English Country Dancing

gvshp_englishcountrydance.png__598x399_q85_crop_upscale (2).pngToday I finally attended an English Country Dance at Cecil Sharp House. The two hours were really fun and accessible and friendly (it was the end of term Christmas special which may have helped too). People were really welcoming and it seemed pretty easy to pick up the basic steps (I think my dance training made this less scary) with a caller and obliging partners, although I imagine there are many refinements that take much longer to learn. I enjoyed the democracy of it – anyone can dance (I joined on the last day of term) or come along and play an instrument and choreographies are held and shared by the whole group. There seemed to be a charming process of asking people to partner so we switched around frequently. The group was generally older than me (mostly in their 60s I would guess) although there were about ten or so people in their 30s so it was pretty mixed by most standards.

There was also a dance called Byron’s Mallet which I though was amusing.

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Community Dance and Politics

23BEL-articleLarge (1).jpgIn what ways does community dance practice and rhetoric link to politics?

Community dance is defined by its emphasis on process (rather than product) and benefits of the process on individuals and communities. These benefits coincide with national priorities of government and this explains the traditional support given to community dance by national government in the UK until recently.

However a less traditional understanding of community dance that runs into social choreography points to a different form of Political currency.

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On Political Gestures and Social Choreographic Movements

the-standing-man.jpgA version of this conversation first appeared in DYAD (2014) by Alice Tatge and Therese Steele

1) As an ex civil servant turned choreographer with a particular interest in politically driven social movement, we would be interested in you comparing two distinct acts of protest that occurred in Istanbul during the spring/summer 2013. 

For dance to work as a form of street protest it must be widely known or easily learnt, which generally means a folk dance (for example Wazir Attan in Pakistan or Toyi-toyi in South Africa) or something popular on Youtube (Thriller, Gangam Style, Harlem Shake). Protest dances with new choreography are rare (I can only think of One Million Rising’s dance against violence to women) and require a certain luxury of resources.

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Censoring Dance

revolutiondancersThe Hong Kong Ballet has been in the news recently for allegedly self-censoring its recent performance of The Dream of the Red Chamber, a collaboration with Germany’s Ballett Dortmund. [h/t Katja Vaghi]

The premiere on 1 November included a 12-minute video of periods from China’s history from the Ming Dynasty through to the Cultural Revolution. The latter featured dancers dressed as Red Guards waving copies of Mao’s little red book’ but this sequence was cut from subsequent performances.

According to the [Hong Kong] Standard the “Hong Kong Ballet explained that the video episode was cut due to technical reasons” while the South China Morning Post writes that  “Some media reported that senior management from Hong Kong Ballet met their German counterparts and decided to cut the section because it was politically incorrect.”

Whatever the story (I’ll be watching this one), here’s a few other examples of censoring dance: Continue reading

Speaking of Dance

unpina.jpgThe state of the current condition of humanity (and its implicit modes of communication) is best illustrated when considering a thought-experiment. Let us imagine a world in which every speech, political or otherwise, is followed by an ‘illumination’ – the speaker dancing her/his entire field of knowledge (sensitive, emotional, rational and otherwise) around the previously addressed subject. Not miming, but dancing. Really dancing. For a short period, silence is prevailing; the speaker steps out and dances his/her convictions.

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When do politicians dance part 5: Anti-elitism

ellen3.jpgIn the last two posts I have been using a 2009 research paper on why British and Dutch politicians chose to go on Have I got News for You and its Dutch adaptation, Dit was het Nieuws to help understand why politicians dance publicly when their job doesn’t obviously require it.

The motives of the politicians who participated in the comedy programmes drew from three repertoires: strategic, indulgent and anti-elitist. This final post will look at anti-elitism:

In this repertoire, parliamentary politics and the media responsible for covering it are presented as institutions crowded by elites possessing their own language, style and in-groups which are more or less alienated from their constituencies and the public at large. The politicians drawing from this repertoire see it as their responsibility to perform differently and show that politicians are also ordinary human beings, with their ups and downs, their flaws and imperfections.

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When do politicians dance part 4: When they feel like it

snn2605b_682_1397144a (1).jpgIn the last post I turned to a 2009 research paper on why British and Dutch politicians chose to go on Have I got News for You and its Dutch adaptation, Dit was het Nieuws. The motives of the politicians who participated in these programmes drew from three distinct but overlapping repertoires: a strategic repertoire, an indulgent repertoire and an anti-elitist repertoire.

This post will look at the second of these repertoires (in relation to dancing publicly) which boils down to “having fun” and ” a nice change from day-to-day politics.”

They see their participation as one of the pleasant by-products of being a well-known politician, but do not expect or need any direct political benefits from it. There are some strategic motives of personal visibility involved here, but these are absent for the well-established politicians.

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When do politicians dance part 3: To be seen

Ann-Widdecombe-with-Anton-006.jpgI’ve recently looked at dance as a duty of office (both domestically and for diplomacy) but there are also lots of instances where politicians dance in planned, organised settings where they clearly do not need to, for example dancing on television shows. To help understand why they do this I turned to a 2009 research paper on why British and Dutch politicians chose to go on Have I got News for You and its Dutch adaptation, Dit was het Nieuws.

The motives of the politicians who participated in these programmes drew from three distinct but overlapping repertoires: a strategic repertoire, an indulgent repertoire and an anti-elitist repertoire. This post will look at the first of these which boils down tot being seen (positively or negatively) in order “to increase one’s political effectiveness.”

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