20 minute weight and dance movement, done with difficulty.
Archive for dance
30 minute free dance including development of a dance (“Cancer is a Noun but Dancer is a Verb”) to this.
I took the express bus back from work in The City of Sadness yesterday and wound up in Mong Kok searching for luggage that rolls. I don’t like luggage that rolls it seems childish but I can no longer be a packhorse as of old. I wound up in a Girl Mall with any number of curiously lifelike mannikins wearing Hong Kong Crazy Girl hats and little else. And this created the feeling that if situations could be seen to matter less they could be better handled.
Guaranteed not to appear in Homans’ History
It is unfashionable today for an historian to ask, prior to getting down to the facts, what she’s about.
The Prologomena is considered pedantic. Bo-ring.
But, dammit, what is ballet?
To get started on defining ballet, from “set theory” let’s take the simple concepts of intensional and extensional definition. An intensional definition would be “an apple is a red fruit”. An extensional definition would be pointing to examples of apples. Intensional definition describes the set: extensional definition enumerates the set, providing a list of members.
Homans’ book extensionally defines the very subject she’s talking about simply by focusing on some dance works and giving a very short “shrift” (what ever that is, perhaps a dancer’s tunic?) to others.
Mr B (George Balanchine) gets quite a lot of coverage (but not at all on his troubling relationship with Suzanne Farrell). The Joffrey Ballet might as well be on the moon, dancing whatever it is they dance. Martha Graham? Who’s she?
It’s true that Martha Graham explicitly stated that her form of dance was not ballet. However, the Joffrey “Ballet” includes the “contested signifier“ in its name. It is an act of intellectual sadism of Homans’ part to give almost no space to the Joffrey, which was founded to enable different bodies to be part of “ballet”: different sizes, builds and especially races.
The question (what is ballet) is not asked, but it is implicitly answered mostly by silences that objectify and victimize dancers who might wish to be considered ballet dancers (with the cultural capital added by that word) by way of using their body to expand our understanding of dance…as it was expanded after the Baroque by the waltz craze of the 1820s, the Danish movement later on, and Mr B himself despite his traditionalism.
Homans shows how these changes have been driven in the past by changes in political power (both in power’s increase and decrease), whether that of France in the 17th century, where an increase in power created a need to distinguish French culture from Italian, the bourgeois when its political rebellion of 1789 was disempowered and transformed into the cultural revolution of the waltz, or even Denmark’s defeat by Bismarck which caused its frustrated energies to change to cultural energies in the same manner as the waltz (or the culture of the late 1960s, for that matter).
Alvin Ailey, his Joffrey company and many other voices of the 1960s dance world questioned why ballet has changed only due to power struggles at the top among men none of whom (with the signal exceptions of Louis XIII and XIV) danced or choreographed. Why couldn’t ordinary people change the dance? Homans rejects this.
Other questions are not asked. For example, can a corps de ballet in a traditional dance, that is recognized universally as a ballet (such as Swan Lake), be racially integrated? Race-neutral casting is becoming more and more common in theater (I saw Denzel Washington play Shakespeare’s Richard III as long ago as 1990).
Also in theater, gender neutral casting is increasing. I played “Sheldon Levene” in a mixed-gender production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glenn Ross in 2011: as one of the two males in an otherwise female production I linked that production with Mamet’s stated intention that GGR be about men in cities: but the addition of women and mixed races made the production far more relevant to Hong Kong of the twenty-first century.
The answer seems to be a tacit, sotto voce but resolute “no”: a Google image search for “ballet” turns up whites and Asian dancers. It’s accepted that a member of an ensemble dance or star may be Asian. An Asian dancer is considered in other words to subscribe, even more so than whites, to Homan’s admirable but uninterrogated aesthetic of Apollonian discipline in the contempory Thomas Friedman mythos (that whites have a lot of self-discipline, well, not as much as they used to, but Asians are picking up the baton: this mythos is so oversimplified as to be useless).
But a black dancer…will not likely appear. Her skin color would send the wrong message no matter how hard she tried. Sports were racially integrated a long time ago: ballet is still segregated.
In this connection, a story, possibly based on reality, is told by someone far afield from ballet. That’s George MacDonald Fraser, the engaging and unpretentious “Flashman” novelist, who also wrote stories about life in the British Army of the 1940s.
