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Where Should Dance Go ?


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#16 Buddy

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 02:47 AM

I think I could fill this thread with seventeen pages of clips of enchanting not-ballet. 

Okay, go for it, but it has to be really Enchanting !  flowers.gif  

 

The Han Tang Yuefu Music and Dance Ensemble is a very good start. Thank you! I’ve watched a large number of videos of dance from China, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s something that I’ve been searching for. It’s absolutely lovely and certainly worth appreciating for its subtle detail (“To my western-trained eyes, it looked like a style entirely grounded in subtle micro-adjustments of the head, hands, and posture.” — Kathleen). These dances certainly show a refinement worthy of the ‘high art’ status that other forms, such as ballet, command. I believe that the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD) was considered possibly the high point in Chinese artistic culture and dance in particular, although I’ve read that singing was always combined and dance was not considered separately. 

 

Kathleen, thanks very much for the videos. The last group does indeed show the use of the lower body (in particular the end of videos 1 and 2 and the beginning of video 3). At first glance I actually prefer seeing the dancers in bluejeans. It’s more interesting. Also for a culture that’s seems sexually conservative, I’ve hardly ever seen bare legs in a dance, these dances, in their subtle way, can get pretty sensual. 

 

I hardly know a thing about Baroque dance, so maybe someone could get into this a little more. I believe that choreographers, like George Balanchine, understand these kinds of dance quite well. 

 

Diane, I’m 100% with you in wishing to see dance as healthy a pursuit as possible. Dance would seen like a natural for promoting good health and I can’t see any reason why the choreography couldn’t be brilliant. Perhaps you could mention some examples of this. Fred Astaire? Savion Glover claims that he can tap-dance for hours and not even get a blister. Certainly worth thinking about. 

 

I’m also a big fan of the idea of letting dancers, from little children beginners to adult professionals, choreograph for themselves and contribute as much as possible to the creation of a work. I know very little about formal dance technique, but I’d love to float ideas to dancers and let them create from this. I’m sure we all would.



#17 Buddy

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 12:42 PM

Since we are still looking at dance from China this might be interesting. From my very limited knowledge of this history, ‘classical’ dance-singing sort of disappeared, being absorbed into Chinese Opera. This is an example of Chinese Opera today. It might be more dance/music theater with mainly music at the end, but you do get a sense of dance permeating everything. I can’t tell you a thing about this work’s authenticity, but it does have a beautiful charm.

 

Xian Tang Dynasty Opera 



#18 Buddy

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 02:24 AM

Kathleen and sandik, I guess the internet gods are following this discussion because I just found this. It’s an overview of a French production combining Chinese classical and 16th century European Baroque dance, featuring the Han Tang Yuefu Dance Company  (references posted by Kathleen) and a group of French ‘renaissance’  performing artists, Doulce Mémoire (Sweet Memory). I’ve watched it once and only partially understood the narrative in french. The production probably explains itself, one of the beauties of dance and music, but if I hear anything particularly interesting I’ll try to post it. The production is quite lovely.
 
Mémoire des vents du sud (Memory of The Southern Wind Instruments)
 


#19 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 07:44 AM

Thanks for the Mémoire des vents du sud link! I haven't been able to find much Han Tang Yuefu out on the interwebs, so this is welcome (although, frankly, I could live without the French Renaissance intrusion ...)

 

So, speaking of enchanting Baroque, I'm reposting something that kbarber linked to in this thread: http://balletalert.i...ce-lullys-atys/

 

Dormons, dormons tous ... The opera is Lully's Atys, performed by Les Arts Florissants, led by William Christie.  (This same production made its way across the Atlantic to BAM a couple of years ago.) The link should take you to the right place, but if not, go to about the 1:33:50 mark. First you'll see the entrance of two dancers portraying (I think) little Zephyrs. After some exquisite solo and ensemble singing, Gil Isoart enters and dances an equally exquisite -- and very expressive -- solo. I've linked to a YouTube post of the entire opera: there are worse ways to spend three hours, but if you don't have three hours, I urge you to scroll back to the 1:28:00 mark and watch the whole "Le Sommeil" scene. Its gorgeous start to finish. 

 

PS: this is, of course, not "not-ballet" ... but it is most definitely enchanting.

 

PPS: I should have mentioned that there is more dancing in the "Le Sommeil" scene after Isoart's solo, so don't stop there. If you want to cut to the chase go here, here, and here.



