The launch of a new book by Diane Torr on October 8th 'Sex, Drag and Male Roles; Investigating Gender as Performance' (co-authored by Stephen Bottoms) has got me thinking about the relevance of dance theory and analysis.
Of course I have always been an advocate of discussing dance and analysing its' relevance sociologically however I continually find myself in a debate with dancers and non-dancers alike about dance as an academic study.
I would like to study towards a doctorate in dance. Sadly, this is partly because I would revel in making my older (slightly snobby) sister address me as Doctor Park! But, more importantly I really want to be a fountain of knowledge about one aspect of this massive bubble we call dance.
The issue everyone I speak to about this has is that they feel dance has no place in academia. They do not understand the benefit of such study. 'Dance as art is physical and is therefore a vocational qualification' they tell me. To an extent I agree, the technical element is physical but so is medicine really if you look at it this way?
We don't need to understand illnesses, just recognise them and find effective ways to tackle them. This can be done through purely physical experimentation. For example, Calomine lotion soothes but chilli powder makes things sting? However, since people began to look deeper into the way in which illnesses develop we have found ways to prevent many terrible things. Surely nobody will argue that we were better off in the days of lotions, potions and hoping?
My argument is that dance is the same. Yes, it can be taken on a purely visual and physical level but even these concepts have amazing theories associated with them: the genetic design of men and women in terms of strength and flexibility; the natural tendency of the eye to find diagonal lines more interesting; our natural attraction to beauty and grace (not a learned preference by the way, even cavemen selected partners based on the ease with which they moved).
For me, what is more interesting is the analysis of dance as an art form. If we understand dance (or the arts in general) have affected the evolution of our nation. In the contemporary dance world alone I would argue there has been a bloom of free thinkers, powerful women and original takes on methods of moving the body. All of these things have had a knock on effect in our society.
Perhaps this effect is not measurable; perhaps nobody has measured it; perhaps measuring would not really have any purpose. But, it is there to be measured. Why the hell do we need to know half the things we are told? Back in Newton's day understanding gravity really had no purpose; until we began to use this knowledge to counteract gravitational pull. Analysing the rise of Hitler to many seems limited as surely nobody is going to try to shadow the exact same moves again; however understanding one political game of chess allows us to see others more clearly.
The reason I mention Diane Torr's new text is because gender in dance has always fascinated me. Gender in our society has always been a messed up issue. Various religions and political systems (frequently under religious rule) have defined gender roles in our nation. We all know that things are not black and white. People have fluctuating sexualities or sexualities that stand directly opposed to the definitions of a society.
This gender play has been the cause of riots, unlawful (in my opinion) incarceration and many atrocities. Where safer to analyse gender play than the arts and with dance in particular; it's visual so will provoke natural reactions to a greater extent that stimulating thought through text. Body language is always key.
If we understand artistic interpretations and reactions to these interpretations in terms of gender we may understand in more depth how defining gender roles has shaped our society differently to past cultures. I could expand and form a far more logical argument but I don't feel the need. I simply am wondering why anyone would see this level of understanding as a waste of time. Yes, there is interpreting for the sake of it but the second you place two characters in one space it is human nature to try to understand their relationship; why is a dance space any different? Why do so many deem this analysis in an arts space a waste of time?
Perhaps this makes little sense but could form a rather interesting larger scale study. What is the purpose of arts analysis and has it offered any true benefit to wider society?
Who knows? Would anyone read it even if it were written?!
Lastly, apologies for the lack of contact. Some wonderful issues with internet settings and lost links as well as settling back into Scottish life has consumed me for the past month. Now I've found my rhythm again I will be back on here, do doubt moaning, weekly!!