Equality

In 2011

  • 2.3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers were male (from menteach.org)
  • 2.4% of Fortune 500 companies were female (from the Huff Post)

In 2013

  • 16.9% of corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies were female (from cnn.com)
  •  18.3% of Congress were female (20% of the Senate was female & 17.9% of the House was female) and State Legislators were 24.1% female.  (from the website of the National Women’s Political Caucus)
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Merely

In several journal articles that I have read, I sense the white male privilege and how it seeps through, even when the article is written by a well educated female, who hopefully has enough education to get beyond or out from under (pun not intended) the white male privilege.

In “Foucault’s Turn from Phenomenology: Implications for Dance Studies, Sally Ness writes “Dance, or any embodied movement oriented practice, is not what Foucault studied.”  It is good to use thoughts and models from different disciplines to interrogate and problematize one’s own practice.  But then later in the conclusion, Ness writes – The field [dance studies] has acquired its fair share of cross-disciplinary prestige that any alignment with Foucault’s work inevitably carries.  So only by quoting a dead white guy who knew little to nothing about dance can the embodied(female!??!) practice of dance enter the theoretical (male?!?!) world of intellectual discourse.
In an article about Merleau-Ponty and Laban, by Maureen Connolly and Anna Lathrop, Connolly is described as having a “commitment to phenomenology and movement education that is unashamedly (emphasis mine) bodily based.”
Why does she need to bring shame into it?  Is she ashamed of her body?  Does Alvin Noë have to write that he is unashamedly cerebral? No, because he is of the power structure, white, male, and cerebral.  I feel that by connecting shame to being body based, Connolly is still operating under a value system that devalues the body and favors the mind.
In Playing with Performance: The Element of the Game in Experimental Dance and Theater by Karen Clemente, she quotes Michael Kirby about post-modern dance – “…Dance is not used to convey messages or make statements.  The dancers are merely themselves.”
Oh, how I hate that word merely.  Yes, it can mean purely,without admixture.  But it has the word mere in it, which for me has a negative connotation, a mere child.  That the dancers in Kirby’s quote are no better than their bodies.  That without a code, to bring Barthes into, the subject is dis-intellectualized, all we have is the body and therefore, not of much value.  I doubt Kirby or Clemente would say that they disvalue the body, but I think there is a vestigial bias, left over from Descartes or wherever.  Similar to how people who improvise and value it as a means of art creation say just improvise or that improvisation is not a piece.  That there is technical dance and then there’s CI.  Which makes me think of CI dancers in Germany who don’t call themselves dancers because they haven’t gotten a certification in dance.  Which then leads to CI being even more marginalized in their own minds and end up even more noodly and less rigorous/less technical.
We are all suffering under biases that we have not consciously accepted or created.  Sometimes, though, it seems like there are intellectual/critical theory tropes that people invoke because that is what we are supposed to do. I remember a thread on Facebook about a performance by Isabel Schad at Counterpulse last year. In it she is naked and there is a sound score with a male voice. Everyone was up in arms because the male/voice/intellect was controlling the female/body, or so they thought.
“How could Isabel and her collaborator make such piece?!?  Don’t they know how that piece is read?”
The groovy liberals of the SF dance scene, I thought, would value the female/body equally, if not more, than the word/mind.  And that they would not think that there are multiple readings and intentions.  Isabel and her collaborator weren’t thinking about gender when making the piece. But maybe they, too, are unaware of what vestigial cognitive biases remain.

How to Read Body Art

How is the observer intended to interpret the atemporal durational corporeal installative performance of an apple core tattooed to the left temple of a white male? Does the left side of the head indicate the leftward (cognitive) political leanings of the individual? The apple core representing the ingestion of sustenance that reveals the means of regeneration. Or is it indicative of Eve, an Illustration of the fault and acceptance of said fault of the fairer sex? What is the observer supposed to do if left up to her or his own devices?

CI is like Champagne

Only bubbly white wine
that comes from the region of 
Champagne, France 
is given the name 
champagne.

Contact Improvisation, some people maintain, is more than just a physical practice. It is a political movement, a way of life, a way to interact with our fellow humans and the world. Some might even go as far as to say CI is a social modality that can change the world.

Contact Improvisation was not created in a vacuum. It arose in the United States during a time of great flux and change. It was a time of great social and political upheaval. Therefore, the environment in which CI arose is inherent in the form.

If CI is a political/social/gender/economic etc. movement then to truly understand CI one has to come from the same soil that birthed CI.

