encyclopaedia of ways to wiggle

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i went to see merce cunningham w.dr vick last night at the barbican (music j.cage, design r.rauschenberg)

erm, ok, now i wub weird-ass improv and cd write a book (am writing a book) on the importance of john cage as musician-artist (short version: he upended the meaning of the words "importance", "musician" and "artist"), and cunningham was cage's life-partner and all, and rauschenberg i haf time for also , but y'know I DON'T GET MODERN DANCE (and so doesn't dr vick).

I mean I'm not agin it, and i didn't hate it. And I liked the sound of their bare feet sqeaking and pattering on the stage. But what am I supposed to be looking at/watching for/thinking about?

mark s (mark s), Friday, 13 September 2002 10:48 (twenty years ago) link

The best i cd come up with was "like blake's seven except a difft kind of silliness" (and that was mainly based on their leotards really)

i heard someone on stairs during the interval say "they all look like little frogs"

we were next to a row-full of dancer-students, who were like the kids from avant-garde fame!! they whooped and hollered when tiny little old merce came on for his many curtains calls, which was nice (he is badly crippled w.arthritis)

(this is only the fourth or fifth time i ever went to the barbican btw) (b4 u start)

mark s (mark s), Friday, 13 September 2002 10:51 (twenty years ago) link

and three of those times were for non arthouse movies = i r hardcore

mark s (mark s), Friday, 13 September 2002 11:06 (twenty years ago) link

When I watch modern dance I'm usually thinking about the human body and what an amazing thing it is. And the way we all interact with the space around us. Course, sometimes you have floating chairs and stuff to contend with and that's a bit distracting.

Archel (Archel), Friday, 13 September 2002 11:07 (twenty years ago) link

If I am not mistaken: Frozen clip (by Madonna) was inspired by Merce C. Secondly my friend's friend teaches walking! (She is Japanese by the way..)

nathalie (nathalie), Friday, 13 September 2002 13:06 (twenty years ago) link

Modern dance is an odd thing. Initially, in the early 20th century when dancers/choreographers were rebelling from the traditions of more prevalent dance forms (i.e., ballet), modern dance was all about personal expression--using the body to convey intense emotions. Instead of relying on set forms and gestures, as ballet did, modern dance was meant to spontaneously (well, spontaneously through choreography, that is) create its own form, as a natural consequence of the dancer/choreographer's communicative impulses.

In effect, modern dance isn't audience-driven--it's inner-driven, which is why it's difficult to watch sometimes. The odd thing, to me, is that as time has passed, many modern dance techniques have become just as rigidly-defined as ballet, ballroom, etc. So, as audience members, we no longer get as much of the immediacy of emotion--as much of the "Wow! I can really feel that rage/grief/joy they're expressing" reaction. Which is a shame, and kind of defeats the purpose of it, in my opinon.

Incidentally, Mark S., did you know that Merce C. used to make choreographic decisions by flipping a coin? (Heads, he wiggles this way; tails, he wiggles that way...)

nory (nory), Friday, 13 September 2002 13:51 (twenty years ago) link

read an interview with Cunningham in the times and am only interested in him becuz of the Cage/Kosugi connection.

Anyway, I think the starting step is to go and watch a lot of these things, just like you do with movies and music, etc. and then you starting reading abt it too and eventually you could get into it but for that to happen you need to see whether there's something in it in the first place.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Friday, 13 September 2002 16:35 (twenty years ago) link

mark's waaaay ahead of you, Julio.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Friday, 13 September 2002 17:39 (twenty years ago) link

The best i cd come up with was "like blake's seven except a difft kind of silliness" (and that was mainly based on their leotards really)

This is the greatest review of any dance ever. Thank you.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Friday, 13 September 2002 20:15 (twenty years ago) link

''mark's waaaay ahead of you, Julio.''

well, prob since I just don't see anything in it but since he's asked the q. but he did find something to like...anyway, carry on.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 14 September 2002 09:29 (twenty years ago) link

i think it's the matter of mannerism having come to stand for liberation (haha rockism)

i. yes the fabulous human body, but actually the bodies we are looking at are very much all of a type, somewhat (but surely not entirely) determined by the requirements of the craft: viz slim, androgynous, shiny, recessive mannequins
ii. yes the fabulous human body, but the range of movements on offer seems to have been cut down only to those which are NOT used in other body-directed disciplines (sport, battle, non-modern dancing, mime, everyday life) (they even run on and off-stage in a "modern dancers' only" kind of way
iii. i wz talking to dr vick after, who works a lot with children, and we were thinking about how we wd have responded if some section of what we'd just watched had been a little performance made up by kids earlier in the day and put on for us: answers included, A. they would not have sustained the range (there would have been a lot more crapness and repetition, amd clumsiness would have alternated with grace); B. they would have broadcast their own emotional feelings OR the feelings they wanted us to feel/respond to, ie grins, frowns of concentration, pleased-with-self smirks, kid-style acting etc etc (cf "recessive mannequins" above: *one* red-head woman dancer had an expression which kind of contained a smile for one passage, but that was it => their own feelings, the "dance of their face" ew ew, was kept totally locked in all the time); C. Complete inability to suppress a sense of personality of movement (idea expanded in iv.)
iv. OK I have a friend in Physical Theatre, who used to be in DV8. She is tall and imposing, and terrifyingly fit. She doesn't call what she does "dance" — which i guess is to the point — but in nothing that I've seen her in is there a sense she's masking her "self" from the watcher. She may well be playing a role, but you would always immediately know it was HER playing that role. And OK, she's pretty physically unmistakeable, but what i mean is, someone maybe more of the bodytype of the merce cunningham ppl, if tackling the kind of thing Liz does, would come across as SOMEONE. Not merely an interchangeable type. With Liz, the self is one of the limbs/features being used: perhaps to call up stuff which is unlike her — the way actors do obv — but nevertheless particular to her.

