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I Want to be Ready

Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom

Danielle Goldman

Publication Year: 2010

Danielle Goldman's contribution to the theory and history of improvisation in dance is rich, beautiful and extraordinary. In her careful, rigorously imaginative analysis of the discipline of choreography in real time, Goldman both compels and allows us to become initiates in the mysteries of flight and preparation. She studies the massive volitional resources that one unleashes in giving oneself over to being unleashed. It is customary to say of such a text that it is 'long-awaited' or 'much anticipated'; because of Goldman's work we now know something about the potenza, the kinetic explosion, those terms carry. Reader, get ready to move and be moved. ---Fred Moten, Duke University "In this careful, intelligent, and theoretically rigorous book, Danielle Goldman attends to the 'tight spaces' within which improvised dance explores both its limitations and its capacity to press back against them. While doing this, Goldman also allows herself---and us---to be moved by dance itself. The poignant conclusion, evoking specific moments of embodied elegance, vulnerability, and courage, asks the reader: 'Does it make you feel like dancing?' Whether taken literally or figuratively, I can't imagine any other response to this beautiful book." ---Barbara Browning, New York University "This book will become the single most important reflection on the question of improvisation, a question which has become foundational to dance itself. The achievement of I Want to Be Ready lies not simply in its mastery of the relevant literature within dance, but in its capacity to engage dance in a deep and abiding dialogue with other expressive forms, to think improvisation through myriad sites and a rich vein of cultural diversity, and to join improvisation in dance with its manifestations in life so as to consider what constitutes dance's own politics." ---Randy Martin, Tisch School of Arts at New York University I Want To Be Ready draws on original archival research, careful readings of individual performances, and a thorough knowledge of dance scholarship to offer an understanding of the "freedom" of improvisational dance. While scholars often celebrate the freedom of improvised performances, they are generally focusing on freedom from formal constraints. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault and Houston Baker, among others, Danielle Goldman argues that this negative idea of freedom elides improvisation's greatest power. Far from representing an escape from the necessities of genre, gender, class, and race, the most skillful improvisations negotiate an ever shifting landscape of constraints. This work will appeal to those interested in dance history and criticism and also interdisciplinary audiences in the fields of American and cultural studies. Danielle Goldman is Assistant Professor of Dance at The New School and a professional dancer in New York City, where she recently has danced for DD Dorvillier and Beth Gill. Cover art: Still from Ghostcatching, 1999, by Bill T. Jones, Paul Kaiser, and Shelley Eshkar. Image courtesy of Kaiser/Eshkar.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Contents

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p. xi-xi

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Introduction: The Land of the Free

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pp. 1-27

In May of 2005, the choreographer David Dorfman was watching his Con-necticut College seniors moving across the studio. “I just love the freedom ofit, and if you don’t like what you’re doing, you can change it!” he exclaimed.1 Dorfman’s belief in the “freedom” of improvised dance is precisely whatmakes him so appealing to both students and faculty at the college. As the...

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1. Mambo’s Open Shines: Causing Circles at the Palladium

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pp. 28-54

Mura Dehn’s The Spirit Moves, a three-part film of social dance from 1900 through the 1950s, offers a rare opportunity to see the mambo dancing that flourished in midcentury New York City. In grainy black and white, the film contains two types of mambo footage: scenes of masses dancing at the Palladium and the Savoy, two famous New York City...

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2. We Insist! Seeing Music and Hearing Dance

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pp. 55-93

Salón México (1948), a film about a showgirl at one of Mexico’s famous cabarets, contains striking scenes of mambo in which distinctions between musicians and dancers begin to blur. While musicians in the film typically begin to play from set locations—either on a bandstand or outside a circle of observers—they head to the dance floor, mingling and...

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3. Bodies on the Line: Contact Improvisation and Techniques of Nonviolent Protest

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pp. 94-111

...of travelers—seven black males, three white males, and three white females, varying in age and professional standing but all trained in nonviolence—embarked on what they called the “Freedom Ride.”1 Designed by the Congressof Racial Equality (CORE), the bus ride was meant to commemorate and further the organization’s 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, a nonviolent test of a...

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4. The Breathing Show: Improvisation in the Work of Bill T. Jones

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pp. 112-138

...himself began talking about the artist’s move from explicitly political, identity-based works to an investigation of aesthetics and pure movement.1 They talked about the more conventional makeup of Jones’s ensemble, particularly the fact that Lawrence Goldhuber and Alexandra Beller, dancers whom theNew York Times described as “imperfect” because “chubbier than the...

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Conclusion: Exquisite Dancing—Altering the Terrain of Tight Places

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pp. 139-146

In each of this book’s four chapters, I have highlighted many of the social, historical, and formal constraints that affect how people move, paying particular attention to the tight places that celebrations of improvised dance frequently fail to notice. Although I believe that this is necessary work, I also want to make sure not to obscure the many ways in which the actual dancing...

Notes

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pp. 147-162

Bibliography

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pp. 163-169

Index

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pp. 171-174


E-ISBN-13: 9780472026616
E-ISBN-10: 0472026615
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050840
Print-ISBN-10: 0472050842

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 9 photographs
Publication Year: 2010