DANCE 1141 is being proposed as a course somewhat in parallel to MUSIC 1301-1302 (Introduction to World Music I-II). It is intended to expose students to a wide variety of dance forms, consider dance's relation to music, and show the wide variety of cultural information dance constitutes and reflects. As such it is divided into four main areas of inquiry:
Dance as a global art
In order to discuss dance profitably it is useful to have a wide array of examples to choose from, so many of the readings examine individual dance forms selected from a variety of cultures, including both stage and participatory genres, and will provide data for the other three areas of the course. The study of individual forms allows a conversation among students about the dance each has experienced. The most popular forms of dance begin the course and are used to accumulate a vocabulary and range of questions that are later focused on less well-known genres. Most readings on individual dance forms also provide perspectives of analysis, usually reading dance in interaction with features of society. The objective is to broaden students' experience and understanding of dance as a ubiquitous cultural activity and a species-wide behavior.
Dance as a musical and bodily art
Dance styles are usually closely tied to music styles, and most people's experience of dancing involves moving to the beat. The traditional ties of dance to music will be examined technically, historically, and behaviorally using readings from psychology (cognitive, developmental, and evolutionary), anthropology, and ethnomusicology. Studying dance as a behavior that evolved in tandem with music opens new avenues for considering why we enjoy dancing and watching others dance. The major questions discussed will include: How do we keep a beat and why would this ability evolve? How do we cooordinate action with others and why would it be advantageous? Alternatively, is dance the product of sexual selection?
Dance as a theatrical art
While looking at origins tends to bring the idea of human universals to our attention, it is equally if not more important to look at cultural differentiation, and in particular how dance can reflect in each society hierarchies of power and/or offer space for resistance, nonverbally articulating notions of class, race, gender, and sexuality. Many of the readings discuss the influence of social, cultural, economic, and political conditions on dance style and the position of dance and dancers within society. The many examples of dance in various cultures, including our own, will be brought to bear on students' individual experience of dancing and watching dance, developing an awareness that dance is more than stepping to music--it is a mode of propagating cultural ideas.
Dance as a questioning art and an art questioned
In the last hundred years the American concert dance world (and others) has seen frequent experimentation with movement possibilities, choreographic form, performance location, and much else. The result has been that there now exist many dances and even whole genres which many people find perplexing. Readings tackling this area offer (sometimes conflicting) accounts of modernist and postmodernist dance aesthetics, examining arguments about how those aesthetics derive from dance history and larger cultural trends. Class discussions will focus on how dance has been defined, how choreographers and dances question those definitions, and how dance-making can be both an art form and a contribution to the larger discussions taking place in culture as a whole.
The readings and discussions will be augmented with some basic experiences of doing dance: a few beginning classes in various dance forms (perhaps something like one each in ballet, hip-hop, salsa, and belly dance); and an assignment to make a one-minute movement piece.
Because most readings fit into more than one of the above area, they are spread throughout the course.
The course is not meant to be comprehensive, but to whet students' appetites for more.
What follows is a syllabus in progress. I expect to add some more articles and move some around in the syllabus, making adjustments in the course organization.
Lincoln 124 / Schwartz SB10
Questions: What are some things we call dance? What do they have in common? Can we reach a consensus on how we recognize dance? What separates the different things we call dance? What is particular to each? How do we recognize each?
Ask students to make a list of what they think dance is. Presumably this will include hip-hop, ballet, maybe jazz, modern, Indian, square, tap, flamenco, etc. Discuss what they have in common. Ask how they define the individual dance forms. Use the discussion to get to a definition of what constitutes a form or genre. Note the association of particular forms with particular (sub)cultures. Introduce the idea that not only moves may constitute a form, but who practices the form is important too, even definitive when a form is first recognized.
The Mystique of Fieldwork,Ch. 2 in Dance in the Field: Theory, Methods, and Issues in Dance Ethnography, ed. Theresa Buckland (1999);
What Is Art?,Ch. 3 in The Art Instinct (2009);
The Core of Art: Making Special,Ch. 3 in Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why (1992);
Dance in Hip Hop Culture,Ch. 9 in Droppin' Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture, ed. William Eric Perkins (1996);
'We Have To Be Exaggerated': Aesthetics,Ch. 4 in Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture (2009): 84-93;
Dance and Non-Dance: Patterned Movement in Iran and Islam,Iranian Studies 28/1-2 (1995): 61-78.
Questions: Why do you like this dance? What is it that attracts people to watch dance? What is there to see? What distinguishes good dancing from bad? What is there to watch in a dance? What do experts see? How does one become one?
Ask students to bring in examples from youtube or from their own video collection of dance that they like. Start showing them and discuss what the advocator and others think is most notable about them, making a list on the whiteboard. As the class progresses start trying to generalize about what watchers are looking at and what they prize. Bring in some guest teachers to talk about what is important in some particular genre not likely to be familiar to the students, such as Noh or Navajo. Include these experts in a discussion about why it might be important to see what they see.
An Introduction to Dance Aesthetics,Yearbook for Traditional Music 35 (2003): 153-162.
Virtuosity: The Masque of Nonchalance,Ch. 2 in Anthropology of the Performing Arts: Artistry, Virtuosity, and Interpretation in a Cross-Cultural Perspective (2004).
Hearing What the Body Feels: Auditory Encoding of Rhythmic Movement,Cognition 105 (2007): 533-546.
