Sorry, I don't speak jive.
March 15, 2015 5:09 PM   Subscribe

What resources can I use to help me parse movement as artistic expression?

So I know where to find podcasts, books, etc that talk about how to read a poem or listen to a symphony, and have experienced enough of them to have a vocabulary to talk about the rhyme scheme or leitmotif that shows up again in the last movement, and can tell something ahead of its time from something very much of its time (at least, in the Western tradition.). I have no such appreciation of dance--I can see that it's something I can't do, but I don't derive any real meaning from it.

I would like to learn more and I'm wondering if there's some Intro to Dance resources out there. The kinds of questions I'd want answers to are things like: What are the influential dance works that every dance lover would recognize a reference to in a modern piece? Are there sub-schools of modern dance that are easily recognizable? Are there common structures in a work that can be strictly adhered to or consciously broken? What makes a particular dance piece great?

Books, podcasts, videos, I'm up for whatever format you've got.
posted by tchemgrrl to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I wrote a post that touches on this a little while back. It might give you one starting point, where technology intersects dance.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 6:21 PM on March 15, 2015

You might enjoy reading books by Sally Banes: Terpsichore's Sneakers and Democracy's Body both discuss the postmodern dance movement. Banes is a compelling writer, and describes performances as well as dancers' histories, experiences, intentions, etc. She writes about a specific time and movement, but her way of looking at dance translates more broadly, so you're likely to emerge from reading her books with a whole new set eyes re: modern and contemporary dance in general.
posted by marlys at 7:16 PM on March 15, 2015

Best answer: I'd start with this beginner’s guide to contemporary dance. (followed by Body Talk with parts 2 and 3.) Then watch Wim Wenders' Pina (2009) about the German choreographer Pina Bausch.

But let's get something straight. While the term "modern dance" still connotes a large swatch of present day movement practice, it's a pretty specific and increasingly marginal subset of broader western theatrical dance that peaked in the early-to-mid 20th century. Modern has spawned a diverse world of hybrid techniques and performance practices, but it was subsequently deconstructed by post-modern dance (termed Yvonne Rainer) in the 1960's, although you'll notice that "post-modern" dance more closely resembles modernism than postmodernism in broader ideological contexts.

I think you should learn how to care about dance by paying attention to its creators and critics. Check out Gaga technique from Isreal's Ohad Naharin. Dig into John Martin's early-to-mid century dance criticism in the Times for more insights into the cultural context of modern dance. Modern dance was an offshoot of ballet, and when the new ideas seeped back into the roots, contemporary ballet came into being; here's what that cutting edge movement technique looks like in conjunction with scientific research.

To my taste performers like Storyboard P and Thom Yorke exemplify a contemporary understanding of the unruly music/dance dichotomy. Please note that dance needn't be accompanied by any particular sort of sound, and that many choreographers outside commercial dance are trying to push boundaries and subvert expectations about music's role in the dance world.

Technology is also getting in on the fun: Here are a few examples of what that looks like.

When you've wet your toes on performance genres, you might find yourself curious about the processes by which dance is manifest. "Choreography" is a rich and volatile field of study and the rabbit hole is very deep. Know this at least: Dance is but one medium for choreographic practice. They're not codependent paradigms. Dance needn't be choreographed, and choreography needn't make a dance.

I could go on and on. I love the dance world and it especially needs our love. The form is suffering truly enormous growing pains as the economy thrashes the last vestiges of its prior infrastructure to pieces. What remains are only those of us who do it. We have no sustainable systems, no defined home in culture besides the theater, hardly a place at any table of note. We show up in music videos and on the street corner but our relationship to our society is elusive and fragile. Sexism has a lot to do with that, as do a thousand other things that I want to go into but shouldn't here & now.

I finish with Trio A, because it is wonderful.

(on preview Sally Banes is another great resource. And talk to me forever; this is my world.)
posted by an animate objects at 8:05 PM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

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