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virtuosity


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#1 sandik

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 05:10 PM

I've been mulling over Deborah Jowitt's article in the Village Voice about the practice of virtuosity in dance

right here

and am wondering what the community here is thinking? We've had several conversations about the shifting nature of the edge (what is thrilling today may be ho-hum tomorrow) and shifts in choreography to accomodate (or not) certain dancers and their specific abilities. How are you feeling about these topics today?

#2 dirac

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 05:37 PM

Thank you for starting the topic, sandik. It's evergreen here at BT, in one form or another. Jowitt's discussion embraces modern dance as well as ballet - the question of how much virtuosity is too much has a broad application, it seems.

Virtuosity, though, can transcend and transform the "wow" experience, especially when you watch highly acute dancers meld their skills with the vision of a choreographer (preferably a great one), without calling our attention to the degree of difficulty.


I agree with this quote, but I also think that calling the audience's attention to the degree of difficulty has its place and can be used to make an aesthetic point. I don't mean the "Look at me! Look at how hard I'm working!" effect but the kind of effortfulness that Martha Graham sometimes injected into her choreography - yes, she was saying, this is work.

Jowitt makes a good point about the more subtle aspects of dance virtuosity not coming across very well on YouTube.

Thoughts, everyone?

#3 papeetepatrick

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 05:52 PM

Wonderful article, catches us up and intrigues me out of many forms of boredom from which I've been suffering. The main relief is to finally see an article posted on BT that I don't end up being hateful about in some way. If anything, Jowitt gets better as the years go by, and I haven't read anything new of hers for some time. She was always good, though, always.

She's not too judgmental, and I like her balance, whether she's talking about the two films of different periods of 'Appalachian Spring' and telling you that Martha stroking the wood of the porch raling of the steps is 'Phallic' (yes, I had to be told), or talking about Bill T. Jones's 'Still (Here)' back in the day of the controversy in what I thought was the single most balanced voice...well, she's still doing that. She can allow the extreme virtuosity in without having to turn it into a thing with obvious black-and-white 'sides' to it, there's no either-or-ness in her approach. Really good, exemplary writer, I think. And this: "For instance, Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo, whose works appear in many companies' repertories, creates full-throttle demonstrations of kinky, twitchy, dodgy behavior, in which the dancers ripple their spines and slash the air with their limbs until they resemble sleek machines running amok. A physical version of multitasking that approaches dementia." is so good that, even though she's not exactly recommending it, she has described it in such a way that I really want to see it. Same with the Forsythe and the idea of the dancers 'de-creating' their bodies. She is proof in her own writing that dance is definitely thriving, and I haven't even gotten to the linked clips yet.

#4 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 09:23 AM

Another thought-provoking quote from the article:

Taking the human body apart onstage in extreme ways, as Forsythe has done, can express some of our most disturbing fears. Yet, understandably, audiences also respond to high-wattage displays of distortion as simply another dancerly skill that resonates with our experiences of living. Never has our everyday awkwardness looked so chic, so exciting.


.....even though she's not exactly recommending it, she has described it in such a way that I really want to see it.


Nice point.

#5 Quiggin

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 11:14 AM

Instead of implying superhuman perfection and accomplishment, performers' technical skills are used to convey imperfection, disconnectedness, and alienation.


Alienation and disconnectedness seem like old fashioned humanist values. I don't think that's what's happening here -- the choices seem more arbitrary.

To me a lot of the new (perhaps really neo-conservative) dance begins to look like dancers flinging themselves out and pivoting on some extreme locus points of their bodies, as if tumbling over a high jump bar. There's little development, only a short back and forth to a home base. At best they're Philip Glass-like arpeggios of glittering ribbons of movement. I always zone out after a while.

#6 leonid17

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 01:53 PM

Instead of implying superhuman perfection and accomplishment, performers' technical skills are used to convey imperfection, disconnectedness, and alienation.


Alienation and disconnectedness seem like old fashioned humanist values. I don't think that's what's happening here -- the choices seem more arbitrary.

To me a lot of the new (perhaps really neo-conservative) dance begins to look like dancers flinging themselves out and pivoting on some extreme locus points of their bodies, as if tumbling over a high jump bar. There's little development, only a short back and forth to a home base. At best they're Philip Glass-like arpeggios of glittering ribbons of movement. I always zone out after a while.


I think I am with Quiggin and his view.

When we observe virtuosity in a dancer we are seeing their skill in technique. If we are seeing their skill in technique we are not seeing art.If we are not seeing art, why are we in a theatre. Its better that we go to watch the Olympics.

If technique is not subdued to combine with the the emploi,aesthetics and expression required in a role, we are in general not seeing the choreographers intention. If it is the choreographers intention, I will not be there.

To my mind Wayne Macgregor deals in alienation and disconnectedness, which are my dears, terribly old hat.

#7 kfw

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 06:23 PM

To me a lot of the new (perhaps really neo-conservative) dance begins to look like dancers flinging themselves out and pivoting on some extreme locus points of their bodies, as if tumbling over a high jump bar. There's little development, only a short back and forth to a home base. At best they're Philip Glass-like arpeggios of glittering ribbons of movement. I always zone out after a while.


Lar Lubovitch's A Brahms Symphony was created in 1985 and so doesn't fall into this time period, but your description reminds me of the ABT performance of it I saw in 1995, and I had the same reaction. At first the movement was impressively athletic, full out both physically and emotionally. Each succeeding movement was also impressively athletic, full out both physically and emotionally. In other words, for me the piece as a whole wasn't dynamic, and pretty soon I just didn't care.


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