dance theory 101?

Richard Grevers (
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 00:14:30 +1300 (NZDT)

As one of the "other group of people who dancers have to work with" -
and a typical example, (never having had any dance training), I would be
grateful for pointers to any resources which would help me to interpret
the dance I see to a level similar to that which the dancers in this group
are capable (or something vaguely approaching that ballpark).

To a layperson, watching dance can be a bit like watching an opera in a
foreign language without subtitles (please don't take this metaphor too
literally, there are a lot of differences). It may (or may not be) aesthetically
pleasing, and some movements may be recognizable enough to
elicit an intrpretive response (but at how basic a level compared to
the choreographer's intention?), but much of the accessable interpretive
information comes from music, the facial expression of the dancer etc
rather than from the movement itself.

Of course, teaching someone to "read" movement presents many more
problems than teaching someone to "read" theatre or opera or music:
- theatre is textural, so textural analysis/explanation alone will often
with opera or music it is easy to sit down with a pile of CD's or videos and
an educational book or three (and given the "limited" repertoire and "mass
appeal" (esp post 3tenors) of opera, I think there are even instructive
videos available).
However, it is very difficult to talk about dance without visual
representation, and as far as I can see, there isn't a vast and accessible
pool of contemporary dance performance on video to study. (I am aware that
annotating dance is one of the oldest problems around).

Tangerine: This suggests a division of the arts:

Those in which the MAJORITY of new creations "push boundaries" : dance,
painting, sculpture.
Those in which the MAJORITY of new creations work within established
bounds: theatre, music.
Literature I can't classify here, because so much literature isn't art.
I stress majority - theatre and music do of course develop, but I think
the boundary pushers are outnumbered by the conformists. Maybe this isn't so
much of a division as a measure of the location of the
art / entertainment boundary (if boundary isn't too precise a word)

Heading back towards the theme, is dance condemned to lesser audiences than
other artforms because its vocabulary is to a greater or lesser degree
incomprehensible to those who have no
training in it?

This last question may be deja vu to the group. If so, ignore it.

As my main question is also largely irrelevant to many of you, please
reply by personal email. If other readers are interested in the replies,
please let me (or the list) know.


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