OK with iv I can see why you might *sometimes* want free yrself from this dimension of performance (Brechtian alienation effect? i know nothing abt Brecht), but I don't understand what the theory of its total removal is. I can sort of make an analogy w. eg AMM's resistance to pre-formed musical material being imported into improv, but I can also see how the analogy fails (AMM logic wd bar ballet moves and jazzdance, yes, but not laughing...) (tho there *is* a "what do singers do in improv" question, haha phil minton oh dear...)

I said the Blake's Seven thing to Dr Vick and she larfed and stopped and said: "But what's sad here is that they (ie MC-people) totally wouldn't know what you meant, or even what Blake's Seven is." Is that true or fair?

Also: "Dance is an Artform for Girls"?? OK, I realise this is totally as stupid as "Rock/Jazz/Improv is an Artform for Boys" — but what is being said by such a claim? And does it tie in with anything I am banging on about?

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 14 September 2002 13:12 (twenty years ago) link

DG's pal the Divine LC *and* DeRayMi to thread!!

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 14 September 2002 13:14 (twenty years ago) link

modern dancers cannot "do" awkwardness any more than people who CAN draw can draw as if they were kids who cannot draw yet

(ps more-than-usually obscure mark s pet hate: when adverts require a "child's drawing of a house" or similar and hire a commercial artist to fake it => WE CAN ALL TELL!! Select a child (at random if nec), get THEM to draw a house and pay them the artist's fee please!!)

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 14 September 2002 13:19 (twenty years ago) link

awkwardness example: in 2001, kubrick's child (virginia? aged 5-ish) is on the space phonelink asking her dad for a bushbaby, and while she's talking she does this kind of "i know you think i'm adorable even and therefore especially when i do THIS" squirm-and-bend thing, and it's partly just about exploring her own body (yes yes calm down) and what it does, but it's also abt manipulating grown-ups, and also about saying (w/o saying it aloud) that she thinks that the film is completely overrated being filmed is a bit boring and silly

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 14 September 2002 13:28 (twenty years ago) link

I have nothing to useful to say here (I wouldn't go to a modern dance event if they held it in my back garden; in fact, I'll call the police if anyone tries such a thing) but this thread is pure gold.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Saturday, 14 September 2002 14:24 (twenty years ago) link

(I so agree with mark s about art by "children" .)

rosemary (rosemary), Saturday, 14 September 2002 23:03 (twenty years ago) link

entrechatroom answers

mark s (mark s), Monday, 16 September 2002 09:21 (twenty years ago) link

mark I knew a modern dance person and her co. for a few years, and have been to quite a few of these things (well, alot for a punter anyway) -and I could never get any sense out of them when I asked yr kind of question. I came to the conclusion (noticing stuff like your point ii above) that it was almost all syntax and no sematics - outside of using common 'body language' codes or exhibitionism (jump for joy! whoopee!) I couldn't 'get' it either. I did find that some of the more 'user friendly' stuff could have a kind of geometric elegance that was satisfying in itself, like a visual canon/fugue - or had a sporty fascination/grace, but if it was really spiky and fractured (the awkward squad) I generally found it most unsatisfying.

we were next to a row-full of dancer-students
It took me a while to realise just how limited the audience usually was at these things - once I cottoned on it felt like such a closed world: I came to suspect that only about 20% of a small-event audience was composed of people who weren't actively *involved* in the admin/practice/learning/teaching of modern dance, and half of that 20% were EX-types etc

(One of the best things I saw wasn't dance itself - one company's performance at The Place involved a 'live' rendition of Ligeti's 'Poeme Symphonique' - 100 difftempo metronomes placed on the stage one by one as the backing quite a sight and sound. This section ended with one ROWR dancer standing there in her underwear doing some geometric routine whilst babbling in french - difficult to think of ART when confronted with that ROWR)

haha Modern Dance = Tarkovsky audience's answer to Lap Dancing haha

Ray M (rdmanston), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 17:19 (twenty years ago) link

i talked to dr vick abt that too — in fact my opening gambit led to her ending every third sentence the whole evening, "though i suppose you can also just look at their bums, like you do" — but actually i brought it up to point out that this *didn't* work and didn't seem to be part of the deal (poss cz of the severity of the abstraction, unless you find showroom dummies a turn-on)

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 17:24 (twenty years ago) link

four months pass...
mark s, in my experience, modern dance is a bit more varied than you describe. I'm a little puzzled that I seem to find it less uniform than you do, since I suspect I've seen much less of it than you have. Also I'm not sure I agree that modern dancers, in general, try to avoid any movement like the movements in other movement disciplines. (At one of the last modern dance performances I want to, there was a piece based partly on Chinese martial arts movements--or so it seemed--and it was quite well received. This was in a small space which was very modern dance oriented. After the performance was over, a bunch of people crawled all over the floors and stuff.)

