It has been the last day (half a day).
Last nights performance was really great. Yjastros (flamenco dance) was so amazing. It was as if passion took the form of sound in the singing and guitar and then vitality sadness, joy, life and death all bubbled in the skin and bones of the dancers and exploded into their movements. I was exhausted after watching.
Dancing Earth was also great, a beautiful performance that was made more layered by the gentle, clear reverence for the lived experience of being on this earth.
This morning there were two panels and a closing plenary. The first panel looked at the influence of language on gender identity in Breaking. It looked at how some dancers have moved away from the word ‘Breakdancing’ because of the commercialisation of the word to calling what they do b-boying but then what are the women doing then. Some call themselves b-girls but others feel that makes it seem as if what they are doing is a different kind of dance purely because they are girls doing it.
Then Melissa Hudson Bell gave a paper about the work of Amara Tabor Smith who uses the eating of food as part of the performance experience. I really enjoyed the paper and want to read it again because I was distracted during it by how it reaffirmed how much I love to create dance myself, that has a community based / ethnographic based starting point. How much I love the idea of an audience being a part of a ritual hand-washing as they enter the performance space as Melissa described Amara’s work.
The last paper in this panel looked at Jarabe Tapatio: dances in Mexico that were taught as traditional dances. In many papers, this weekend, exploring dances from different countries I have heard about traditional dances that were designated ‘traditional’ but only taught or even created in twentieth century. The were all responses to governments wanting to establish or recreate an identity for the whole country for instance in Cambodia after 90% of the artists were killed during Khmer Rouge, Korea as a part of shaking off colonialism, in Mexico (as this paper explored) when the country was made up of a number of differing groups of people with different languages and customs. It made me think how powerful the arts are. Governments turn to them to give cohesion to their country – look at UK Olympics. Music and arts and dance are how we define who we are as a nation and yet when it comes to funding that importance does not seem to be echoed.
The second panel was about the different re-stagings of Einstein on the Beach (first paper) and the second paper was about the history of Breaking from early dancers to 1990 and pointing out the importance of video replication in how the dance spread across the globe. People videoed battles and then people in other countries or places or genders watched the videos and learnt a shared vocabulary that later when they came together gave then something in common. But Mary Fogarty was pointing out that many of the things they assumed they had in common in person were not there. She has published this paper and again I am going to read it again.
The closing Plenary was nice but I went into it very up and hopeful but at the end we talked about the separation between practice and theory which I don’t acknowledge. And I had felt others came from the same place so talking about it as something to strategise for made me question if people thought as I do as widely as I had assumed. For me my practice is my theory: it is how I understand the world.
It has been great to meet so may interesting, interested people at the conference.