Commentary: The dance world needs to reconnect with the larger culture

Christine Jowers, Dance USA's From The Green Room blog, 7/26/11

More than ever in the arts, we dancers and dance administrators need some good spiritual food for sustenance - especially as the world pushes us to move ever faster in its service and sometimes, it seems, far away from the art we love. [A] feeling of being sequestered away from society is horrible, and very real for professional dancers. Many of us have been trained to be set apart from this world with our highly specialized diets, grueling exercise regimes, and with the inordinate amount of time we spend chasing perfection. We have been trained to be inaccessible. Of course we are part of the world. We are human and connected to all human beings. We eat, breathe, sleep, eliminate waste, have sex and search for meaning just like all other humans. We hold in our possession the magical use of our bodies. All humans share bodies. All humans move. Dance is a common language. Is it that the world doesn't get us? Is it that most people don't care about the great high culture we have to offer because they would rather watch The Simpsons (I like to watch The Simpsons) or The Kardashians (not so fond of the face work there) or sports (love soccer)? Many of us serious dancer types have interrupted our connection with the larger culture. We need to be reunited somehow. This has nothing to do with dumbing down what we do, or changing who we are essentially to fit the society. It has everything to do with broadening our horizons, by jumping out of our studios and offices to take a look at the great, big, cacophonous, speedy, multicultural world of fusion before us and realistically assessing our place in it.

 

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In Scotland, dance is now more popular than soccer as a participatory activity

The Stage [UK], 8/3/11

Dance is more popular as a participatory activity than [soccer] in Scotland, according to a new report published by the Federation of Scottish Theatre. However, it warns, poor dance programming by theatres is posing a threat to the development of dance in the country. FST director Jon Morgan pointed out the areas where dance is lacking. In particular, although dance is now part of the curriculum for excellence, he said that there is currently no Standard Grade dance exam, while dance is offered as a Higher Grade subject in only nine secondary schools across Scotland. Among the report's four key recommendations it says that "investment in professional dance needs to be sustained, in order to build new audiences for the future", and that "more opportunities for specialist training and professional development are needed so that all our talented young dancers, including those with disabilities, can be nurtured and retained in Scotland." Janet Smith, artistic director of Scottish Dance Theatre, [added]: "In theatres across Scotland, (dance) has been seen as a risky choice. This poses a real threat to the development of dance. If we are not able to take it to audiences that we are creating, especially among more young and experimental dance artists, it risks not being performed or meeting an audience. How will this young art form and its artists develop, if not through performance?" The report comes as the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland have announced a "year of culture" in Scotland, and a 6.5 million, three-year programme of funding to coincide with both the Cultural Olympiad and the Glasgow Commonwealth Game in 2014. Part of that funding, to be fully announced in the autumn, will be a 1.5 million "Get Scotland Dancing" project.

 

A new dance work inspired by hockey fans' riot after Stanley Cup win

The Vancouver Sun, 8/3/11

Out of the rubble left after the June 15 Stanley Cup riot, this city's artists are making art. #ThisismyVancouver led the way at the end of July, a production of the Arts Umbrella summer theatre intensive. Hot on its heels is Party Boys, by choreographer Edmond Kilpatrick, one of the dance miniatures in the lineup of the upcoming edition of "Dances for a Small Stage". Artistic Producer Julie-anne Saroyan keeps pushing this unique series in unexpected ways. [It] has always placed limitations on participating artists, but these have traditionally been physical limitations of time (5 to 7 minutes is the maximum length for each dance) and space (the eponymous small stage). What Saroyan likes to call "tasks" impose new thematic parameters. In the case of Kilpatrick, he was in pre-production for Dances for a Small Stage immediately before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. "I was working on a humorous piece," he says, "but the day after the riot, it somehow didn't seem funny anymore. I kept thinking about what had just happened, and ended up taking the original construct I had built and reimagining it as a response." What emerged is a piece for three male dancers representing three sets of characters: the instigators, those who got swept up in the mayhem, "and the rest of us, who watched in horrified disbelief. I'm trying to strip away the stereotypes to see who these people really are." "Holding a mirror up to society has always been among art's most important purposes," says Saroyan. "I think it is of vital importance that our artists are given an opportunity to reflect on these significant occurrences."

 

Evolution of the Touchdown Dance 

Video: "Evolution of the touchdown dance"

ESPN Front Row blog, 7/25/11

On July 11, members of ESPN's Marketing team, along with employees of Wieden+Kennedy New York, gathered in a dark comedy club in New York City to celebrate the pending return of football. There were no football players in attendance, just a closed set with a turf-covered stage and a singular spotlight, which centered on inspirational comedian Judson Laipply. He is most famous for his 'Evolution of Dance' video, which went viral in 2007 and remains one of the most popular videos of all time on YouTube. But on this day, he was adding a new chapter to his famous dance by creating The Evolution of the Touchdown Dance, in which he performs 23 of the most celebrated touchdown dances from the past 35 years in a three-minute tribute to American football. Determining which dances would make the cut was not an easy process. The goal was to choose iconic dances but also incorporate different eras and a mix of players and teams from across the league. One dance that was left on the cutting room floor was Wes Welker's Snow Angel which, according to W+K's Marc Maleh, was just too hard to incorporate into the flow of the dance. Once the sequence of dances were determined, Laipply began studying the videos. "I had to learn every single move all together over a two-week period, whereas I had six years of practice with the original Evolution of Dance," said Laipply. When asked which dance was the most challenging, it was a tossup between the Ray Lewis and The Squirrel. But his favorite was the Ickey Shuffle. "I was a young child growing up in Ohio when the Ickey Shuffle started. It seems to me to be the most iconic, and what really started the wave of touchdown dances."

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