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What is "Provocative"?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 03 October 2001 - 10:28 AM

While links searching I found a short review (which I also posted on Links). Its underlying assumptions are very different from mine, and I wondered how the piece struck others.

And, in general, what is "provocative" and "thought-provoking" to you?

#2 Nanatchka

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Posted 03 October 2001 - 06:06 PM

Well, Alexandra, I think you have to put that piece in context. It was written for the local newspaper in Amarillo, Texas. And while a bunch of guys wearing only dance belts and pounding around percussively without music might inspire "Oh, that again" sorts of feelings in New York, the Texas panhandle is another story. I know this because I wrote for the Austin American Statesman for years. ("I see where you are writing about those nekkid dancers," one caller complained when Pilobolus came to town. In flesh colored dance belts, I might add.)So either: the dance was shocking or provocative in its context, and the reviewer reported audience opinion while holding his ground (he liked it); or, the dance was merely awful, and people left because of that. It is impossible to tell from the piece. But it took me back....

#3 cargill

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 12:37 PM

I just wish that words like provokative and adult, etc., didn't mean only half-clothed people rolling on the floor. There are adult issues like good and evil that are more provocative, and actually, some of the Russian ballets the reviewer seems to disdain do treat adult issues.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 01:23 PM

I wasn't shocked that Panhandlers were shocked at seeing nearly-naked dancers rolling around on the floor (we don't know what they looked like, after all) as much as being told that this piece was provocative because it made us think. And the swipe at Russian Ballet fans.....do you think we'll ever read a review of the Kirov Ballet that ends, "Good to see that there are folks here who like more than just modern dance?" (I hope not.)

#5 dancersteven

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 04:20 PM

The verb form of provocative would be "to provoke", and if this piece provoked a generally positive review and some discussion, then it did its job, eh?

As to what is provocative (assuming you mean sexually), men in dancebelts just do not do it for me. In fact I do not remember the reviewer mentioning sexuality at all, although that was inferred. She said something about the men being stripped of societal niceties and desperately trying to communicate. Makes me wonder if maybe what was supposed to be provoked was not a sexual response at all.

This reminds me of a piece I saw a couple of years ago, a duet for two fully clothed men. There were some tender moments, but it was about relationships in general, not about sexuality specifically. It was reviewed as "the requisite homo-erotic duet". :-) I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder.

#6 dirac

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 04:59 PM

It seems to me that the reviewer was deploying "provocative" correctly in both of the senses used by dancersteven. The piece was provocative in the primary meaning of stimulating and inciting a strong response in both audience and reviewer, although for different reasons. The audience's response was in line with one of the secondary meanings of the word in that they were reacting negatively to what they regarded as an indecent display. We tend to use "provocative" these days mainly in sexual contexts, as cargill says, but the reviewer found the performance "provocative of mental activity" to borrow a quote from my trusty OED. So the performance was indeed "a... provocative collection of dance works."

As for the dig about Russian ballet, I'd say it depends upon what the dance scene is like in Amarillo these days. If I were exposed to a constant diet of visiting troupes performing nothing but "Swan Lake" and "Nutcracker" I might get a little testy myself. :)

#7 Nanatchka

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 09:46 PM

That's what I was thinking, Dirac. Modern dance can be a hard sell in some places....Still, it is always unfortunate when dance lovers divide into camps based on the old modern/ballet dichotomy, instead of on more interesting, or should I say provocative?, issues. I think I would rather love or hate something than be bored by it, although I do try to blame boredom on some failure of my own attention rather than on a work. Nonetheless, I am bored once in a while, and provoked is better. One might say Ballet Alert is provocative!


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