#20 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 09:03 AM

The internet gods are indeed smiling on this thread today, because I just happened to stumble across this. It's a clip of two of the best dancers I've ever been privileged to see, Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble. They're performing Vibhakta, a duet choreographed by Sen in India's classical Odissi style. The dance is set to a Sanskrit hymn honoring Ardhanarishvara, the half male, half female manifestation of Shiva. Sen has recast the hymn as a love song between Shiva's male and female halves. Sen is the female half, Satpathy the male; even though they are costumed alike, you should be able to sort out which is which. (Hint - early-ish in the clip Satpathy parades around Sen with swaggering warrior steps.) I've seen them perform this a couple of times (they come to NYC fairly often), and it's one of the most glorious depictions of harmony I've seen -- in no small part because of the tremendous sympathy between Sen and Satpathy, who have been colleagues for decades. The video quality isn't great, alas ...

 

And, if you'd like to see more Odissi, check out Sujata Mohapatra's YouTube channel here. Parts III and II (in that order) will give you a taste of Odissi in its narrative mode. (There are subtitles to help you follow along.) In terms of where dance should go next, Mark Morris has already gone there: there's a section in his setting of Dido and Aneas that is a clear homage to Indian Dance's narrative tradition. Parts IV and V are more pure dance.



#21 sandik

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 01:40 PM

 

 

Your mention of Ruth St. Denis is also related to what I think about a lot. From the little that I know about her, she took very natural dance style and attempted to give it the graceful aura that we associate for instance with ballet. As I’ve said before, I’d love to see much more of this sort of thing.

 

 

St Denis was one of the foundational generation of American modern dance, but her work generally used dance material from other cultures (both actual and speculative) to create works that were often described as "exotic."  Some of her choreography was more abstract (less narrative or figurative), especially the work she did in music visualization, but her most influential choreography was primarily narrative and character-based, creating a simulacrum of ethnic dances.  In a way, her work created the same kind of fascination with "the other" in the US that Diaghilev's ensemble had in Europe. 

 

Although she had some training in ballet, any actual resemblance was more coincidental than intentional.

 

(She and her husband Ted Shawn choreographed the dance sequences in Cecil deMille's Intolerance, and performed in the big temple scene)

 

Suzanne Shelton's biography "Divine Dancer" is a very readable work.



#22 sandik

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 01:55 PM

 

Diane, I’m 100% with you in wishing to see dance as healthy a pursuit as possible. Dance would seen like a natural for promoting good health and I can’t see any reason why the choreography couldn’t be brilliant. Perhaps you could mention some examples of this. Fred Astaire? Savion Glover claims that he can tap-dance for hours and not even get a blister. Certainly worth thinking about.

 

Glover may be able to dance without injury now, but the training he's had up to this time was every bit as grueling as high-level training in ballet, modern dance, jazz, etc.  Astaire frequently worked to exhaustion, Rogers danced with blood in her shoes.  In general, dancers train to have an enhanced physicality -- more range of motion, more strength, more articulation.  They are quicker, stronger, stretchier, have more control over their bodies and more options for action.  This takes intense training.  Choreographers are looking for these extremes, create work that takes advantage of them and in turn find more challenges.

 

I recently saw a documentary about Elizabeth Streb, a post-modern choreographer who works in a style she calls Extreme Action.  It feels like a cross between Cirque style gymnastics, parkour, and martial arts.  It is very dangerous, and represents an extreme version of the general intensity I'm talking about, but it's a question of degree, not of kind.



#23 Buddy

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 04:18 AM

Kathleen and sandik, thank you once again for your very interesting replies.

 

Kathleen, thanks especially for the beautiful videos. Some of this is totally new to me and there’s so much to absorb, appreciate and enjoy. Would you have anything from Japan? Please post and/or discuss more of your favorites, if you care to, because they are indeed Enchanting.

 

I’m appreciating very much the pure dance and personal depth of the Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy performance.

 

At the moment I’m also very much appreciating the dance solo of Paris Opera Ballet's Gil Isoart in Lully's Atys (originally posted by kbarber and referred to by Kathleen). At that topic Stage Right relates her Baroque dance class experience: “….it took a great deal of ankle control, an extremely resilient and controlled use of pile, a very specific coordination between head, arms and body. (Hands too!). Not to mention the musical issues….. But this clip is probably the most expressive use of Baroque dancing that I've ever seen.” 

 

I’m also very captivated by the Expressiveness of this performance. For me it looks very personal and relates beautifully to the Yang LiPing video clip (second video, page 1) in quality of dance and depth and nature of personal poetry. 



