Academic Papers About Dancing
Keep in mind that using parts of these papers is an act of plagiarism if not properly cited.
Crossroads Writing Assignment
1) Describe the movement qualities of the dance-drummers in the first piece, “Puk Ch’um.” Comment on the relationship (or integration) between the rhythms played and the movements shown.
In the first piece, “Puk Ch’um,” the rhythm and movements often seem to be one in the same. The rhythmic dipping movements during the first section of the piece reminded me of how orchestra players tap their feet to the beat to keep in time with each other. Besides seeming to help the dancers in “Puk Ch’um” stay on the rhythm while drumming, the dipping also served another purpose—emphasizing the beat visually for the audience. The dancers also helped emphasize the beat visually when the music volume swelled by starting off in a deep knee bend during the softest parts and rising up to a high stretch as the music built up to its maximum strength. Small jumps and arms swings were visual indicators highlighting the more energetic drumming sequences. Transitions between drumming groups were denoted by smoother flowing arm movements and swayings of the body. This was in sharp contrast to the faster more angular movements of the main drumming sections, but it suitably complimented the transitional periods of the music. These are all examples of how the drummers dancing movements and the drumming beat itself added to and intensified the impact of each other. In other words, if you were to just see the dance or just hear the drumming, neither would be as moving and bring the viewer to the same level of involvement as the drumming and dancing together.
2) What role does ballet technique play in the fulfillment of the choreographic intent of the solo, “Bittersweet?”
The music of “Bittersweet” was put together from a variety of traditional Japanese folk songs. Given the variety of world dance forms that were presented in the concert, I assume that this piece was selected to expose the audience to yet another form of music and dance. The most prominent quality of the music was the fluttering effect of a flute. Rather than using a more grounded dance form such as modern, the ballon quality of jumping in ballet technique was used to highlight the fluttering. The clean fresh lines and crisp foot articulation common to ballet technique were also used to underscore the crisp clean notes in the music. Body shapes made by movement of the legs and arms through various attitudes gave the dancer a bird-like appearance, which although done on the ground, conjures up light and airy images as well.
3) Write a paragraph summarizing the entire concert.
If I were to create an academic class around this concert, I would call it dance appreciation. Just like in a music appreciation course that covers music from a wide range of world cultures and themes, Crossroads was an amalgamation of various world dance forms including Korean drumming, hula, African tribal dancing, as well as the more common American dance forms of modern and tap. Each piece used dance in a different way as a means of expression. In the pieces “Puk Ch’um” and “Bittersweet,” for example, dance was used as a complimentary element to the music. The pieces “Ke Ha ‘a ‘Ala Puna” and “Lost & Found,” on the other hand, were dances that told stories through their movements. The piece “So Chiriga” combined both of these elements, telling a story as well as containing rhythmic dance sequences. While some of the pieces were intrinsically thought-provoking, there were also more casual and fun pieces like “One to Five” that were simply meant to sit back and enjoy.
5) Discuss the differences and similarities between the qualities of modern dance movement in “Lost & Found” and “Windless Sails.”
The modern dance piece “Windless Sails” was reminiscent of early modern dance pieces that sought to establish a dance experience that was much simpler than the complexly themed ballets of the time. This type of modern dance was performed in front of simple backdrops in simple costumes with an emphasis on the body. “Lost & Found,” on the other hand, utilized more recent trends in modern dance and definitely was focused around a well-developed theme. “Windless Sails” had costumes of a single color that were calm and pleasing to the eye allowing more focus on the body. The costumes in “Lost & Found,” in contrast, were visually striking and your eyes tended to focus on the bold lines of the material rather than the lines of the body. Whereas the movement of “Windless Sails” centered primarily around the Graham theory of contraction and release, “Lost & Found” drew upon more “ordinary actions” such as walking, running, skipping, and jumping. In “Windless Sails” there was a clear definition between the simple clean steps and they were often repeated in succession or unison by the three dancers on stage. Conversely, in “Lost & Found” there was frequently brisk movement on stage and interaction between dancers who were often performing quite distinct dance movements from each other. Lastly, whereas in “Windless Sails” the dancers stared into space with distant expressions throughout the piece, the dancers in “Lost & Found” showed expressions that acknowledged the other dancers on stage and the audience as well as showing interaction with the many props that were used throughout the piece.
