Friday, January 25, 2013

Apples and Oranges

Comparing Dancing Apples and Oranges from Similar Trees
 I was directed to watch two videos, then analyze both dances and the dancers who performed them. 
Here are my thoughts

If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a question many people are familiar with, yet the question is rarely explored, at great lengths or depths, outside of a philosophy class. Interestingly, this is the first question that came to my mind while viewing and analyzing the two video clips that were presented in the Dance in Performance Challenge by Exam Assignment. To address the task of writing about the two video clips with a critical eye, with as much consideration as a philosophy student is asked to ponder the tree in the woods question, requires equal analysis of perception as well as knowledge about what is being scrutinized. The following is an exploration of each dance and the dancers performing in each clip, and how music, movement, and facial expressions influence the similarities and differences, therefore impacting the viewer’s experience.
The clips presented have many similarities which can best be demonstrated upon analysis of the dancers. There is no doubt, after watching both videos that the technical prowess each dancer possesses lends itself to years of dance training with a strong ballet emphasis. The confidence each female dancer has in her male dance partner, and the intuitive symbiotic physical awareness that each male and female dancer have for each other, during the execution of each lift, is evident. The lifts-or tricks, depending upon a viewer’s knowledge and perception-are demonstrative of the type of trust between partners that is usually cultivated during many hours of rehearsals and performances extensively focused on pas des deux. While the video clips show that each couple equally displays great skill, confidence, and mastery of their choreography, and demonstrate each couple’s ability to maintain respect for musicality, without sacrificing their individual artistry, the clips also highlight the stark differences between each pair of dancers.
The first video link presents two dancers in sleek body suits; a male and female, engaged in a riveting choreographic display of movement, in what appears to be a dance or rehearsal room from the late 1970s or early 1980s. The movements of the two dancers are accompanied by music which may be classified as ambient by today’s musical standards or described as something similar to that would accompany a modern dance performance by chorographer Merce Cunningham. The dancers’ movements are fluid, seamless, and effortlessly executed, and the dancers maintain a physical point of contact at almost all times throughout the two-minute video clip, which is slightly reminiscent of the philosophies of the Judson Era Contact Improv of the 1970s. Though the dancers appear to be expressionless, void of passion and excitement-there is even a point at 0:36 in the clip where the female dancer comes up from the floor into a gloriously graceful developpe a la seconde with her hand covering her face-the lack of emotion coming from the two dancers does not detract from the excitement that their movements produce.  The lack of facial expression paired with the stark room and synergy of music and movement creates an atmosphere of voyeuristic opportunity-anyone with the good fortune to stumble upon them would feel as if they were allowed to witness a beautiful secret, or something akin to stumbling upon a sweet woodland creature that you would not want to disturb for fear the beautiful creature would flee. The video clip lends the opportunity for the movements to take center stage and claim all focus yet at the same time, the viewer is not unaware of the relationship between the music, the dancers, and the stark atmosphere.
The second video showcases acrobatic adagio couple, James and Kathy Taylor, performing one of their signature acrobatic adagio routines on the hit 1980s television show, Star Search. The choreography James and Kathy are performing in the second video clip happens to be the same choreography from one of the numbers James and Kathy performed, as The Taylors, while we were performers in the Andy Williams Show in 1996. Though the second video clip does not show how the piece of choreography begins, I can assure you, that unlike the couple in the first video-who appeared to be expressionless and unconcerned with having an audience from the moment their choreography begins-both James and Kathy are completely aware and invested in their audience from the moment they set foot on the stage. The video clip with The Taylors is representative of what 1980s television audiences desired-to be thrilled, surprised, delighted, and appreciated-to be entertained. Much like Disco Dancing of the 1970s, and the popularity of ice skating thanks to the 1984 Olympics, the choreography of  The Taylors  allowed time between the lifts and tricks for a poses, applause, and a moment of acknowledgement of their audience. At 0:23 you can see an excellent example of how the choreography allows the audience the time to process, appreciate, and acknowledge what has been presented. Also at 0:23 in the video, and at other spots throughout, such as at 1:01 there are obvious build-ups in the music where the audience is alerted to anticipate the next trick or lift. The calculated head-nods, choreographed smiles, flourishing arm, hand and wrist gestures, even the choice of using the Oscar Nominated song, Through the Eyes of Love, from the movie Ice Castles, lend to The Taylor’s ability to engage with their audience, and are representative of much of what was valued by an audience and lent to a performer’s artistic merit and popularity during the 1980s.
Prior to receiving the video links, I had never seen the first one and I am still completely unfamiliar with the dancers, the music, the intent of the piece, and the era from which it was conceived. The second video I instantly recognized as James and Kathy Taylor, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to challenge my perception of each piece’s value against the other. Each video highlighted the technical and artistic skills of the dancers, and were excellent examples of how artistic choices made to manipulate similar movements in relation to music can inspire divergent reactions depending upon the audience of intent. A person’s preference for either video can possibly be determined by the knowledge and exposure to both styles of dance. Some would prefer the first video because their perception may be that if a performance is presented in a serious manner, it lends itself more artistic value. Whereas others may prefer the second video because they value the amount of attention the performers are paying to them as an appreciative audience member. Regardless of one’s preference for one or the other, it is important to realize that until an audience has had the opportunity to view both, it is impossible to come to a conclusion of preference. I however, have been fortunate to have observed both, and I have found that both pieces are truly a work of art-creative works inspiring exploration, and worthy of consideration.

Here are the two videos.
I would love to know your thoughts on each.

Video Number 1

Video Number 2

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