#24 sandik

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 09:07 AM

Most people talk about the technical skills that ballet has inherited from baroque dance, but I've always thought that there was a connection between them in terms of expression as well.  One of my baroque teachers used to refer to the period as the 'age of emotion' -- the expression is subtle, as is the virtuosity, but it is most certainly there.



#25 sandik

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 09:10 AM

Oooh, Nrityagram -- thanks for the links!  They come through here every so often (local Odissi contacts) and it's always such a treat.
 
Morris is indeed a colleague of theirs -- has spent time at the school and has absorbed elements of the style, as he has with so many other dance forms that have a complex relationship to music.  He's such a refined sponge!

#26 Buddy

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 09:37 AM

Sandik, after watching Gil Isoart’s Baroque solo all day, I went to this. Start at 3:30.

 
Added later:
 
I've taken this video down because of some statement that came up after my posting stating that the owner has removed it. It looked okay in that respect when I posted it. 
 

It can still be found on YouTube -- "Fred Astaire Cuts Loose At The Oscars" (starting at 3:30)   

 

I'll see if I can find something else. Check back here later.

 

Added Added:

 

He was 70 years old when he did this! I would say that it's an excellent example of how artistry can grow with age.

 

 

Okay, this Fred Astaire overview is posted by Turner Classic Movies itself.

 



#27 sandik

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 10:46 AM

I found a link to the Oscar performance that's marked "official," for whatever that's worth.

 

After watching that, I saw this -- the visuals are from Astaire's performance of Putting on the Ritz, but some clever person has added a mix of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.  Astaire was a big fan of Jackson, especially after seeing this performance at the Motown 25th anniversary show, where he made such an impression with the moonwalk.  (this clip is long -- the solo stuff starts around 9:00)

 

Both Astaire and Jackson play very skillfully with control and abandon -- it's about timing (suspension and quickness) and force (delicacy and strength).  Astaire comes from a tap and theater dance background that's influenced by swing music and its use of the upbeat, while Jackson has a stronger connection to funk -- that's part of the difference in the way they attack a downbeat.

 

In some ways, I think the sustained moments in Gil Isoart's performance have more of a resemblance to Jackson's approach than to Astaire's.



#28 Buddy

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 12:39 PM

Okay, the dance challenge is on ! 

 

While waiting for Kathleen to hopefully point us in her Celestial direction, I’ll bring these guys back. It’s as good as I’ve seen them. Thanks for the Michael Jackson material, sandik. I’ve never seen this before and I’m really impressed. By the way the Billie Jean dancing starts at 9:15.

 

It's The JabbaWockeeZ !

 

 

 

 

JabbaWockeeZ



#29 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 01:05 PM

JAPAN! My family lived there for three years when I was in my early teens. (During the Johnson administration - i.e, roughly a bazillion years ago ...) I still miss it.

 

First, something charming: Bon Odori.  Bon Odori are folk dances performed during the summer Bon festival, when the spirits of the dead come back to visit their families. (Why they come back when it's steaming hot rather than in the far lovelier Japanese spring or fall is beyond me.) You welcome them home with happy Bon Odori -- Bon festival dances. Each region has its own flavor of Bon dance. (One of the famous ones is from a coal mining region. Follow along in the little video player in the upper left corner on this page.) Amateur dance troupes organized by workplaces, schools, or neighborhood associations perform the Bon Odori on a raised platform called a yagura, or, if the platform's only big enough for the drummers, around it.  The onlookers join in and circle the platform performing the Bon dance at the same time. I don't know where this video was shot, but the scene is pretty typical. Some Bon Odori groups perform in the streets, like these folks

 

The internet being what it is, there is of course a Bon Odori cat video. And Bon Odori Gangnam style ... 

 

sandik: they do Bon Odori in Seattle, so you can go join in the fun ... The US Army Garrison in Japan (!) has posted a few training videos to help you get ready. Here's Tanko-bushi (the coal mining dance) and Sakura Ondo (the one the cat's doing).

 

PS: Pina Bausch's "Seasons" march always reminds me of Bon Odori!

 

PPS: In case you're wondering, the Bon Odori Gangnam style video was shot in Brazil ... Google "Bon matsuri" and you'll see that there are Bon festivals everywhere ...



#30 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 01:16 PM

 

 

After watching that, I saw this -- the visuals are from Astaire's performance of Putting on the Ritz, but some clever person has added a mix of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.  Astaire was a big fan of Jackson, especially after seeing this performance at the Motown 25th anniversary show, where he made such an impression with the moonwalk.  (this clip is long -- the solo stuff starts around 9:00)

 

 

 

HA! I'll raise you with Japanese dance done to Dave Brubeck's Take Five.




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