6) There are many movement, prop, text, and song elements included in the piece “Lost & Found.” Write about an aspect of the work and how that aspect informed your overall emotional or intellectual reaction to (or analysis of) the piece.
I feel that the spoken text elements in the piece “Lost and Found” were the most influential in my understanding of the meaning behind the piece. Honestly, when the piece first began and all the dancers were moving around, I tried my hardest to follow the rapid movement and give meaning to what was going on, but I failed miserably and wondered how I was going to write about the piece for this assignment. I sensed that something was dragging the dancers down, but it wasn’t until a dancer recited a short text that I was able to recognize that the thing causing the sinking feelings was worry. In another speaking segment, the theme of feeling good in your own skin was introduced. The first clarification summoned to mind my own anxious tendencies and how sometimes I feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark (much like the dancers on stage) and reaching out for someone or something to help stabilize me again. The theme introduced by the second text brought meaning to the shoes that were being used as props. I took it to mean that sometimes when we try to fit into other people’s shoes—ambitions for us, other ways of life, etc—that we end up worse off than if we had just tried to work with what we have on our own. This was evident by the fact that the dancers were able to dance more securely without the shoes on. We can, however, use the strengths of others for support in our own journey to find ourselves, hence the name “Lost & Found.” I came to this conclusion in one of the final sequences when the dancer who was speaking the text walked across the row of shoes (strengths of others), but did not actually put any of them on.
The Impact of Choreographic Choice on Thematic Development in “Petit Mort”
The title of the piece, “Petit Mort,” literally means, little death. For me, the concept of death immediately conjures up images of resistance, struggle, and ultimately a calming and acceptance. I found Jiri Kylian’s utilization of a variety of movements; particularly the contrast between ballet technique and more modern, organic movements, throughout “Petit Mort” to develop these themes highly effective. To examine the progression of movement and theme throughout the piece, I will organize it into three distinct categories: dancing with props, modern dancing, and the balletic pas de deuxs.
The first category addresses the portions of the piece in which the movement was focused on the interplay between the dancers and their props. The introductory sequence of “Petit Mort” was performed by male dancers handling epées. The movements of the dancers were so crisp that you could hear the epées slice through the air. Not having any music in the background made the scene seem two-dimensional. In other words, it made it seem as if the scene could be taking place in a real life setting—a sense of realism in a theatrical environment. While the sequence had an underlying sense of dance, it also exuded the feel of an army going through a drill, especially since it was a large group performing in unison. The other major prop in “Petit Mort” was the use of large dresses that slid across the ground seamlessly as the dancers moved across the floor behind them. Only a small portion of the dancers was visible to the audience, mainly swayings of the arms and head. This once again brought focus to a physical element of our daily lives—the dresses.
In terms of theme, the props were able to create a connection onstage to the physical world and daily life. Although the mood was somber and serious, it still denoted some semblance of “normalness.” Particular movements and elements also held more meaning than others. For example, after the epée display, all the male dancers fall to the ground. It is at this moment that the music begins. The start of the music signifies the beginning of death. In addition, there is a part of the piece in which the male dancers stand with their backs to the audience with the epées dangling below, swinging like a pendulum from an extended arm. This imagery is reminiscent of a pendulum in a clock, signifying time. Directly after this particular part, the dancers run off stage implying that time is running out. This is followed by a large sheet covering the stage from view to further emphasize the imminent shift in tone of the piece.
The second category of dancing in the piece was modern dancing, which was the principal element in establishing the aforementioned change in tone. During the sequence occurring right after the scene by the male dancers with the epées, there was a shift in the format of the piece as a whole. Music played a more prominent role, costumes were in neutral colors becoming barely discernible, and epées lost their strong focus. Instead of thrashing them through the air, they were now used as a fluid extension of the dancers themselves. The corp of dancers now consisted of twelve males and females primarily dancing in pairs and performing numerous different movements at the same time.
