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Field Notes from a Choreographer
The unique career of choreographer Liz Lerman has taken her from theater stages to shipyards, and from synagogues to science labs. In this wide-ranging collection of essays and articles, she reflects on her life-long exploration of dance as a vehicle for human insight and understanding of the world around us. Lerman has been described by the Washington Post as "the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art." Here, she combines broad outlooks on culture and society with practical applications and accessible stories. Her expansive scope encompasses the craft, structure, and inspiration that bring theatrical works to life as well as the applications of art in fields as diverse as faith, aging, particle physics, and human rights law. Offering readers a gentle manifesto describing methods that bring a horizontal focus to bear on a hierarchical world, this is the perfect book for anyone curious about the possible role for art in politics, science, community, motherhood, and the media.
Performance Culture, Urban Space, and Genre Transformation in the 1980s
Early hip hop film musicals have either been expunged from cinema history or excoriated in brief passages by critics and other writers. Hip Hop on Film reclaims and reexamines productions such as Breakin' (1984), Beat Street (1984), and Krush Groove (1985) in order to illuminate Hollywood's fascinating efforts to incorporate this nascent urban culture into conventional narrative forms. Such films presented musical conventions against the backdrop of graffiti-splattered trains and abandoned tenements in urban communities of color, setting the stage for radical social and political transformations. Hip hop musicals are also part of the broader history of teen cinema, and films such as Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style (1983) are here examined alongside other contemporary youth-oriented productions. As suburban teen films banished parents and children to the margins of narrative action, hip hop musicals, by contrast, presented inclusive and unconventional filial groupings that included all members of the neighborhood. These alternative social configurations directly referenced specific urban social problems, which affected the stability of inner city families following diminished governmental assistance in communities of color during the 1980s.
Breakdancing, a central element of hip hop musicals, is also reconsidered. It gained widespread acclaim at the same time that these films entered the theaters, but the nation's newly discovered dance form was embattled--caught between a multitude of institutional entities such as the ballet academy, advertising culture, and dance publications that vied to control its meaning, particularly in relation to delineations of gender. As street-trained breakers were enticed to join the world of professional ballet, this newly forged relationship was recast by dance promoters as a way to invigorate and "remasculinize" European dance, while young women simultaneously critiqued conventional masculinities through an appropriation of breakdance. These multiple and volatile histories influenced the first wave of hip hop films, and even structured the sleeper hit Flashdance. This forgotten, ignored, and maligned cinema is not only an important aspect of hip hop history, but is also central to the histories of teen film, the postclassical musical, and even institutional dance. Kimberley Monteyne places these films within the wider context of their cultural antecedents and reconsiders the genre's influence.
Performing Change in Postwar America
In postwar America, any assertion of difference from the mainstream anticommunist culture carried professional and personal risks. For this reason, modern dance artists left much of what they thought unsaid. Instead they expressed themselves in movement. How To Do Things with Dance positions modern dance as a vital critical discourse, and suggests that dances of the late 1940s and the 1950s can be seen as compelling agents of social change. Concentrating on choreographers whose artistic work conceived dance in terms of action, Rebekah J. Kowal shows how specific choreographic projects demonstrated increasing awareness of the stage as a penetrable space, one on which socially suspect or marginalized modes of being could be performed with relative impunity and exerted in the real world. Artists covered include Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Anna Sokolow, Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, and Anna Halprin.
Ebook Edition Note: All images have been redacted.
Tracking Choreography in the Age of AIDS
David Gere, who came of age as a dance critic at the height of the AIDS epidemic, offers the first book to examine in depth the interplay of AIDS and choreography in the United States, specifically in relation to gay men. The time he writes about is one of extremes. A life-threatening medical syndrome is spreading, its transmission linked to sex. Blame is settling on gay men. What is possible in such a highly charged moment, when art and politics coincide?
Gere expands the definition of choreography to analyze not only theatrical dances but also the protests conceived by ACT-UP and the NAMES Project AIDS quilt. These exist on a continuum in which dance, protest, and wrenching emotional expression have become essentially indistinguishable. Gere offers a portrait of gay male choreographers struggling to cope with AIDS and its meanings.
Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom
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.
Native American Powwow Dancing in the Northeast and Beyond
Colloquially the term “powwow” refers to a meeting where important matters will be discussed. However, at the thousands of Native American intertribal dances that occur every year throughout the United States and Canada, a powwow means something else altogether. Sometimes lasting up to a week, these social gatherings are a sacred tradition central to Native American spirituality. Attendees dance, drum, sing, eat, re-establish family ties, and make new friends.
