Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Is Art?

I know, it's a loaded and vague question. But, most people don't stop and think about it too often. Then, there's the question of whether performers are considered artists. Lady Gaga criticized Beyonce by saying that she was not an artist because she does not write her own songs, therefore, she is not creative. But, is that really true when she puts her heart and soul into every single performance she gives? She is still a performer just like dancers are performers even though they may not have created the movement.

Performers take what they are given and they make it their own, which I believe is creative. Their job may be even harder than the choroegrapher's because they have to figure out a way to specifically convey the message to the audience. It is not just about the steps.

In my opinion, art is in the eye of the beholder. Art is not only a way for the artists to express themselves, but it is usually created for an audience. So, whatever you as an observer think art is, that is art. It is entirely based on opinion; there is no right or wrong. Certain art forms such as visual art can be created without anyone seeing them, and it is still considered art because a person is creating something original. This is true with dancing too because you can be dancing in a room completely by yourself and it is still beautiful. But most of the time, the purpose of dance is to convey an emotion or idea to an audience. That is why dancing is considered a performing art and not a visual art. Some audience members may view simply walking across stage as dancing. Others may only consider strong technique and intricate choreography true dancing. Whatever you think whether watching or performing, that is your reality and that is what art is to you.

I was thinking about this because on Tuesday, I went to the Fall For Dance Festival and the New York City Center. We saw the Australian Ballet perform Gemini, Steven McRae (principal dancer of the Royal Ballet) perform Something Different, Pontus Lindberg Dance perform Faune, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago perform 3 To Max. All four performances were very different, but they could all be considered art.

The first dance was a contemporary ballet piece that was based solely on absract movement. In other words, the dancers created multiple shapes and lines with their bodies. Their costumes were yellow unitards and they were very form-fitting so that the ideas were portrayed clearly. There were two men and two women, so there was a lot of amazing partnering and lifts that flowed effortlessly together in one long string of movement across the stage. This was beautiful art in an aesthetic way because their bodies were like sculptures that the choreographer molded.

Member of The Australian Ballet in Gemini
The second piece was a solo and it is called Something Different because the performer is a classical ballet dancer, but he did a funky tap routine. I liked the idea of thinking outside the box and jumping out of your comfort zone because that is the only way you will evolve. This dance had an idea behind it, but it was mainly about the sounds of the tap shoes and the humor Steven added throughout the rountine.

Steven McRae in his own choreographed dance, Something Different
Faune was another abstract piece, but it was modern dance. There were four dancers in gray that were in a circle around a single dancer in nude colors so he looked bare. Throughout the dance, the person in nude changed, so when one person took the clothes off, another person put them on and they kept alternating. The piece was about how people are always trying to fit in and the main dancer was trying to find out who he really is. By the end, he took off the gray clothes and revealed black spots on his legs and faune ears on his head. This was his true identity and he couldn't hide it any longer. He finally felt comfortable in his own skin, and I think this is a goal that many of us have in our lives. This piece was very artistic because of the concept behind the movement. It also involved constant costume changes, and there were also actual lights set up on the stage in a semi-circle to highlight the dancers. There were many aspects that went into the dance to make the idea clear to the audience.

Dancers in rehearsal for Faune
3 To Max was a medley of dances from Hubbard Street's reperatory, so the piece as a whole did not have one single idea or concept, but each section was its own individual dance. This movement was very pedestrain, and some people do not consider this art because every does that on a daily basis. But, who's to say that a regular person walking down the street is not creating art just by moving their body in a rhythm? If you think about it, any time our body moves, there is a purpose and a certain timing. Whether it's stop and start, flowing, syncopated, or in an even beat such as walking, we use the same rhythms in dance. Any time the dancers changed formations or left the stage, they walked like humans, not like dancers. In the last section, there were three groups and one at a time, they each did a random movement and they kept trying to out-do each other. It wasn't anything like leaps or turns or even poses, they were just moving.

The female company members in 3 To Max
Your opinion will depend on your background as a dancer; what styles you have trained in, what performances you've been exposed to, etc. But whatever your opinion is, that is what art is to you. It may also change over the years or even in a matter of months. All I knew while growing up at my studio was the techniques that I trained in. I performed for many years, but the dances were not abstract. This is ok because like I said earlier, there is no right or wrong. But as I started college and moved to NYC, I have experienced so many other forms of dancing and choreographing, so I have more of an open mind to what art and dancing is. It's perfectly fine to have preferences, and they may be different from a lot of other peoples'. Personally, I love dancing and viewing ballet and jazz/contemporary styles. Just because those styles are my favorite doesn't mean that any other style is not art in my eyes. It's just like in life, there is no reality except for what you see and feel and experience. Every human being has a completely different existance and "reality". You could be in the same dance class with someone for ten years, but you both think differently and the way you receive information varies. You will have a different experience than her depending on your mood that day or your physical, mental, and emotional health. This goes for everyone. Your own experience with life is all that matters because you are a unique individual.

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