I would think there isn't a big leap from Cage's music to what I presume Cunningham does in dance (I've never seen him, alas). Are you able to not demand expressiveness in the performance of Cage's music? Why is it harder to accept in dance?

Is Twyla Tharp modern or jazz? She's probably more of the jazz end I guess.

As I said on the ballet/child abuse thread, I'm not a huge fan, but I've enjoyed some of it.

Rockist Scientist, Monday, 27 January 2003 19:05 (nineteen years ago) link

I quite like it.

Smith Wigglesworth, Monday, 27 January 2003 19:49 (nineteen years ago) link

one month passes...
the girlfriend and I went to a "Choreography NOW" sampler last night which actually was a bit like "NOW That's What I Call Music" except not really. She was tired and fell asleep unfortunately, but I watched.

The main thing I got out of it was a real revulsion to cultural-tourist middlebrow which two of the pieces consisted of: "Here are dances set to music of styles: Celtic, Portugese, and Latin". Yesyes there is "Latin" music which exemplifies a continent you stupid dick. They all speak Latin on the continent too. Far worse was the Russian Peasant whatever dancing which was like a cross between a rogers & hart musical number and Disney's Small World right down to grotesque painted on faces. The Portugese piece was actually okay though, coz the music was spectacular and totally overwhelmed the dancing, which if I tried I could read as a humbled in the presence of god deliberateness instead of just naff choreography.

There was a good piece with Tom Waits music that was very directly telegraphing and capturing the theatricality of the music, but in a modern dance style. The part for Big In Japan could have come straight from an update of West Side Story or cet. and God's Away On Business was tremendously powerful.

The best thing I've ever seen to help me "get" dance was Centerstage which actually captures the lives of dancers and motives of choreographers (the less obscure ones) quite well while pulling the usual teen-flik trix. I think of this now coz the highlight of the evening was an intesnsely personal piece from a first-time choreographer with a practiced company, and it was just spectacular clockwork elegance, the partnering and switches and everything just v. systemically powerful and perfectly in tune with the music.

The one thing I think is that it is necessary to read dance as the aestheticization of ways in which we already wiggle day-to-day -- that formalizing them still leaves them in reference to our own bodies and gestural signifiers should probably find a deep root in our own ways of interpreting body language et. cet, re-imagining ourselves as the dancers firing mirror neurons and feeling their motion as ours.

Or somesuch.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Sunday, 2 March 2003 23:28 (nineteen years ago) link


Sterling Clover (s_clover), Wednesday, 5 March 2003 08:54 (nineteen years ago) link

two years pass...
(they even run on and off-stage in a "modern dancers' only" kind of way - ha! haha. (Yeah, the possibilities are endless, so why that one? It must be related to the purpose of performance, which one can't escape.)

from Anything Can Happen, an article on Encounter Merce from Stanford Magazine:

Dance lecturer Diane Frank, a former instructor with Cunningham’s studio in New York, is teaching an intermediate/advanced class in Cunningham-based technique. “The students rehearse without music and learn to put movements together that don’t usually follow one another,” Frank says.

youn, Sunday, 20 March 2005 00:11 (seventeen years ago) link

two months pass...

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Tuesday, 31 May 2005 09:14 (seventeen years ago) link

This philosophical paper has some hints at what seems to be a relatively novel approach to the aesthetics of dance. (She's going to be publishing something extending it in that direction shortly: http://barbara.antinomies.org/papers.

RS (Catalino) LaRue (RSLaRue), Wednesday, 8 June 2005 22:38 (seventeen years ago) link

Speaking as someone completely unfamiliar with the literature on the aesthetics of dance.

RS (Catalino) LaRue (RSLaRue), Wednesday, 8 June 2005 22:40 (seventeen years ago) link

(Her background in the competitive world of ballet probably serves her well in academia.)

RS (Catalino) LaRue (RSLaRue), Wednesday, 8 June 2005 22:42 (seventeen years ago) link

two years pass...

"Most successful of these was Rafael Bonachela's Amox, a slippery, Sapphic duet for Oxana Panchenko and Amy Hollingsworth, barely distinguishable one from the other in gym knickers and vests which, in the course of their rubber-limbed convulsions, kept threatening to ruck up over their breasts. I'm sure this was deliberate."

mark s, Wednesday, 8 August 2007 15:59 (fifteen years ago) link

haha in the interview i'm proofing the choreographer is all, oh ppl tht it wz about two women having sex, but NO WAY d00d, the thought never entered my head

mark s, Wednesday, 8 August 2007 16:02 (fifteen years ago) link

ha, whenever I make fun of modern dance I do that convulsion thing

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 8 August 2007 16:52 (fifteen years ago) link

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