Having an eye for ballet technique and an appreciation for a classical line, it was somewhat jarring and unpleasant to view this section of the piece. Unlike classical ballet technique, the movements were very organic and sought to destroy any semblance of a pleasing line. Arms and legs were exceedingly angular throughout the piece and movements had a universal abrasive overtone. Even when the dancers would position their bodies into common ballet poses such as an arabesque, it would only be sustained for a brief moment before abruptly collapsing inward into more vulgar kicking and beating movements. In terms of theme, this choreography epitomized struggle and resistance. The intensity to which the movements were performed also parallels the heightened biological body response to fear.
The third and final category of dancing is the balletic pas de deux that occurred after the section using dresses as props. Once again, there was a visual shift in the piece. Instead of watching a somewhat large group of dancers on stage, the audience could now focus on just two dancers who rarely ventured more than three feet from each other. More importantly than this physical change in the number of dancers, is the change in choreography, which as was just mentioned, ultimately drives the tone of the piece. In this section of “Petit Mort,” classic ballet poses were maintained for more extended periods of time. Although there was still an inclusion of unusual body shapes, they too were sustained for longer moments and the sequencing in and out of the poses was much smoother; less vigorous. I wouldn’t describe the movements as lush and curvaceous, but at the same time, they were much different than the harsh, angular movements in the previous section. Instead, the arms and legs were lengthened and clean, straight lines were highlighted. Connecting elements were also softer and more relaxed.
Additionally, the male dancer seemed to be in control of the movements of the female dancer. There was one brief sequence in which the dancers performed in unison, but by and large, the male dancer appeared to be pulling his partner through space and instigating turns. Although this was occurring, the female partner did not struggle, and, in fact, often relied on the male dancer’s body for support and direction. For example, when his hand would touch her body, she would initiate movement emanating from that point of contact. This gave the performance a very fluid, almost conversation-like quality. Thematically, this conversation-like quality, along with the continual shift towards softer, more structured ballet technique represents a gradual acceptance and comfort with death. “Petit Mort” ends directly after the balletic pas de deuxs with the last couple walking slowly off stage in silence, acknowledging the finality of death.
The 4 E’s and Artistry
Looking at the piece “Petit Mort” as a whole, it is clear that the “4 E’s” play an integral role. A balance and equilibrium was maintained throughout the piece by the dancers. This was especially important during the modern dancing section with its highly intense and brisk movements. Without a secure and strong center, balance could not be maintained and the movements would lose their desired impact. Loose limbs and bobbles are not synonymous with strength and power. Extension and elevation were accentuated in the numerous arabesques and lifts between partners. Although during the modern dancing section, arabesques were only held briefly, the dancers took care to reach their full extension before collapsing into the next step. Strong pushes from the floor on the female partner’s side assisted her male partner in helping her become airborne. Lastly, all dancers in this piece needed a high level of endurance. The piece itself was around fifteen minutes long, which requires sufficient stamina. Additionally, in the pas de deuxs, the dancers were highly dependent on each other. A stagnant pose in which the male is supporting the female requires a lot of strength. If either of the dancers relaxes their bodies, even for a brief moment, it changes the dynamics of the pose, which could lead to a fall and/or injury.
What really made the piece “Petit Mort” effective, was not the “4 E’s” themselves however, rather it was the use of different styles of dance as discussed previously, as well as, elements of artistry. These elements of artistry, including dynamics, shape, and embellishment of movement, are the source of the actual differences among dance styles. The most significant element was, of course, dynamics. This refers to the differing qualities in movement. The modern dance section of “Petit Mort” is characterized by quick, intense, and sharp movements, whereas, the balletic pas de deuxs are characterized by soft and extended movements. This difference in dynamics correlates directly with the atmosphere and overall tone/themes of the piece as discussed previously. There was also a strong dynamic in partnering. When he pushed, she responded with a pull early in the piece, but eventually, the movements were less opposing and more fluid. One of the major differences between modern dance and ballet technique is the set of accepted shapes that can be made with the body. In modern dance, angular shapes are standard, whereas ballet technique emphasizes a lifted body and extended lines. Once again, this served a purpose thematically. Embellishment of these movements, such as a fluttering of the hands or feet or the slight incline of the head, also added to the richness and gave more direction thematically. This was particularly crucial during the section using dresses as props because very little of the dancers’ bodies were visible.