Thursday, May 11, 2006

may 8: Ms. Graham, meet Ms. Acocella. Joan, this is Martha.

God forbid anyone should try to contextualize Martha Graham's aesthetic. You might just send Joan Acocella into a tizzy.

Well, if modern dance hadn't been so exclusive and impenatrable in the first place, it wouldn't seem so totally irrelevant now and the audiance would not need to be introduced to it so thoroughly . I find Acocella's description of the program as "hand holding" a particularly condescending and counterproductive way of talking about this.

OK, so this post makes no sense either. Read Acocella's Happy Face, read me complaining about her "let's pretend it's just movement and bodies" approach to dance elsewhere and

I mean, that's not to say the company did a good job, but god knows, its worth a shot.

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Blogger EL said...

I agree with you on Acocella's understanding of modern dance.

I haven't read the Graham company review yet, but I have to say that their repertory can be a bit condescending to its audience actually. I think dance is difficult for many people in a narrative world where art is taught to be understood in a way that I think is often counter to the way art itself is conceived (which isn't always bad, but it certainly hobbles some art forms, dance perhaps foremost among them). But, while the Graham company's often performing works that veer recklessly toward narrative (Graham's best work almost kidded about it, actually) but are "about" something else entirely. Something that is rather easily uptaken.

I think the problem with modern dance is that it can't navigate the space between the muscular Graham, Ailey, usual suspects and the highly performance-arty, theory-based work. It's sense of comedy is also bizarre and awkward - it is mostly funny to itself and dancers. As such, the popular work drips with melodrama. And that's where it gets condescending.

11:22 AM  
Blogger zoe p. said...

What really drive me crazy is when she then anachronistically applies her enthusiasm for abstract form in modern dance back onto classical ballet. Which, it seems to me, had a different relationship to, um, narrative, history and, yes, movement and bodies.

Your thoughts on a kind of split between the muscular and the theoretical are really interesting too . . .

And even though I know a lot of people dislike the qualifier "contemporary" for ANYTHING, dance included, I like to use it whenever possible to mark a break with things that might be understood as modern . . . and things that are, um, not? even/because it is a totally temporary designation.

11:56 AM  

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