Above and Beyond the Battle: Virtuosity and Collectivity within Televised Street Dance Crew Competitions
This chapter explores competitive street dance crew choreography in relation to interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks regarding virtuosity and excess. Through a close analysis of five performances featured on the British television talent shows of Britain’s Got Talent and Got to Dance, this chapter examines the concept of virtuosity as transcendence in relation to the continued emphasis on technology and the street dance body. Through the choreographic application of animation techniques, synchronicity, the construction of “meta-bodies,” and the narrative of ordinary versus extraordinary, this chapter reveals that crews create the illusion of transgression through their affinity with technology, while also competing with their cinematic counterparts. Through this analysis, this chapter further reveals the negotiation between the individualistic nature of the virtuoso and the crew collective within the neoliberal capitalist framework of the competition.
Affect, Technique, and Discourse: Being Actively Passive in the Face of History: Reconstruction of Reconstruction
Taking its examples from a European context, this chapter describes three possible ways of reenacting history in dance. First, it analyzes Martin Nachbar’s reconstruction of Dore Hoyer’s cycle of dances, Affectos Humanos, as a way of affecting bodies. Second, William Forsythe’s deconstruction of neo-classical ballet understands dance technique as a residue of dance history and the bodies it produces. Third, the work of the French Albrecht Knust Quartet on the notation of dances highlights choreography as writing and examines the score as the basis for possible reenactments. All three examples center around an impossibility that sets their reenactments adrift: the impossibility of the body of Dore Hoyer, the impossibility of perfectly incorporating dance technique, and the impossibility of translating the notation of Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Afternoon of a Faun into a definitive version of the piece.
Stephanie L. Batiste
This chapter argues that the African American dance practice of krumping editorialized in the 2005 David LaChapelle film RIZE defines a space of home as a system of feeling in early twenty-first-century Los Angeles. It offers the notion of kinetic affect as a means of understanding dancers’ charismatic formation of community within dance practice and its spaces. Krump dancing reveals a rich world of love and pain that characterizes life in black Los Angeles. The dancers’ commando-style ownership of venue, content, embodiment, and performance presentation challenge the confining spaces of ethnographic film, urban disenfranchisement, and stereotype.
Susan Leigh Foster
The Afterword identifies key ideas regarding dance and competition that are collectively generated throughout the book: how dance competition engages matters of identity; how institutions shape competition; its rewards, losses, and political potential; and how it facilitates community interaction. The Afterword moves on to question the kind of sociality that competition produces and whether it is possible to engage in competition geared toward forms of social exchange outside the dominant capitalist culture. Both within dance and across the broader social realm, a collective understanding of the world has disappeared in favor of a positioning and repositioning of the self within a network of similar selves. Individuals begin to assume that each is jockeying for a better position, using his or her contacts with others to advance, to acquire more resources, to present a better image. In short, they become entrepreneurial.
Dancers and choreographers have developed numerous improvisation techniques to facilitate the real-time composition of movement sequences, from simple behavioural tasks, such as drawing imaginary figures with different parts of the body, to problem-solving tasks that require the dancer to translate a word or a phrase into movement. This chapter explores the science behind a number of improvisation techniques. Among other things, it will show how some familiar dance improvisation techniques have their roots in properties of the motor system. In addition, it will show how experimental findings from cognitive neuroscience and psychology may inspire novel improvisation techniques. The emphasis is on practical techniques that can be easily performed by dancers and nondancers alike. Ultimately, the chapter argues that dance improvisation requires not just an agile body but first and foremost an agile mind.
“An Interesting Experiment in Eugenics”: Ted Shawn, American Dance, and the Discourses of Sex, Race, and Ethnicity
Paul A. Scolieri
The “ethnic dance” movement in the United States is closely associated with Ted Shawn, the “Father of American Dance” (1891–1972). Shawn and his wife and dancing partner, Ruth St. Denis, founded a dance company called Denishawn, whose repertory incorporated Native American, “Negro,” and Spanish folk dances. By the mid-1920s, Shawn viewed American dance in terms of moral and physical purity—a philosophy he based on the discourse of eugenics. This article explores how the eugenics movement informed Shawn’s vision of American dance in the 1920s, particularly with respect to two of his related writings, The American Ballet and “An American Ballet.” It explains how Shawn’s personal and professional relationship with Havelock Ellis, a British physician who was a leading proponent of the eugenics movement in Europe and whom he considered his idol, influenced his views about eugenics. It also examines how Shawn’s anxiety about his own sexual “unfitness” (his homosexuality) shaped his racist, nativist, and xenophobic “experiment” with eugenics in American dance.
“And I Make My Own”: Class Performance, Black Urban Identity, and Depression-Era Harlem’s Physical Culture
Christopher J. Wells
This chapter applies spatial practice theory to the intersections of power relations, social spaces, and embodied performance in the dance culture of Great Depression-era Harlem. Tracing the movement in black communities away from signifiers of ethnicity toward social-class-based hierarchies, it shows how ethnicized tropes have been used to exoticize and commodify black identity and to create the American black/white racial binary. This strategy has its roots in the marketing labels of the slave trade and the performative tropes of minstrel shows, and it continued in the floor shows of the Cotton Club and other “jungle alley” nightclubs in Harlem. The chapter charts the trajectory of the Savoy Ballroom’s drift from an upscale, dignified dance palace to an incubator for the lindy hop and Harlem’s other popular dance innovations. It argues that considering dance demands a model of ethnicity that creates more space for individual agency and processes of self-definition.
The black-cast backstage musical Stormy Weather (1943) is the first Hollywood film to explicitly celebrate black achievement. Featuring key figures of African American dance and more black dance numbers than any other mainstream musical, it testifies to the versatility and—crucially—the hybridity of jazz dance culture. This article analyzes dance in Stormy Weather by addressing questions of appreciation, appropriation, and assimilation in the context of both film and dance history. Stormy Weather’s panoply of styles and stars negotiates several contradictory processes: white appropriation of “authentic” black talent, black assimilation to “classy” white styles, but also black adaptation and appropriation of hitherto white domains of performance. Through its self-referential narrative of dance history—and through some omissions—it simultaneously chronicles the history of black performers and racial stereotypes in white Hollywood, and thus reveals the industry’s strategies in the exploitation of black talent.
Kerry Chappell and Lizzie Swinford
This chapter focuses on improvisation in early years dance. It arises from the practice and research interests of the chapter’s two authors. It articulates the dynamics of this practice, drawing on practitioner, researcher, and parent reflections to develop three themes: knowing yourself in your body, dialogues with children, and making and being made. The authors express and illustrate the creative, social, and personal value of dance experiences at an early age. They debate the questions and challenges which ensue from an improvisational approach to this practice and give readers a taste of the newness and joy of improvisation in this context.
Attending to the Heartbeat in Dance Movement Psychotherapy: Improvements in Mood and Quality of Life for Patients with Coronary Heart Disease
Mariam Mchitarian, Jospeh A. Moutiris, and Vicky Karkou
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Interventions to reduce future events in patients with established CHD include, apart from medical and pharmaceutical means, a change in lifestyle, social, and psychological support, and other interventions such as dance movement psychotherapy (DMP). This chapter describes the potential usefulness of DMP as a therapeutic tool in acute and chronic cardiac patients. Data from two studies among CHD patients, conducted in a tertiary hospital and in a rehabilitation centre, are presented. Both of these studies show short-term benefit in the quality of life and psychological status of patients. Although methodological limitations did not allow for the establishment of long-term benefits of this intervention for CHD patients, this chapter hypothesizes that long-lasting benefits are possible.