In one of Fraser’s McAuslan stories, a black African soldier in a Highland regiment wants to play bagpipes in the regimental band, which sends the Pipe major, the Regimental Sergeant, and the Adjutant into a tizzy, since “we can’t have a black man in a pipe band”.
We just can’t (even though he can die for the regiment at el Alamein or in Korea, in the latter throwing bully beef tins at Chinese after running out of ammo in one celebrated instance far afield from yet curiously related to ballet by way of the story of the Little Tin Soldier which unifies two signifiers).
Of course, today, black soldiers march in pipe bands and are spotted in Trooping the Colour on the Queen’s birthday with no problem but ballet dancers generally speaking remain white or Asian (honorary whites in terms of bodily ideal and repression).
This is because of a paradox in the definition of ballet which Homans does not address; she does not theorize ballet and so she doesn’t spot it.
If we do not theorize or define “ballet” it retains an oral, folkish and as above, extensional defiinition. Ballet is what we’ve seen. Ballet is an extensional list of famous ballets. Ballet is what Barbie dances and Ken watches.
It’s “skinny white girls dancing to classical music under an unfamiliarly strict oral tutelage”…unfamiliar because, as we can confirm in Homans, ballet cannot be learned from notation nor even from a video, being in the latter case, as Homans takes pains to show, two-dimensional and thus inadequate to ballet which is three dimensional.
But this doesn’t meet the ethical precondition of an art, that its definition not create victims.
Sez who: sez me: in a way that’s too deep to go into here, I regard aesthetic value, based on the Holocaust, as “lexically” inferior in Rawls’ sense to ethical value, in that for the question as to whether a work of art is aesthetically value cannot be posed, much less answered, if its creation commits a (significant) ethical wrong, so sez me at this time.
The folkish definition creates outsider-victims as an ethical (and therefore aesthetic) flaw because non-white girls other than Asians “cannot”, to the folk, perform a Danish ballet.
But if we define “ballet” as highly structured and pre-planned dancing to classical (written or orally fixed by way of a guru system) music (not necessarily Western) anyone can do it as long as they meet its exacting standards.
Homans does not claim that ballet is only for white or Asian girls but by deliberately narrowing her focus she in effect evades the question and thus answers the question in silence as is the case with most American liberalism, especially the faded “liberalism” on tap at the New Republic.
[Parenhetically the sexual issue is not relevant nor is there a slippery slope between allowing women of color to be Wilis and allowing me to be one. You can insist on a uniformity of body type (fat soldiers are a rarity even in the American army) related to the mission (a war or a dance demands fitness, and sex roles are far deeper than colour). But uniformity of skin color is less important.]
Nor does Homans address how ballet came to be if it’s structured dancing to written music other than to characterize it, factually and extensionally, as a French reaction to Italian theater and opera. But, of course, world ballet, especially in India, pioneered the oral tradition of dancing to classical (but non-written) music where we can slightly expand the definition of classical music to mean music that is effectively written down by a strong and continuous oral teaching tradition (the tradition that made India’s classical music “classical”: being what Derrida might call arche-writing if I understand De La Grammatologie whch I may not, although I’ve read it).
If you define world ballet in this way and then restrict it to countries from the only constructed continent (Europe, the only continent defined by culture and not by surrounding water) then you have Homan’s subject matter because in the Volkische definition, highly structured and demanding dancing to classical music doesn’t exist outside the categories she uses: here they are:
1. The French Baroque starting, not with Louis XIV but rather with his father, as Homans points out…and dying out with the ancien regime and what Homans, of course, regards as an unqualified degringolade (conveniently ignoring the fact that while the sans-cullottes may have danced the carmagnole, the jeunesse doree whipped the sans-cullotes after the end of the Terror in the streets)
2. The Russian from the late 18th century through the Tsarist era, the Soviet era and today: to Homans’ credit she admits that the privileges of Soviet dancers were built on terror, but fails to mention that the same is the case under capitalism if economic terror counts.
3. The Danish from the mid 19th century to now
4. The 19th century French
5. The Italian after Garibaldi but before the twentieth century
6. The British appearing between the Wars and dying out or merging with global ballet by the 1990s
7. The American emerging after WWII with the influx of European talent
But this extensional “shortlist” of what constitutes “ballet” as a subset of “dance” guarantees the decline that’s lamented by Homans in the final chapter of her book. If the ballet has to look like a ballet on the shortlist, innovation cannot occur.
