Friday, November 25, 2011

We shan't be lost

"Dance, dance -- otherwise we are lost" ~Pina Bausch

Well, why not?
Last weekend I had the good pleasure of attending a performance of Momix - Botanica.  I had no idea what I was in for.  All I knew was that the single show photo I saw looked 'weird'.  That was good enough for me!  What I experienced awed me to the point that when I approached the performing art center's executive director to rave following the show, I was so choked up I could not speak at first.  At length I managed to tearfully mutter, "Thank you."  She simply replied, "I know."

Such is the power of dance.  Moses Pendleton's 'dance-illusionists' took me to another place, more universal and primal than geographic. I was transported in every sense.  Despite that my entire new business venture is born of the desire to share the life-affirming, soul-igniting force of dance, I was still surprised at how knocked off my feet the Momixperience rendered me.  I would have expected to be delighted and my views on dance validated.  I was not prepared to be catapulted so far from my mental home base.  Here is a promo clip hinting at the sublime reality Momix shares with the hoi polloi.


Along the same lines of transcendent dance expression, earlier this year, a film was released in tribute to Pina Bausch, quoted at top.  Here is the trailer:


What these two trailblazing enterprises do via stage performance and cinema, I hope to do one-on-one through intimate infusion experiences.  I delight in inspired transplendence at these sorts of artist expressions.  I pray that will never change.

For information on our own in-person experiences that touch on the divinity of dance, please visit our Siren School.

Friday, November 4, 2011

South Carolina, home to one of the most scandalous dances of all time ... who woulda thunk it?


"Caroline, Caroline, at last they've got you on the map.  With a new tune, a funny blue tune, with a peculiar snap!"

In an era when rap artists often pride themselves on their outrageous lyrics, people still look back in curious wonder back nearly a century to a time much more raucous, shocking and cutting edge in historic perspective.  That time is the 1920's and oh, how they roared.

Perhaps no single aspect of the jazz age represents the wild abandon of the times better than the exuberant dance craze made popular in the 1923 Broadway show, Runnin Wild.  The Charleston, composed by James P. Johnson caught on immediately, leaping over the Atlantic to catch the attention of Parisians like Josephine Baker.  The beauty of the dance was it could be performed both solo or as a couple. As hot jazz gave way to jazz swing music over the course of the next two decades, The Charleston, too, evolved into the popular Lindy Hop.

It's a cardio workout like no other, and great for the gams.  Here's how it should be done:




Lyrics:
Caroline, Caroline, at last they’ve got you on the map.
With a new tune, a funny blue tune, with a peculiar snap!
You many not be able to buck and wing, fox-trot, two-step, or even swing,
If you ain’t got religion in your feet, you can do this prance and do it neat.
Charleston! Charleston! Made in Carolina.
Some dance, some prance, I’ll say, there’s nothing finer
Than the Charleston, Charleston. Lord, how you can shuffle.
Ev’ry step you do leads to something new, man, I’m telling you it’s a lapazoo.
Buck dance, wing dance, will be a back number,
But the Charleston, the new Charleston, that dance is surely a comer.
Sometime you’ll dance it one time, the dance called the Charleston,
Made in South Caroline.
Charleston! Charleston! Made in Carolina.
Some dance, some prance, I’ll say, there’s nothing finer
Than the Charleston, Charleston. Lord, how you can shuffle.
Ev’ry step you do leads to something new, man, I’m telling you it’s a lapazoo.
Buck dance, wing dance, will be a back number,
But the Charleston, the new Charleston, that dance is surely a comer.
Sometime you’ll dance it one time, the dance called the Charleston,
Made in South Caroline!


Below is a smidgeon of what the omniscient Wikipedians have to say on the topic:

Origin

Developed in African-American communities in the United States, the Charleston became a popular dance craze in the wider international community during the 1920s. Despite its origins, the Charleston is most frequently associated with white flappers and the speakeasy. Here, these young women would dance alone or together as a way of mocking the "drys," or citizens who supported the Prohibition amendment, as the Charleston was then considered quite immoral and provocative.
While the Charleston as a dance probably came from the "star" or challenge dances that were all part of the Black American dance called Juba, the particular sequence of steps which appeared in Runnin' Wild were probably newly devised for popular appeal. "At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. [This could well be the Jay-Bird.] When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap." Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage. In the words of Harold Courlander, while the Charleston had some characteristics of traditional Negro dance, it "was a synthetic creation, a newly-devised conglomerate tailored for wide spread popular appeal. Although the step known as "Jay-Bird", and other specific movement sequences are of Afro-American origin, no record of the Charleston being performed on the plantation has been discovered.
Although it achieved popularity when the song "Charleston", sung by Elisabeth Welch, was added in the production Runnin' Wild, the dance itself was first introduced in Irving C. Miller's Liza in the spring of 1923.
The characteristic Charleston beat, which Johnson said he first heard from Charleston dockworkers, incorporates theclave rhythm and was considered by composer and critic Gunther Schuller to be synonymous with the Habanera, and the Spanish Tinge.
The effervescent and charismatic
Josephine Baker
The Charleston was one of the dances from which Lindy Hop and Jazz Roots developed in the 1930s. A slightly different form of Charleston became popular in the 1930s and '40s, and is associated with Lindy Hop. In this later Charleston form, the hot jazz timing of the 1920s Charleston was adapted to suit the swing jazz music of the '30s and '40s. This style of Charleston has many common names, though the most common are Lindy Charleston, Savoy Charleston, '30s or '40s Charleston and Swing(ing) Charleston. In both '20s Charleston and Swinging Charleston, the basic step takes eight counts and is danced either alone or with a partner.
Frankie Manning and other Savoy dancers saw themselves as doing Charleston steps within the Lindy rather than to be dancing Charleston.

Solo 20s Charleston

Solo 20s Charleston has recently gained popularity in many local Lindy Hop scenes around the world, prompted by competitions such as the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown (in 2005 and 2006 particularly) and workshops in the dance taught by high profile dancers such as the Harlem Hot Shots (formerly known as The Rhythm Hot Shots) and a range of independent dancers. Usually danced to hot jazz music recorded or composed in the 1920s, 20s solo Charleston is styled quite differently to the Charleston associated with the 1930s, 1940s and Lindy Hop, though they are structurally similar.
Solo 20s Charleston is usually danced to music at comparatively high tempos (usually above 200 or 350 beats per minute, with tempos above 300 BPM considered 'fast'), and is characterised by high-energy dancing. Faster movements are often contrasted with slower, dragging steps and improvisations.
As it is danced today, solo 20s Charleston often combines not only steps from dances associated with the 1920s (such as the Black Bottom and the Cakewalk), but also jazz dance. The most valued form of solo 20s Charleston combines choreography with improvisation and creative variations on familiar dance steps. Above all, the most popular and most "successful" solo 20s Charleston dancers respond to the music in creative ways to express themselves.
Solo 20s Charleston is often danced in groups on the social dance floor or in formal choreography.