"pretentiousness" in dance
Posted 05 April 2001 - 04:23 PM
I thought I'd raise this, because it's a cousin of Leigh's topic -- how much explanation do you want? Often the charge of pretentiousness is leveled at work that presumes a level of education or familiarity that most of us don't have. Where is the line?
For me, it's in intent and naturalness. If someone is genuinely well-educated, and his frame of reference since youth has included the Greek gods, say, or nuclear physics, I don't think it's pretentious to use them in a work, although I think the artist would be wise to explain something in the program notes. But if I sense that an artist is trying to impress me, and is using words he looked up in the dictionary but never really uses, or Greek (or other) Gods that live only in an encyclopoedia for him/her, then I start thinking "pretentious."
The word is sometimes used, though (especially by Americans about Europeans) to mean anything with content -- at least, that's how I read it. What do you all think?
Posted 05 April 2001 - 05:00 PM
The problem arises when the topic of the work is so specific to one geographic region or lifestyle or cultural group, that only audiences from said group can understand the message.
*What is the Ultimate Pretense? To me, it's when the creator of this "insider work" doesn't care to share this inside knowledge with the general public by publishing program notes to explain intent, meaning, and such.
Case-in-point (surprise! non-ballet related): I recently attended the screening of a Hungarian docudrama at the American Film Institute. Subject: the settlement of Hungary by the ancient Magyar peoples 1,100 years ago. The film was mainly visual...almost a silent film. Two hours of unexplained images...a stag in the forest...two kings slash their wrists and do a blood-letting ceremony...endless wanderings on horseback through the flat Hungarian Plain with no "story." I was reaching for the No-Doze...a real snoozer! To my amazement, the mostly-Hungarian audience in the theater were in tears as the show ended and the lights came up. They gave the director a standing ovation. The guy sitting in front of me was crying: "this is our sacred stag...this is our history in poetry!" Yet I was almost asleep, as no verbal explanation was given, nor were any program notes provided. Obviously, the presenters assumed that everyone attending this *public* screening in Washington, DC (not Budapest) to which TICKETS were SOLD would be well versed in Hungarian history of the Middle Ages. That, to me, is "Pretense." Especially if it is being presented in a 'cultural exchange' setting where one assumes that not all viewers belong to the group depicted in the work of art.
[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited April 05, 2001).]
Posted 05 April 2001 - 06:12 PM
Posted 05 April 2001 - 06:23 PM
I usually think of things in terms of gracious/ungracious, rather than pretentious/unpretentious. Even assuming that one is doing a "difficult" work that is going to take work from the audience, there is a way to bring the audience with you in the experience. I know there are people who believe that an audience needs to be confronted, and I can see situations where that has produced fascinating theater and I don't believe that every dance should be light or happy, but in general, my feeling is that the audience came to you and paid money to see what you are doing. The least you can do is be a decent host.
Leigh Witchel - firstname.lastname@example.org
Personal Page and Dance Writing
Dance as Ever
Posted 05 April 2001 - 09:08 PM
[This message has been edited by BalletNut (edited April 05, 2001).]
Posted 05 April 2001 - 10:36 PM
Posted 06 April 2001 - 11:21 AM
Posted 10 April 2001 - 09:37 PM
julip, that comment was perfect - everyone's trying to be someone they're not, creating works they don't even get.
I want to see sincerity on stage, and if it's obviously false by the absurd posturing in a piece when a choreographer is going for the so called 'intellectual high ground' in a particular subject, I start to roll my eyes...
To me, balletnut, what you are talking about is the complete opposite of pretentiousness. The continual efforts of a choreographer for their audience to 'get the point' is, to me, a dumbing down of the work that is patronising at best.
Posted 10 April 2001 - 10:03 PM
I have a real life example, from a modern dance concert, not a ballet one (and a very good one, I thought; a tanzteater piece that wasn't pretentious at all). In the progrma book, our composer, is described: "X is a contemporary composer in the sense that he is living in our times. In the imagination of those who listen to his music, the music is without reference but with roots, without etiquette but with characteristics.. . . .He composes in collaboration with musicians from classical, contemporary, traditional, and ethnic backgrounds, and with them invents and develops new musical techniques to create an imaginary world for the spectator, a sonorous, tri-dimensional sculpture."
Posted 10 April 2001 - 10:14 PM
I hope this clears things up a bit.
[ 04-10-2001: Message edited by: BalletNut ]
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