Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thoughts from the Library

It’s been a while…the Casey household moved from San Francisco down the Peninsula, and we’re still swimming in boxes. Ah, moving. 

As part of the move, I have designated Fridays to be my library day at the now nearby Stanford. Today I took a pass at the main library, just to find my way around. I figured out where all those lovely GV books are, the current periodicals, the bathroom, how to turn on the lights in the stacks, etc. 
One big takeaway: wow, there are not that many books on either contemporary choreography OR dance analysis. 
I could have predicted the former, but not the latter. By definition contemporary choreography is happening now, and book publishing is notoriously slow. I’m sure there is a robust article population waiting to be mined. 
But dance analysis? The nuts and bolts of how to look at dance? Not much. Or at least not much from the past twenty years. If we went to the literature section, how many books would we find on text analysis? Like hundreds? This is on my mind because I’ve been discussing offering dance analysis mini-workshops to patrons through San Francisco Ballet. Looks like I’m on my own, namely, some watered down Laban and a bunch of other stuff I’ll borrow from here and there. 
[note: when I wrote this in 2014 I didn't know about Janet Adshead's edited book on Dance Analysis.]
I found the Spier edited anthology on Forsythe (William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography) and read the Sulcas article. I had this thought after going to NYC, and I had it again today: Karole Armitage’s work has been unfairly forgotten in the genealogy of contemporary ballet. She was a complete pioneer who brought ballet and punk together, at times paying homage to classical technique, at times deconstructing it. Sulcas discussed how for Forsythe, the dancer’s instability, or the moments where they lost their balance and their balletic certainty, were sought after moments of “authentic reaction.” This instability, or loss of control, I absolutely see as well in Armitage’s work (thinking of Drastic Classicism here). However, for Armitage, instability often allows a release of agitated physicality that still betrays a classical shape; instability for Forsythe, at least as I read the Sulcas article, permits a glimpse of something “real” that cannot otherwise be seen. In this one respect, Forsythe shows us a Romantic tinge, whereas this philosophy appears entirely absent from the work of Armitage. 
The Sulcas article had a number of insights I found extremely helpful in understanding Forsythe’s contribution:
1. tendu along with a shifting epaulement is characteristic of his movement vocabulary (of course! that’s exactly it!)
2. Forsythe struggles with following duality in many of his works: the desire to attain beauty, and the resistance to settling for beauty (18)
3. For Forsythe, ANYTHING - film, a mathematical equation, linguistics - can work as a source of movement (18); he states that “anything can go with anything”

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