11 Ağustos 2014 Pazartesi


Berna Kurt (2008)
We use an amazing quantity of terms to classify dances: performance, choreography; tanztheater, ballet, neo-classical, expressionism, modern dance, contemporary dance; ethnic, folk or social dance… And there is a hierarchy between those dance genres: ballet dancers despise “hermetic” contemporary dancers; “transnational” contemporary dancers dislike too easy and “local” folk dances.

However, such sterile categories don’t help at all to broaden critical understanding of dance. As early as 1969, the anthropologist Joann Kealiinohomoku proposed a reading of classical ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance”. Her fundamental critique of the Eurocentric approach in dance studies enhanced general awareness about the social context of dances. We know that all dance forms – be they Western or not –  reflect the society within which they are developed. Differences thus exist, in bodies, in cultures, in thinking. But the critical appreciation may remain the same. While writing on stage performances of “dance”, no matter if ballet, folk, or contemporary, there are common elements. Similarly, the different genres follow similar basic staging tools.

For instance, folk dances on stage are quite different from the ones performed for self-entertainment in daily life. Dance steps, rhythms and timing change according to the context. If the choreographer’s intention in using folk material is creating meanings beyond the usual nationalistic discourses, then dramaturgical research gains high importance. Within the Bogaziçi Performing Arts Ensemble (BGST) dedicated to combining traditional dance with contemporary stagings, collective discussions and readings contribute much to the development of an alternative to the nationalistic, touristic or commercial forms of spectacle habitually promoted by official cultural pollitics. The result is a “dance spectacle”, a complex structure embodying multiple social, cultural and artistic aspects that can and need to be analysed alike … as “performance”.

Always more or less arbitrary, it is not the classification, then, that matters for critical appreciation. As all dance genres are historically defined, the boundaries between them are ambiguous and always shifting. That’s why dance criticism wouldn’t have to distinguish genres but dramaturgical, artistic or choreographic strategies.
(This short paper's translation in German is published in the newspaper "Der Standard" -in the framework of "Critical Endevaour" programme during ImPulsTanz 2008 in Vienna)