Posts in: DR100
Dances, plays, musicals, books, etc all have one thing in common: usage of historical background. For example, Night Journey by Martha Graham is viewed by the History of Performance class to be full of historical background.
The performance is based off of the greek tale Oedipus. In this tale, Jocasta, the main character of Night Journey, finds out that she has married her son Oedipus and bore offsprings. The discovery of this truth causes her to take her life, and Oedipus carves out his eyes and leave the kingdom.
Now, we all agreed that Night Journey symbolized the dominance men had over women and how weak and strong women can be. Jocasta is weak for killing herself and not taking the consequence of her actions and abandoning her role as queen. She is strong by not accepting Oedipus at the beginning of the performance, in which Oedipus tries to woo her with his skills and physical strength.
The life one expects to have can actually be a lie and cause pain when the truth is revealed. Therefore, the actions that one takes must also be what one truly wants because actions equal both good and bad consequences.
The History of Performance class is not just about plays and dances; the class is also about societal norms. During the class, we traveled to a topic that one would not expect: societal views on women. These views were seen through the movies and dances of the media.
During the second week of class, our professor made us watch Beauty and the Beast. Now after we watched the movie, the class had a deep discussion on how the characters represented societal norms and what are these norms.
The class agreed that, one, Gaston (a main character from the movie) represents societal views of women. Gaston believes that women must only find their husband and men first and to leave the thinking to the males in their life. Second, women are required to take care of the household while the male brings in the food and income. Third, women must be protected by the male as seen through three blondes that are head-over-heels in love with Gaston.
Additionally, in a ballet called Giselle, the main character fell for a prince, who is disguised as a commoner. The fact that he is dressed in such a manner reveals a secret he wishes not to share. Now in the ballet, it is believed that the women of the village must not marry outside the village; the women must marry a local. Because of the prince’s disgust, Giselle, the main character, simply allowed him to take her heart and claim as his own. This love becomes a problem. At the end of Act One, the prince is finally revealed to be a prince, but he is also revealed to be engaged to a princess. The matter of the problem only proved the societal norm that men outside of a community equals bad news. This lead Giselle to feel her heart rip into millions of pieces. Giselle takes her life out of despair.
Basically, societal norms on women are a part of our life whether one likes it or not. Therefore, women are expected to follow rules that are reflected from society’s ideas, but it is up to women on whether to follow them or not.
When we arrived at Cossitt Gym, located in Cossitt Hall, our instructor had us do warm- up movements; we did normal exercise.
After the warm-up, we were instructed to form groups of two. At this point, we were shown movements to copy: stand in front of each other, place our wrist together, move our arms in a circle while gently pushing them towards the opposite person.
The instructor told us to change partners. Once we were done, we had to copy his movements on how to push someone away: the pusher grabs the person and pulls back gently and then push them, but the person being thrown has to force his/herself back in order to make it look real. Now this sound easy but it’s not. The timing has to be just right.
Our next instructions were to pretend to slap and punch. Now,in order to do this we needed to feel comfortable with our partners. We were ready to proceed. We had to: grab our partner’s shoulder and pretend to slap them by hitting his/her hand while they act hurt by grabbing the hurt area. Then, the the hurt person acts as if he/she is slapping the hitter back, but the hitter ducks and punches the hurt person.
The fight class was a wonderful experience and everyone enjoyed it. Now, we wish to do it again.
Last week on Thursday, September 13, 2012, the History of Performance class went to Cossitt Hall for a dance workshop. This experience was quite surprising. Once we arrived at the class, we were given a mini lecture on ballet by the dance instructor. She informs us that ballet consists of strict rules.
Later, we did warm-up exercises; we used the bars and did basic ballet positions such as first and second position. After a while of doing basic ballet steps, the dance instructor told us to move towards the corner. Here, we were given instructions to dance on our tippy-toes and move towards the center of the room.
Once there, the dancer is informed to move in a circle while moving our hands downward, kick one of our legs up until the feet meets the knee, and go back around, kick leg, jump and move to the side. Now the dancer for this dance are the females. When a male comes into the dance, he picks the female up when she does the jump, spins when she moves to the side, and falls to one knee. At this point the female takes his hand and run in a circle around him, then both the male and female bow.
At the end of the dance, each student claimed that they felt as free as a bird. We never expected to feel this way, because the structure of ballet is one of great strictness; every movement in ballet has to be perfect. The feeling of being free is difficult to understand, since we all tried to reflect our best perfect dance.
After we did ballet, we moved into a more modern dance. In this dance we were given random dances that did not feel as structured as ballet but more natural. We learned that the nature of modern dance is the movements we use each day. We start off in the corner and run (in a way that we are low to the ground in a ballet like stance) to the center of the room then roll into a ball and get back up on our feet. We also rolled similar to a log and did cartwheels. This change in dance structure made us feel more comfortable, because modern dance uses the actions we did as children and continue to do so today, thus allowing us to feel no different than how we feel everyday and at the same time laugh most of the time.
The different dances that the class performed allowed us to understand that everything can be made into a dance. The structure shown in modern dance may not be as strictly formed as ballet, but it is designed in its own way. Therefore, different dances all reflect a surprise that one would not expect: to have so much fun performing them.