Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Jeff Miller (
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 10:35:08 -0500

I have a question for the dance-historians among us:

Is there a record of the ways in which dance changed (if any) with the advent
of electrical lighting? Aside from time of performance, that is--did the
ability to have, for example, a spotlight focusing attention, or the upstage
area well-lit change the way choreographers made dances? I've had a bit of
theory in the dramatic theatre on this subject, but dance wasn't addressed...

The reason I ask is because I was thinking of the way the advent of the
motion picture changed the skills of the actor. It's well known that the
large emotive movements of the melodrama were eventually seen to be
unsuitable for the screen--unless one was being purposely grotesque. This
change, rather than limiting the actor, actually expanded the canvas
available for expression--suddenly subtlety was a useful tool, in facial
expressions, breath, etc. Some foresaw the "end" of the stage play--but that
didn't quite happen. If the human mind has an absolute capacity for artistic
forms (and sometimes I wish it did!) we seem to be far from it.

I wonder if the same thing is happening in dance, though. I recall one of
the first "Dances for the Camera" I saw, or rather I don't, since the name
escapes me. However, the basic idea was the same movement phrase captured in
(I believe) 9 different styles on the camera--sometimes showing full body,
sometimes the face, sometimes focusing on the tendon of the forearm in
extension--a line as beautiful as any I've seen in dance. This use of the
technology enabled the audience--the vastly expanded audience--to see the
choreography and the dancer in ways not possible in a traditional, proscenium
space. Why is this wrong, or a threat to the dance world?

Part of my frustration with this thread is the lack of acknowledgement of the
amount of technology used in "non-tech" dance. Source 4's, lighting boards,
compact disc players, portable stereos, all are accepted as tools of the
trade...but suddenly the video camera and the projector and the computer is
seen as a threat. To me, saying that a dance for the camera isn't dance is
akin to saying that a CD of Mozart's Requiem isn't music. It's different in
terms of convenience, and yes, sometimes in terms of quality.

The times, they are a-changin'...but when aren't they?


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