2009

What does it mean to be “a perfect dancer”?

Wioleta Rybak, Justyna Czarnota
asked the teachers conducting the dance workshops and the lecturers what does it mean to be “a perfect dancer.”

Dan Safer, physical theatre workshops

For me, a perfect dancer could be a fat, 50-year-old man dancing in a club to disco music, as long as he is passionate about it.

George Jackson, lecturer on the International Seminar of Dance and Historians and Critics

There is no such a person as a perfect dancer. Every dancer is different, and it's important is to notice that. Personally, I prize this variety. Obviously, there are reasons for drawing comparisons because we can state that some people are better than others in a particular respect. However, in dance, there are so many ideas we should be open to that it is simply impossible to say who is the “best dancer”.

Harmen Tromp, ballet workshops for contemporary dancers

I think that a good dancer should be open, with a positive attitude, studious, mindful and caring. [These are the traits of students, I am in contact with them every day.] I also believe that every dancer remains a student to the end of their life and that is the way they should perceive themselves; it is essential that they have an open mind and the desire to develop.

Marco Volta, contemporary dance

I have never tried to coin such a definition. Rather, I think of a person characterised not by perfect movement but by the energy they transmit on stage; the charisma – even when they are only standing on stage, doing nothing, people call them “dancer.” I think that dance should be a kind of fun and pleasure for a dancer.

Koushik Das, Kathak dance workshops

My ideal of a dancer is the teacher who taught me contemporary dance for four years. He is a true guru for me to model myself on.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:42 am ]
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A Class in the International Seminar of Dance Historians and Critics

By Magdalena Mikrut

This year’s Conference, apart from practical dance workshops conducted by well-known teachers and choreographers, has a theoretical segment.
The seminar offers those with a craving for contact with the theory and history of dance an opportunity to broaden their knowledge on these themes during numerous lectures presented by experienced dance practitioners, theorists and critics.

Among these are a series of lectures m were lectures on the History of Dance lead by George Jackson, a dance critic and historian. Interestingly, his childhood passion was figure skating, learned as a boy in Vienna. Later, his hobbies became ballet and piano. His passion for dance developed while ushering at Chicago's Civic Opera House. Then, surprisingly, he studied microbiology, while continuing to work as a radio and TV commentator of dance events in Europe and America. In addition, he lectured at the Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Viennese Staatsoper, specialising in the decadent period (1870-1910) of Western theatrical dance. In addition, he edited or was on the editorial board of ] several magazines (Chicago Review, Venture, Experimental Parasitology, and Dance Critics Association’s DCA News).
During the seminar, he lectures on ballet and contemporary dance history in a clear, comprehensive way. In order to add variety for the students , he frequently uses audiovisual elements. He opened his first session with the thought: “Time travel can be fun”, we can visit, and traveling across the history of dance is pleasant.”] Thus, he encouraged all the participants to spare no effort in familiarising themselves with the art form's history.

He tells us that dance cannot be understood by looking at photographs, paintings or even watching films as it is a living entity
that defies expression in a fixed framework. When he speaks about the invention of kinetoscope and cinematograph at the turn of the 20th century, and later also cameras, able to record movement perfectly, he states that, even with the newest technology, it is impossible for dance on screen to equal performance in three-dimensional space. It is analogous to the comparison of a painting with its reproduction - the original has a magical aura.

Moreover, George Jackson emphasises that lighting is an especially important element of every performance. Mentally traveling through time, he told that until the 19th century, gas lamps were used, which produced far less light than electric ones. Thus, electrification had a great impact on the theatre world.

During the lecture, he briefly described the way contemporary dance was evolved, starting from Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton (1761-1815) and her “Attitudes”. Furthermore, he shared with the participants many myths concerning the birth of this innovative dance tendency. Today sees a boom in the market and the future for contemporary dance looks bright.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:56 am ]
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Take-Away Theatre, or Excerpts from the History of Dance on Film

By Justyna Czarnota

Have you ever stepped out of a theatre with the deep conviction that you have experienced breathtaking beauty and perfection? That it cannot be repeated is a much regretted loss. But, thanks to 20th century technology we have the possibility of recording such moments, while 19th century audiences lost them irrevocably.

Dance already appeared on screen in the beginnings of cinematography, in the silent era.. Initially, short dance sequences were filmed and then used as insertions in a number of films. Rarely were they directly connected with the plot of the cinematic work, rather they functioned as spectacular ornaments animating the action. In the middle of the 20’s, when recording sound became possible, fragments of cabarets and operas appeared on screen.

