This cartoon says a lot. It is exactly how I feel when I take my absolute beginners class at my age (click image for a larger version)…
Archive for December, 2011
As the holiday season fast approaches, now may be a good time to ask dancers to reflect on why they need to dance? Having a break from the everyday routine, and thinking about the year ahead provides an opportunity to also reflect on “why”?
The “need to dance” if often given as the answer to the question, why do dancers devote their lives with enthusiasm to what is often a relatively short and difficult career. I would like to turn that answer around as a question and search for a reflective answer as to why they feel this need?
Possible approaches to answering this could be psychological (what motivates me), philosophical (why this is in my being), but any answer that digs deep into your mind and body is good. The point is to be reflexive, that is look at yourself in a self-referencing manner. You could use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs below for inspiration or just go with what you think.
So why do you feel the need to dance?
The whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is more correct to say that the whole is something else than the sum of its parts…
This is the dilemma I constantly wrestle with in anthropological research. It is no different with my study of ballet dancers which at the moment is little more than literature research. A great deal of the material written about dancers tends to concentrate on the individual dancer and the context in which they live. And whilst the detail of this information is essential to my research, I can’t help but feel there is a missing link. What is holding this micro-world together? I am not seeking the social anthropology approach taken by Helena Wulff. Rather I am looking for that something different, but I am unsure what it is. This is the magic of research in anthropology. The approach is scientific, but that doesn’t mean having to use the quintessential scientific method of gathering empirical and measurable evidence to prove or refute a hypothesis. Why can’t a hypothesis be the end rather than the beginning?
Maybe I am going to regret asking this because I have my Kindle already loaded up with items to read about ballet, dance and anthropology. But here goes.
If you have a list of favourite books, articles or other non-fiction related to ballet, dance, or anthropology of dance that you have read or want to read please share it with me and my readers. I would like my literature review to take a broad view of the landscape. Links to your public Amazon or other sites’ wish lists are welcome if they are substantially related to the topic. My Amazon wish list related to this is here (not a disguised request for gifts :-} ).
As I read sources I will be adding selected ones to my bibliography page.
We saw Graeme Murphy’s version of The Australian Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet with Lana Jones and Adam Bull in the lead roles. The whole production was exciting. Murphy’s choreography certainly had the company dancing ”through hoops” and Lana and Adam were certainly up to the task. And as always, the supporting dancers in the company were great. It amazes me how they are not only incredible dancers but also good character actors. The humour and action woven through the otherwise romantic story was very well presented. Would I recommend it, absolutely – even if you have never seen a ballet before, you will be taken in by the story.
It is said that every young girl’s dream is to be a ballerina. I would say it is every not so young anthropologists dream to spend some time with a fascinating cultural group. Today, I had such an opportunity. At 10am I was met at the stage door of The Sydney Opera House by the Artist in Residence of The Australian Ballet, Colin Peasley. Colin is an amazing person and dancer. He joined the company as a dancer in its first year in 1962 and next year he will celebrate 50 years along with the company’s anniversary. We spent the first hour chatting about my research into ballet dancers, and he was able to relate many anecdotes from the past as well as talk about the life of dancers today.
Following our discussion, he took me to watch the company’s daily class taken by a guest teacher, a former principal dancer with The Royal Ballet, London. I spent the entire hour and a quarter watching as the dancers warmed up at the barre, discarding layers of attire as the pace increased. The real treat for me came when they set aside the barres and worked energetically in the centre. It is often claimed that ballet performances are meant to look easy – which of course they are not. I have to say that for me, I was fascinated as I watched the dancers performing leaps and other energetic movements without prior choreography. The teacher would instruct them in what to do once, and without exception they would launch into the routines with enthusiasm that displayed raw talent. It was the edginess of the occasional mistake and stumble amongst the brilliance that gave me, the onlooker a feeling of excitement. Whilst fully rehearsed performances with costumes and live orchestra will always be the ultimate goal for these dancers, seeing them in class, will be something I will never forget.
Following class, Colin introduced me to the Artistic Director, David McAllister. Despite a very busy schedule, David listened to my ideas about my research with genuine interest. I look forward to discussing this more with him.
From there, Colin and I went to the Opera Theatre to watch part of a rehearsal for the current production of Graeme Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet. Since the rehearsal was in progress, I did not speak to Graeme Murphy. However, I did watch for a while until I decided that I should save seeing any more until I see the full public performance as an audience member on Thursday evening.
To say that today was the most exciting single day I have had in a very long time would be an understatement, and thanks to Colin Peasley and the dancers of The Australian Ballet for making it such a day.
If you like this blog, please vote for it in “Dancer Musings” category of the Top Dance Blogs of 2011 being conducted by DanceAdvantage.net
To vote, simply comment on this post in my blog (not on DanceAdvantage). I encourage you to share why you read my blog, and what makes it special, or which are your favorite posts. Readers’ votes will be tallied by DanceAdvantage.net and the results posted during the first weeks of the new year.
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My plans to enrol in a research degree next year, whilst not finalised, are progressing nicely.
I have enquired about applying for acceptance into the degree in the Anthropology Department at Macquarie University, and need to write a proposal, which should include “a thorough theoretical reflection” based on a literature review. Fortunately, I started reading some time ago, but I now need to place more emphasis on the theoretical aspects. I must have the application in by early January, for commencement at the beginning of 2012. I also have some idea of who my supervisor may be but this needs to be confirmed.
I would hope to commence fieldwork in a ballet company in the second half of the year. For that purpose, I have made contact and arranged a meeting with a potential candidate to host my fieldwork. Since we haven’t really discussed it yet, I won’t prejudice my chances by saying any more right now.
It would appear more likely that my fieldwork may happen the beginning of 2013. This would mean that I will not enrol in the degree until the middle of 2012. This also gives me more time to get a proposal together.