In this compelling interdisciplinary work, Ann Axtmann examines powwows as practiced primarily along the Atlantic coastline, from New Jersey to New England. She offers an introduction to the many complexities of the tradition and explores the history of powwow performance, the variety of their setups, the dances themselves, and the phenomenon of “playing Indian.” Ultimately, Axtmann seeks to understand how the dancers express and embody power through their moving bodies and what the dances signify for the communities in which they are performed.
Cultural Politics and Identities 1900-2000
This book engages with the role of dance in Irish culture and society over the course of the twentieth century. It adopts a perspective that sees dance as a prism through which to view key aspects of Irish society over the period under review. In terms of its academic provenance, it can be located broadly in the fields of Irish Cultural History/Sociology and Irish Cultural Studies. It selects a number of key moments or eras to explore the role of dance in constructing and reflecting a number of specific cultural identities, namely national identity, gender, ethnic, postmodern and global. Each chapter focuses on one specific kind of cultural identity though themes of gender and social class run through many of the chapters.
A History of the Roots and Branches
The history of jazz dance is best understood by comparing it to a tree. The art form's roots are African. Its trunk is vernacular, shaped by European influence, and exemplified by the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The branches are many and varied and include tap, Broadway, funk, hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, pop, club jazz, popping, B-boying, party dances, and much more.
Unique in its focus on history rather than technique, Jazz Dance offers the only overview of trends and developments since 1960. Editors Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver have assembled an array of seasoned practitioners and scholars who trace the many histories of jazz dance and examine various aspects of the field, including trends, influences, training, race, gender, aesthetics, the international appeal of jazz dance, and its relationship to tap, rock, indie, black concert dance, and Latin dance.
Featuring discussions of such dancers and choreographers as Bob Fosse and Katherine Dunham, as well as analyses of how the form's vocabulary differs from ballet, this complex and compelling history captures the very essence of jazz dance.
The Dancer and the Dance
José Limón (1908–1972) was one of the leading figures of modern dance in the twentieth century. Hailed by the New York Times as “the finest male dancer of his time” when the José Limón Dance Company debuted in 1947, Limón was also a renowned choreographer who won two Dance Magazine Awards and a Capezio Dance Award, two of dance’s highest honors. In addition to directing his own dance company, Limón served as artistic director of the Lincoln Center’s American Dance Theater and also taught choreography at the Juilliard School for many years. In this volume, scholars and artists from fields as diverse as dance history, art history, Mesoamerican ethnohistory, Mexican American studies, music studies, and Mexican history come together to explore one of José Limón’s masterworks, the ballet La Malinche. Offering many points of entry into the dance, they examine La Malinche from various angles, such as Limón’s life story and the influence of his Mexican heritage on his work, an analysis of the dance itself, the musical score composed by Norman Lloyd, the visual elements of props and costumes, the history and myth of La Malinche (the indigenous woman who served the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés as interpreter and mistress), La Malinche’s continuing presence in Mexican American culture, and issues involved in a modern restaging of the dance. Also included in the book is a DVD written and directed by Patricia Harrington Delaney that presents the ballet in its entirety, accompanied by expert commentary that sets La Malinche within its artistic and historical context.
Modern Art and the Economy of Energy
Robin Veder’s The Living Line is a radical reconceptualization of the development of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American modernism. The author illuminates connections among the histories of modern art, body cultures, and physiological aesthetics in early-twentieth-century American culture, fundamentally altering our perceptions about art and the physical, and the degree of cross-pollination in the arts.
The Living Line shows that American producers and consumers of modernist visual art repeatedly characterized their aesthetic experience in terms of kinesthesia, the sense of bodily movement. They explored abstraction with kinesthetic sensibilities and used abstraction to achieve kinesthetic goals. In fact, the formalist approach to art was galvanized by theories of bodily response derived from experimental physiological psychology and facilitated by contemporary body cultures such as modern dance, rhythmic gymnastics, physical education, and physical therapy. Situating these complementary ideas and exercises in relation to enduring fears of neurasthenia, Veder contends that aesthetic modernism shared industrial modernity’s objective of efficiently managing neuromuscular energy.
In a series of finely grained and interconnected case studies, Veder demonstrates that diverse modernists associated with the Armory Show, the Société Anonyme, the Stieglitz circle (especially O’Keeffe), and the Barnes Foundation participated in these discourses and practices and that “kin-aesthetic modernism” greatly influenced the formation of modern art in America and beyond.
This daring and completely original work will appeal to a broad audience of art historians, historians of the body, and American culture in general.