From the 30’s to the 50’s, American cinema was dominated by musicals produced by great film studios such as MGM, RKO and Warner Brothers, starring Fred Astair, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell. As a rule, they took the form of vaudeville. Choreographies were prepared exclusively for film; the distinction between dancing on stage and screen was made. At that time, in Poland, Strachy (1938) by Eugeniush Cękalski, based on the novel by Maria Ukniewska, was produced. Its theme was the life of a dancer from the Revue Theatre in Warsaw, and thus dance sections could be incorporated into the formal plot of the film. It is also worth noting that Cękalski is recorded in the history of short documents showing dance – he filmed Ziuta Buczyńska dancing krakowiak and kujawiak, as well as Janina Leitzkówna performing gavotte and Spanish dance. With the help of Stanisław Lipiński, he stored on tape regional dances, Highland, Cracovian and Silesian, performed by companies of the Folk Dance Association.

Then, the crazy 60’s and 70’s came – catchphrases such as “drugs, sex and rock’n’roll” in cinematography brought about great popularity of films using dance. Typically, they had straight forward narratives, such as Dirty Dancing, which used dance to illustrate a particular social milieu and relationships within it

At the same time, the possibility of recording dance works on tape became more viable. Merce Cunningham was one of the pioneers in this area, and working with the directors Charles Atlas and Eliot Caplan, he made many films, including Westbeth, and Beach Birds for Camera.

The problem of faithfully representing movement on film still troubles directors and choreographers alike. Dancers can be filmed from various perspectives: from above, from below, from the side, wide view or close-up and with the camera static or traveling, . What is important, is to render the energy and atmosphere of a performance. And that is the hardest part.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:05 am ]
Post subject: 

Lecture: Dance and Fine Art

Reviewed by Wioleta Rybak

Dance has strong of links with the visual arts and Merce Cunningham goes further, saying they are the same art form. And the impact of dance on other arts, especially visual, including painting, sculpture and film was the theme of a lecture given by Stuart Sweeney, a regular contributor at the Bytom Conference.

The lecturer paid attention to the instances of fine arts inspired by dance, as well as the presence of motifs taken from paintings and found in dance performances. He provided the participants with a tour of the world of art in chronological order, illustrating his presentation with projected images, and pointing out what makes them deeply interesting. One of the first works described is The Egg Dance, painted in the 17th century by Jan Steen, which shows happy people dancing in a country inn, but with the meaning that these folk are wasting their time with frivolity - dance.

In the romantic period, along with the development of ballet, there appeared a multitude of graphics with the figures of ballerinas, yet true interest in dance began only with the impressionists. Degas’ and Renoir’s paintings are swarming with beautiful dancers, portrayed in isolation or in larger groups. Essential in the development of arts inspired by dance are works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who illustrated the theatrical life of fin de siècle Paris. On his posters, graphics and canvases, he presented scenes from cabarets and cafes, including several of the cancan dancer he helped to make famous, Jane Avril. . The Expressionists took less interest in this art form, but we saw an example from the German, August Macke, whose painting Russian Ballet shows a scene from a Diaghilev performance.

Dance figures may be presented not only on canvas or paper. Body in movement can be fantastically rendered as a three-dimensional sculpture. Some of these were also presented by Sweeney, among them the probably most famous one, The Little Dancer, cast in bronze.

However, the interaction between dance and fine art can be two-way and choreographers have been inspired by painting and drawings, using well-known motifs or even directly transferring scenes from canvas to performance. Film is an art which enables seeing the performances repeatedly. Many motion pictures are created as records of stage dance sequences, as, for instance, The Green Table with Kurt Jooss’ choreography, who was influenced by the works of a German painter and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz. Common for them are the theme of death and shadows of experiences from The Great War. Obviously, it is a good idea to save some pieces from sinking into oblivion. However, records are incomparable with live performances, which enable more profound experiences and do not impose the perspective chosen by the camera operator.

We can also see feature films which employ dance to drive the narrative forward. Dancers can produce spectacular scenes – as in An American in Paris (1951) also shown by Sweeney. It is a full of movement, an American musical with George Gershwin’s music, starring Gene Kelly. Since film became popular, there has been a multitude of productions using the art of dance - they could be listed endlessly.

The relation between dance and other art forms is remarkably strong and often exposed in contemporary culture. What proves this statement, is the number of performances shown during last year’s 13th International Dance Theatre Meetings in Lublin (XIII Międzynarodowych Spotkań Teatrów Tańca w Lublinie), the theme of the festival being exactly such mutual inspirations of these arts. And it was at this festival that Sweeney’s lecture was first presented.

Wioleta Rybak

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