Indeed, it makes you ask another question. How could a traditional art have a history, which would necessarily involve change, growth and development, if it didn’t also have a theory, implicit or explicit as to what it was?
Contrast opera. Enacting a stage play by singing to music is more difficult than “dancing” per se, therefore there’s an intensional definition of opera (“enacting a stage play by singing to music”) and no need as there’s in ballet to use a word (“ballet”) to partition an art (“dance”) into “ballet” and everything else. Chinese opera was recognized as conforming to the intensional definition of opera therefore it could be given this name but the only Chinese ballet is ballet that self-consciously imitates Western models imported from Russia.
Because Homans did not do her homework, and devise an intensional definition of “ballet”, it becomes what it is in the classist and racist mind: what skinny white girls do. This created a history of types of dance characterized only by their class position.
Homans to her credit is Apollonian, and she believes in Apollonian discipline. But the basic gesture of ballet is the reverse of Apollo. It is simultaneously the release of emotion and its taming as is all of music for Adorno: Apollo and Dionysius were not in the last analysis separate gods, but topoi of an idea: the fact that the classicizing rage can coexist in the same body with the Dionysian frenzy and that the two not only inform one another, they are the same, two poles of the same continuum. In my direct experience, African dance is just as hard as ballet: its expectations are unknown but that doesn’t mean they do not exist. My own dance practice at this time is pretty hard for I have to avoid reinjury and therefore learn from Indian dance practice and fuse it with the faded memory of ballet.
This is as difficult as being humiliated and demeaned, whether by a Great Man such as Mr B, or some ballet master in the hinterland. The Apollonian has to confront and cleanse its own darkness, implicit in the Dionysian flaying of the satyr Marysas for playing the bagpipes at a song contest. Otherwise, post Holocaust (among other things an in-your-face white aesthetic just like the “hate metal” of that clown who opened fire this month on Sikhs) ballet may not deserve to exist, if aesthetics is lexically posterior to ethics as I so claim above.
Let the love parade begin and bring on the one star ratingss. I don’t care. Both of my sisters could have done very well in the ballet but were pushed out by folk and village Apollonians, the sort of yokels who claim only to be Apollo’s Angels merely because they’ve never served Dionysius, which was, wasn’t it, King Pentheus’ error in Euripides’ The Bacchae; when he tries in drag to hide in a tree in the finale he’s a joke. If you eliminate the Dionysian, which New Republic liberals eliminate when they get all silent about the Sixties and its todt undt teufel as named by James Baldwin in 1960, you have no claim to the Apollonian. Apollo’s Angels are also Dionysian.
Walked to Hung Shing Yeh beach with weights, 30 min swimming and water dancing, cloudy and very humid morning. No change to pain between greater and lesser sciatic notch.
This is why I love dance and this is how I feel (click to listen and watch in a separate window). I had to drag my sorry ass up to and back from the city of sadness and when I got on to the Lamma ferry in the evening this lady behind me kept letting her shopping bag bat me in the ass, and so I THREW my shit down and DANCED in rage when I got to my seat. I am sorry I scared her but my butt hurts and my goddamn prostate has set up a branch office in my goddamn shoulder.
Commute is brutal. The West Rail train from Mei Foo has flat steel seats and unlike the East Rail (the former Kowloon Canton Railway) no first class car with plush seats, and unlike the form fit steel seats of the main lines the flat steel seats are a punishment on my newly bony ass, you’d rather just stand all the way. So I change at Mei Foo and stand until Admiralty on the return home. The change at Mei Foo is a nice break, there’s a bookshop with mostly Chinese, some English titles, a pleasant park, and some interesting restaurants.
The job in the city of sadness is in a public housing block. Now, these blocks aren’t luxurious but they are decent, and there’s always a comprehensive set of shops and recreational facilities at their base. The job is three hours of IELTS tutoring which makes it worth the long commute. And I can grab a lunch at the bun shop before the class, and then have coffee at McDonald’s and organize my notes after class.
But it sucks to have to commute, which here involves a lot of walking, and not be able to rest the butt. I do have a stay now scheduled in Thailand at a resort for a week and during that week I shall swim everywhere and never walk, as if I could fly and leave the surly bounds of earth, and rest my weary bones, impacted as they are by 62 years of being slammed against the Earth in its grave embrace. Or something.
