Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dance and Culture: A Close Relationship

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I am beginning to notice how often our modern American culture is intertwined within the choreography of most dance styles you see today. All great dancing is created with intent, and this intent reflects the emotions and experiences of human beings along with our current lifestyle. In my case, dance is life. So it only makes sense that dance exposes the life of the person who is practicing this art form. I recently watched a pas de deux by New York contemporary ballet company, Complexions. This dance was performed to a song called, Make You Feel My Love and the dancers were dancing together almost the entire time. They were so close and connected as they performed, but there were also parts when they seemed distant. This brought up the idea of marriage in today’s society. Studies show that in America, 8 in 10 people get married at least once before the age of 40. This is a common ceremony in our culture and it is something that the majority of US citizens do. In our country, marriage is usually between one man and one woman, although that is not always the case. These two dancers reminded me of a married couple because they were so passionate with their partner work and with some of the gestures that they performed. I could tell that their characters were in love. I also saw somewhat of a struggle in their movements at times, and this represents how all relationships have their ups and downs. I would imagine that it can be very difficult to constantly work together with someone when we have all of these responsibilities and pressures as American citizens. That is why a lot of marriages in America end in divorce. I could tell that this couple had some tests of faith, but they worked it out and ended the dance on a positive note.

I could tell that these dancers had a connection by the way that they passionately embraced one another. There were many moments where just the other person’s touch made them move a certain way. When you live with someone, your life is greatly affected by them. For example, the piece started out with the male dancer moving and the female dancer was completely still. He then touched her back with the tips of his fingers and her whole body reacted. I believe that this represents the romantic relationships between most couples in America today. Even people who are not married have these experiences. In our culture we go out on dates and meet people. If you really connect with someone that you are attracted to, that person creates so many different positive emotions within you. I have experienced this as an American teenager while going through high school and entering college. There is a section from 1 minute and 20 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds where the dancers separate, but come back together quickly. The female dancer runs at the male from across the stage and slides gracefully on pointe into his arms. They hugged as if they had missed each other immensely during that quick moment when they were apart. Then, they both release and the male dancer extends one leg up to the point where it is stretching past a split and the female dancer moves around his raised leg cautiously. They stand side by side facing stage right. They stare straight forward as if at peace, and as the music becomes slightly quiet for a moment, the male dancer slowly wraps his arm around the female’s shoulder as if to say, "We are in this together."

On the contrary, during some of the partnering in the middle of the piece, there seems to be a slight struggle, but a struggle to make it work nonetheless. This could be equivalent to a minor argument or a misunderstanding in an average American marriage. Once both parties express their own opinions and ideas, they can learn to accept and understand each other and move on. This is how certain parts of the dance felt for me. I saw the giving and receiving of weight as an exchange of personal beliefs that may not match up, but they continued to dance beautifully together because they love each other no matter what. Starting at 1 minute and 48 seconds and ending at 2 minutes and 6 seconds, the movement speeds up and opposition is shown between the two bodies. The dancers perform a partnered pirouette using a great amount of strength that is so fast the female dancer is just a blur. The man then lifts the woman up by her torso and by one leg extended and it seems as if she is resisting being lifted. I can tell she is giving all of her weight and he is forcefully moving her through space. He lowers her down with control into a spin where he is holding her under her arms and she extends both of her legs. This is a very long, stretched position where they are only connected by the arms. As they exit the spin, they grab each others hand and reach their bodies out in complete opposition from one another. This shape creates elegant lines in both dancers’ bodies with a large, open gap in the middle of them. The female dancer turns around into an attitude and the male dancer promenades her around, but her back is to him. This is when the connection between them was lost for just a small moment. All is resolved when they end the piece with a dramatic embrace that makes the audience cheer with joy.

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