Towards a Sensorimotor Aesthetics of Performing Art,Consciousness and Cognition 17 (2008): 911-922.
Studying Synchronization to a Musical Beat in Nonhuman Animals,The Neurosciences and Music III: Disorders and Plasticity (2009): 459-469.
Questions: Why do we ourselves like to dance? Why do we want to dance with other people? Do anthropological insights have any bearing on why we ourselves and we as part of a group dance today? Do we dance for ourselves or for other people?
Ask how it is that humans see movement in the first place. Note that our species is an animal and evolved to see movement for a number of likely reasons which can be connected to psychology. Consider evolutionary psychology as a possible source of knowledge regarding how humans as part of culture observe movement. Include a discussion of universals of human dance. Lead students in a discussion of their own experiences dancing and what they see as other's reasons for doing so. Connect where possible to course readings so far.
An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance,from What Is Dance?: Readings in Theory and Criticism (1983) ed. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen;
Ha'a and Hula: Movements of Ritual and Dance,Ch. 1 in Hula Pahu: Hawaiian Drum Dances, Vol. 1 (1993).
Small Communities,Ch. 3 in Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History (1995);
Why Do People Dance?,from Anthropology and the Dance: Ten Lectures (2004).
We Dance for Knowledge,Dance Research Journal 40/1 (Summer 2008): 31-44.
guest teachers teach something students might know, like ballet or hip-hop
Try to review terms and ideas from the classes taught the week before, discuss the value (if any) of the classes, and review the sort of stuff that may appear on Thursday's prelim.
Women Dancing Back: Disruption and the Politics of Pleasure,Journal of Education 170/3 (1988): 122-141.
Salsa Dance and the Transformation of Style: An Ethnographic Study of Movement and Meaning in a Cross-Cultural Context,Dance Research Journal 40/1 (Summer 2008): 45-64.
Women Dancing Back--and Forth: Resistance and Self-Regulation in Belfast Salsa,Dance Research Journal 40/1 (Summer 2008): 65-77.
Dance Rites in Political Thought and Action,Ch. 6 in To Dance Is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication (1979);
Tango as a Spectacle of Sex, Race, and Class,Ch. 2 in Tango and the Political Economy of Passion (1995);
Double Lives,from Paper Tangos (1998): 13-40.
Reforming the Circle: Fragments of the Social History of a Vernacular African Dance Form,Journal of African Cultural Studies 13/1 (June 2000): 140-52.
'One Who Hears Their Cries': The Buddhist Ethic of Compassion in Japanese Butoh,Dance Research Journal 38/1&2 (Summer & Winter 2006): 61-74.
Cambodia's Seasons of Migration,Dance Research Journal 40/2 (Winter 2008): 56-73.
Dance and the Political: States of Exception,Dance Research Journal 38/1&2 (Summer & Winter 2006): 3-18.
The Politics and Poetics of Dance,Annual Review of Anthropology (1998) 27:503-32;
Balanchine and the Black Dancing Body: A Preface,Discourses in Dance 3/3 (2005): 21-30;
The Balanchine Woman: Of Hummingbirds and Channel Swimmers,The Drama Review 31/1 (Spring 1987): 8-21;
Choreographies of Gender,Signs 24/1 (Autumn 1998): 1-33;
Dance and Music Video: Some Preliminary Observations,Ch. 31 from The Routledge Dance Studies Reader (1998), ed. Alexandra Carter.
The Male Dancer in the Middle East and Central Asia,Dance Research Journal 38/1&2 (Summer & Winter 2006): 137-162.
Live dance, ephemerality, virtuosity, audience, social setting, interpretation, meaning, politics... Discuss March concert and lead into a discussion of modern dance. Discuss guest company. Why is modern dance so weird?
Dancing into Modernity: Multiple Narratives of India's Kathak Dance,Dance Research Journal 38/1&2 (Sumer & Winter 2006): 115-136.
Guest teachers teach something students probably don't know, like classical Indian or salsa or belly dance.
The readings for Thursday could be more about the difference between classical and modern DANCE
Week 10--Loose Ends, Review, and Prelim
Place dance within the larger context of modernism(s) and postmodernism(s), bring up questions of the choreographer (what is one and what are they trying to do), and the proscenium stage and site-specific works interact with modern and postmodern dance.
Allegories of Passing in Bill T. Jones,Dance Research Journal 40/2 (Winter 2008): 74-87.
Cultural Studies and Dance History,in Meaning in Motion, New Cultural Studies of Dance, ed. Jane Desmond (1997): 55-77;
Art History, Dance, and the 1960s,Ch. 4 in Reinventing Dance in the 1960s: Everything Was Possible, ed. Sally Banes (2003): 81-97;
The Specter of Interdisciplinarity,Dance Research Journal 41/1 (Summer 2009): 3-22.
What is there to see in ballet, in jazz, in music videos, in modern dance (
Material Girl would be good but I'd rather find something else).
Some Speculative Hypotheses about the Nature and Perception of Dance and Choreography,Journal of Consciousness Studies 11/3-4 (2004): 79-110.
William Forsythe, Eidos: Telos, and Intertextual Criticism,Dance Research Journal 39/1 (Summer 2007): 25-48.
Students present 1-minute dances they've made on other people. Revisit once again what aspects of dancing are most salient to audience members. Individual performers? Overall design? Can we separate a dancer from the dance?
How do all these perspectives intersect and unite?
Final exam out-of-class scheduled according to university schedule