I mean what IS this shit I gotta go to work while my body slowly falls apart? Uh…yeah.
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime’s effort.
First, the cold fricton of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and sould begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of things ill done and done to others’ harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools’ approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.
Edward G. Nilges, Alice in Wonderland and Evil Chuckie, 2012, pencil, pen, computer modifications. A4 size. Copyright Edward G. Nilges 2012, moral rights asserted.
20 minutes free dance with weights first thing, taking care not to make pelvic pain worse, have slight overuse injury.
Listen! I had to put it all in the porte de bras and formalistic motions of the feet, and resist the leaping impulse lest I trash my pelvis. Using the “Krishna” position (heel to ground, toes up, flute playing gesture, rather cheesy Bollywood smile) in parts of this dance.
George Balanchine and Suzanne Farrell
Dream. I crossed the border into Seoul but could not find a hotel room.
Note to self…do not touch & explore shoulder tumor save when daily noting its “phenomenology”, that is, its size and how it feels in a qualitative way. It feels different at night. I can assist my healing by making simple observations but only when fully awake and prepared to take responsibility for those observations by writing them down.
Edward G. Nilges, “Chiaroscuro Study #1 for ‘Whether Peter’s Crazy Teacher Ka Yan Teaches Us Mathematics or Physical Education, She Admonishes Us, Teaching Us the Way of All Things’”, pen, pencil, A4 Size 29 April 2012. Moral Rights asserted by the Artist.
Edward G. Nilges, “Chiaroscuro Study #2 for ‘Whether Peter’s Crazy Teacher Ka Yan Teaches Us Mathematics or Physical Education, She Admonishes Us, Teaching Us the Way of All Things’”, pen, pencil and Gimp modification for the green tone and white highlights, A4 Size 29 April 2012. Moral Rights asserted by the Artist.
Backstory: Peter’s Crazy Teacher was teaching us our Maths but was asked to teach a substitute class in Gym. So wow she shows up in her grubbies! Ai-Yah! The Principal was at his windows with binoculars and all the boys were like uuuunnngggggghhhhh! The Discipline Teacher approached her kindly at the end of the class and said that next time she has to wear full length sweat pants and a top!
We all did Jane Fonda and then we swam! Funnest gym class I have ever had! No competition for she seems to realize that competitions favor boys born in January and February, since they are the biggest!
We all love Ka Yan! Let’s make a Facebook page so she gets rehired!
Her black hair should frizz a bit for her Ancestors come from all over the world.
Edward G. Nilges, “Study #2 for ‘Whether Peter’s Crazy Teacher Ka Yan Teaches Us the Dance or Mathematics, She Admonishes Us, Teaching Us the Way’”, pen, pencil, A4 size 26 April 2012. Moral Rights asserted.
Edward G. Nilges, “Study #3 for ‘Whether Peter’s Crazy Teacher Ka Yan Teaches Us the Dance or Mathematics, She Admonishes Us, Teaching Us the Way’”, pen, pencil, A4 size 26 April 2012. Moral Rights asserted.
Her feet leave not the human stain
For the Dance reconciles the pain
And makes us whole again
In sunshine or in rain.
Edward G. Nilges, “Schema for ‘Whether Peter’s Crazy Teacher Ka Yan Teaches Us Math or the Dance, She Also Admonishes Us, and She Teaches Us the Way’”, 24 April 2012, pencil on paper. Moral rights have been asserted so don’t even THINK about using this without attribution!
The Green Man Teaches Art in Prison
Men! Find the artist within, especially if you are under court supervision! It’s called sublimation and it is part of civilization. I know you think you are tough guys but where life is nasty brutish and short you won’t last a minute!
When drawing the naked female, behave yourself, and don’t worry about breasts. They are not circles, anyway, they are fatty triangles and just one more cancer risk made for feeding babies.
If you are one of those artists that gets the Line right the first time, knock yourself out: but most of us are like the British artist David Hockney. We can’t draw and must Find the Form using girlie swirly lines like my Mom did when she would draw us kids!
Art ain’t knowin’ how to draw! It’s your Daemon! It’s your Wound! Let it Bleed!