Are, then, only denizens of the United States of America fully capable of understanding CI and manifesting true corporeal self-determination in the moment?

(it could also be that all the concomitant -isms that people attribute to the physical form of CI have nothing to with it, that it is purely the physical practice and form. Yes, CI can be a tool for creating those -isms, but it is not those -isms. A hammer can be used to build a house, but it is not a house.)

Gender in Dance

It has been said many times.

“oh, it’s a man dance.”

2 guys on stage, it’s a man dance. Why, when the dance consists of all women (and 99% of dances made consist of all women), we do not say “Oh, it’s a woman dance”?

Well, precisely because 99% of dances made consist of all women. Therefore a dance, by default, is a woman dance. So when a dance has all men or even a slight majority of men, it becomes a “man dance”.

Heard this just the other day. In a group of what I thought were contemporary post whatever artists. But I guess not. They are still stuck on gender, on viewing a dance through the lens of gender. Dancers aren’t bodies, creating shapes in space/time in relation to other, but men and women creating shapes in space/time. Have we not progressed beyond Martha Graham?

Or have the tools just changed but the story is still the same?

PS

Graham = Bausch = Stuart

What do you see?

This has been a question used in the past couple weeks of my MA course at the Uferstudios here in Berlin.

(please note the use of the word here, as I am in Berlin. This attention to detail is similar to the uses of come and go & of take and bring that are too frequently misused. )

For the past couple weeks, we have been doing an exercise of Susan Rethorst’s , who maybe got it from Simone Forti. Who knows where it really came from, but I am sure people have consciously arranged objects in space for millennia. Did an exercise once with Mary Overlie in which we arranged white beans. The focus of that exercise was spatial arrangement. The focus of the Forti/Rethorst/Durning is quick decision making. (does it ever seem like so much of dance creation training is helping dancers get over their @#$%?!?)

Anyways, the exercise progressed from objects to people to solos. Each of us worked on something for 30 minutes (the exact time length varied each round). We watched each person writing down what we saw the person do. After everyone had presented, let’s not say performed because there is just too much baggage around that word, we read what we had written about each person.

Somethings I wrote – read from notebook, put notebook down, close eyes, open eyes, place downstage heel to arch of other foot…

Something I heard – a heroin addict, deliciously slipping, time expanding…

After the feedbacks, I felt confused. Were we supposed to write what we saw or what what we saw made us think of? For the next couple weeks, we did variations of this exercise with a new visiting artist. The feedback was stated to be of two different kinds – what you saw and then what it made you think of.

Good, I can roll with that. But then when the feedback happened, both kinds were mingled, eventually the what you saw losing a significant share of the airtime to what it made you think of.

Talking in the Ufer Cantine with my cohorts – (paraphrasing not quoting)

“When you see a man and a woman on stage, you don’t immediately think love story”

“No, I see a man and woman on stage.”

I am baffled as to why in our post-modern contemporary age we would still automatically see love story. Am I supposed to see war automatically when I see two men on stage? No matter what age we say we are in, we all still have the same expectations. Love songs are still written and will always be written. The only difference will be the instruments and the notes.

But back to seeing…It took me a while to understand, but what everybody else mean by “what do you see?” is “what do you think of when you see…” And this is very dangerous territory. Just because you think something does not mean it is there.

Of course when I see stuff, it makes me think of other things. But when I am in a studio and I see someone sitting slumped against the wall, I see someone sitting slumped against the wall. I don’t see a heroin addict, or a depressed business man, or swirls of pain an agony. I might think of those situations or scenarios, but I don’t see them.

Are we not trying to be clear with our language and context in this MA program?

During the feedback after my showing on Monday, I brought up this issue and not understanding how people were seeing. This lead to a discussion of poetry…hmm not remembering so well, the connection to what I am thinking of…

but here is the thought anyways –

the need for the poetic, the dissatisfaction with what is there is the same need that has given rise to religion. People want mystery, people want there to be stuff going on behind the curtain and then they want to forget about the curtain.

People want to see what they imagine

Don’t get me wrong. I want people to imagine whatever they want. But when we say that we are going to write what we see, let’s do that. And then when we saw, we are going to write what what we see makes us think of, let’s do that.

there was something else I wanted to write but I forget what it was.

And here is quote of a quote to provide some triangulation and provide some sand to build this house on –

‘Ulmer affirms that Beuy’s objects are “…both what they are and stimulation for the general processes of memory and imagination.”‘

We should not confuse the two.