Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Oh God No

It's probably a sign of how empty my life must be, but I am dedicating my life to ridding the world of contemporary dance.

I'm sorry, that might have come out wrong. I mean, of course, the use of the word "contemporary" to describe dance. At the moment, and this is a rough guess, there are three categories of dance that I'd call "headlines". They are "ballet", "contemporary" and "traditional". Underneath these are all sorts of genres, but lets get into that some other time. 

(I am pretty aware that the "national" category is pretty obnoxious, too. But I only have five hundred words here. One act of language reconstruction at a time, I think.)

I've gone on about this before, so allow me to indulge myself. The phrase "contemporary dance" is generally used to describe dance in the western tradition that is not ballet. Since it started about a century ago, it isn't really contemporary anymore. More to the point, it doesn't clarify anything about the nature of the actual dance.

Contemporary styles include improvisations, movement based on Cunningham technique, devised dance, neo-classical ballet... there is no real need for the dance to have anything that reflects the use of the word "contemporary" in mundane language. It is actually  a code word for "hey, it's not ballet".

I am usually all for nice, direct categories. But this one is too big. It leads to stupid press releases that say things like "the choreography is based on hip-hop, with contemporary influences", as if breakin' is some sort of folk dance and that spinning round on your skull is old school.

(Well, yes, it is. But that's another set of language codes.)

Instead, I am going to start replacing "contemporary" with a more specific adjective. This might lead to a period of unwieldy phrases. With footnotes. And pages of definitions. 

Of course. my real agenda is to alienate everyone, by retreating into a language that needs a glossary. I may not have ever made it back to academia, but I am sure as hell going to pretend I did.

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