Edward G. Nilges, “Sketch Notes for the Doctor”, 24 April 2012, pencil and pen on paper. Moral rights have been asserted so don’t even THINK about using this without attribution!
There is a young Lady of Istanbul
Of grace and of form and feature, she’s formidable:
She dances the Danse du Ventre
At the Ladies’ Christian Centre
That nubile young Lady, of Constantinople
C’est une jeunesse Femme d’Istanboole
De Grace extreme, et forme, chic alors, c’est formidable
Elle danse la Danse du Ventre, eh bien
Au Centre de les Femmes, Chretienne
Ah, c’est une Deese, la Femme de Constantinople!
Mais les Dames Chretienne cri c’est une Honte!
She’s revealing what she oughtn’t!
Mais elle dit au les vielle Dames
My dance, Ladies, erases all shames!
It is a mystery of the East
Which reconciles man and beast!
My movements celebrate birth
And our connection with the earth
So screwez-vous I dance my dance
It the men and boys enchants
And makes them faithful to their Wives
For the remainder of their natural lives.
Edward G. Nilges 11 Feb 2012. Moral rights have been asserted by the author, so honi soit qui mal y pense
Edward G. Nilges, “Peter’s Crazy Aunt Dances on the Strand to the Music of Bach, and the Sweet Zy-Deco Sounds of Clifton Chenier, the King of the Bayou”, acrylic on canvas, 20 * 60 cm, January 29 2012 AMDG
Note: if the painting is truncated, click above on “Spinoza’s Blog” to see the post with other posts. I haven’t mastered how WordPress treats pix, nor how Apple handles them on a Powerbook.
I have decided to declare victory: this painting is done, and, as the Scots say, “this and better may do, this and worse will ne’er do”. The figure is colorful and this rather large (60 * 80 cm) canvas lights up the room with the way she leaps as an hart.
The numerous deficiencies cannot obscure the life in this thing nor its evocation of the bell-like tones of Poussin. Particularly noble is the twisting motion of the abdomen.
I am not bullshitting here. I like this painting and would pay big money for it if I were a collector. This artist, dammit, has thought about the play of light even if he manages to preserve every single mistake he makes, and he makes a lot, by means of translucent paint and cartoon transfer.
Besides, making art makes me feel good. Pity I didn’t put my foot down and do what I had to do years ago but there’s no point in crying over the past. Peter’s Crazy Aunt certainly doesn’t.
Zey vill laff at me at zee Zalon undt der Royal Academy but I shall show zem!
My next project is “Mama Kanumba del Cucamonga takes the Children to Power Station Beach” because I want to see the profile I drew realized in paint. I need to do more plein aire work on Lamma to get a better feel for our wonderful if abused natural environment, which is something I could only imagine when I was a kid in the Midwest, sketching maps of places, anywhere but around Lake Michigan, carved, unlike Lake Michigan, into all sorts of hidden coves and mysterious mountains.
Basically, the geologic youth of the Great Lakes isn’t their fault. They are big melting ice cubes from the recent past, whereas Lamma Island is the forbidden and mysterious peak of a great Mountain that used to oversee a Plain.
I like Peter’s Crazy Aunt’s expression, it isn’t crabby like the expression on my nude which I won’t post online…it is similar to PCA but naked, same overall colors, crabby expression. That’s because I was working full time when I painted on Dance of Victory.
I went dancing last night to an annual festival put on by a fellow Chicagoan. It was hard at first to foot it featly here and there like Ariel in the Tempest because I was on a wooden plank which moved slightly, it was cool (about 17 centigrade) and my feet were seizing up.
But o the power of music to move Helen, as William Kennedy wrote of Helen, in Ironweed, when she gets enough money for a hotel room and can play the Ninth symphony.
There was quite a large crowd of people and a bunch of Lamma kids who also danced. After the dance, three strangers congratulated my “performance” which surprised me because it wasn’t intended to be such, but, I was close to the band (Black Mariah). It gave them felicity which is the whole purpose of art. That was cool.
As I left I was cold and stiff. I started to walk down the steps like an old man but a far older man needed assistance. This always happens to me. On the MTR, a little girl gave me her seat last year but as soon as I, a weary Old Lo-Shih Teacher, took it, the Three Immortals, three really old Chinese guys, got on the train.
THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.