DANCE DOC’S YEAR IN REVIEW

At the close of my first year as a blogger, I felt I should look back over what I had written and consider where to go in 2010.

MEDIA (well, television anyway)
I began the year commenting on Superstars of Dance, a dance competition pitting artists from a huge variety of styles, and generally considered a disaster. While the producers may have had good intentions, the competition was flawed by having no central judging criterion, judges who weren’t familiar with what they were judging, and by placing amateur and professional dancers against one another.

America’s Best Dance Crew had a fantastic early season with Quest Crew winning the day. But all the crews were highly accomplished, often astounding, and under the pressures of competition produced many excellent choreographies. I was less thrilled with the succeeding seasons but I hope it will pick up again.

Although I didn’t post about Dancing With The Stars, I did watch the last two seasons and finally came to understand its appeal. It is really about witnessing natural dancers discover their own talents (like Gilles Marini from 2 seasons ago) or awkward dancers find their feet (like Kelly Osbourne who was simply a joy to watch). Although I could NOT watch Tom Delay, there is a certain odd pleasure in watching even the least talented amateurs. Plus the DWTS website is very good: it provides brief historical info on the dance styles.

So You Think You Can Dance just gets better and better. The level of technique and artistry in the performances is impressive and their ability to adopt new forms unprecedented. If the young dancers on SYTYCD are any indication, today’s dancer is capable of performing across many dance genres from hip hop to bollywood. This is something relatively new. In the not-too-distant past, dancers specialized in one genre. Cross training today is encouraged. It provides a variety of mental challenges, greater technical flexibility, and a more promising economic future.

My generation was concerned with purity of style, whether it was pure Graham or pure Bharata Natyam. But I think the current generation of dancers are experiencing dance as a global occupation rather than as a national one. The local has become global and creolization is the name of the game. Look for blogs on these topics in the near future.

PERSONAL EXPLORATIONS AND REVELATIONS
As I reviewed my posts on my own attempts to perform solo, improvised bellydance, I was reminded of how far I have come. I recently danced at the Boulder Creek Recreation Center Holiday Extravaganza and found I felt quite comfortable and confident on the stage. And again, people were surprised that it wasn’t choreographed. I must say, I’m rather proud of that. I also liked my speculation on bellydance as budo—the Japanese practice of physical disciplines as a means to discovering self. I continue to be fascinated by the elusiveness of “my self” and how dancing effects that. On the other hand, its hard to think about something as vague as self; kinda gives me a headache.

COMMUNITY STUDIES
I wrote several blogs about “community”—its defining features, why we need them, the process through which we create them. I suggested that, as mindfully constructed entities, community is negotiated and renegotiated through periods of peace and periods of conflict. I wish I could write more about the periods of conflict (what causes them, how are they resolved) because it is in conflict that norms and expectations are revealed. But these are often very personal and delicate matters. It would be too easy for such discussions to sound like gossip and for feelings to be hurt. Ethnographers have dealt with this problem in two ways. One is to disguise the names of all people involved and to turn the actual incidents into abstractions. The other is to write their books at a distance, a literal geographical distance and a socioeconomic one. That just won’t work for this small group in which I am not just an observer but a full and intimate participant. So for now, I can only encourage you to think about the subject.

Next year, I’d like to begin a discussion of gender. Bellydance—while not exclusively female—is a highly feminine form. That femininity is at the core of its current appeal and social power. I’d like to address how this community of women uses its feminine spirit and how femininity itself is re-defined and expressed.

NEW FEATURES
In the coming year, I plan to begin a series of profiles of local leaders and studios in the Santa Cruz dance community. In addition to pertinent biographical information, I’d like to hear local teachers discuss the health of the dance community; the art of teaching dance; and our local historical legacies. I’m curious to know, for instance, how the practice of teaching enhances an instructors creativity. Or, what are the challenges and rewards of presenting a festival or concert series. As students of dance or readers of this blog, I would very much like your input. What do you want to know about your teachers? Who would you like to know more about?

In January, a small group of local dance leaders and scholars will convene our first salon through which those of us who like to talk about dance can, well, talk. We also hope that these salons will help to build deeper connections across genres of dance. This is a private event, but I hope to bring you summaries of each session.

Abra Allan, director of Motion Pacific, has asked me to help her create a blog for the SantaCruzDance.com website. This will contain reviews of local dance events and perhaps some of the profiles I mentioned above. We have just begun our collaboration but I will keep you informed of the developments.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ON MY BLOG?
Go ahead, ask me a question. Give me a reason to do research.

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