Wednesday, 15 August 2007

DANCE?

A few years ago, when I was at my last go (so far…) at “structured” or “conventional” dance, a colleague brought to my attention the book “To Dance is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication”*, by Judith Lynne Hanna, which I then bought. Today I feel particularly like transcribing here a chapter from it entitled “Dance?”, highlighting upfront the following excerpts:

There is obviously a need to define or, using Abraham Kaplan’s phrase, to “specify the meaning of” a behavior before exploring its complexities. For the anthropologist who strives to identify, describe and explain phenomena within a cross-cultural perspective, it is essential to adopt a definition which both indicates the sets of features which are referents for a concept and, also, remains flexible about empirical issues.

Of course, our choice of conceptual apparatus, our working distinctions, need constant refinement, and we must be alert to indications that something may be escaping us because our approach has blind spots. A decade ago I began (as observer, participant, and/or field researcher) to examine dance forms ranging from classical theater ballet to popular dance in the West to Latin American, Caribbean, and African social and ritual forms; later I examined a variety of dance forms from other parts of the world. I wondered if these were common characteristics in the kinds of phenomena different people call dance (or what westerners would generally categorize as dance – as a westerner I am obviously influenced by my culture). Examining dance cross-culturally to formulate hypothesis, to establish the range of variation of dance phenomena and their concepts of culture or social organization, I was forced to develop an overarching analytic definition.

Such a definition should, I thought, transcend the participants’ concepts of dance, which undoubtedly, include some criteria that other groups exclude and debar, some they encompass. Further, the definition should include behavior which the appearance of what is generally considered dance, even though, for the participants concerned, it is not dance because they have no such concept. I have observed or read about a number of groups who seemingly have quite different ways of conceptualizing what I think of as dance.

Many societies have multiple words for different dances without having a single generic term. (…) For the Ubakala of Nigeria, drum accompaniment is a necessary part of dance and, thus, the word denoting dance also denotes a drum and a play. Elsewhere in Africa, for example among the Akan, Efik, Azande, and Kanba, dance involves vocal and instrumental music, including the drum. On the other hand, many African groups, such as the Zulu, Matabele, Shi, Ngoni, Tutkana, and Wanyaturu, do not use drums and some even denigrate users of drums. Among the Tiv of Nigeria, the word dance also encompasses activities we exclude from the performing arts: games and gambling.


The following conceptualization of dance is a researcher’s abstraction (an etic concept) partially generated from analyzing native (emic) definitions. This working definition was reached through empirical observation, a survey of literature relevant to dance, consideration of dance movement elements and the human body (the instrument of dance) in motion, and through adhering to a holistic approach. Holism does not mean an attempt to know everything, but it assumes that dance is essentially meaningful in its sociocultural context. It implies functional relations within a system but does not assume total interrelatedness nor relationships of equal importance.


***
*To which I would just add: indeed, to dance is only human – it doesn’t need to be transformed into “rocket science”!
Ou, para colocar a questao de forma mais amena para certas cabeças duras e incultas em terras onde quem tem meio olho e’ rei e quem tenha lido, decorado ou copiado meia duzia de livros se auto-intitula “doutor cientista” e/ou "especialista", ou ainda quem tenha feito uma “visita oficial” guiada de meia hora, com guarda-costas, a uma das verdadeiras fontes de Cultura (… que Dançam desde que a humanidade existe e cujos conceitos precedem de milenios quaisquer “contemporaneas teorias da dança” - para hoje serem apedrejadas com calhaus abusivos e atrevidos tipo "o povo nao sabe o que e' bom"…), se considera “pesquisador”, “antropologo”, “etnologo”, “pensologo”, ou… “dançologo”: Dançar e’ humano, nao tem que ser transformado em “ciencia da pedrada” (e como a autora deste livro o demonstra bem... com a simplicidade e humildade de uma verdadeira autoridade na materia)! Em suma: deixem-se de exclusivismos, elitismos, racismos, vulturismos, imperialismos ocidentais, neo-colonialismos, imposicoes, reducionismos e limitacoes fascistoides, novo-riquismos culturais e pseudo-academismos arrogantes (wa xtranhala!) e dancem so'… se souberem e se puderem! E, acima de tudo, deixem os outros (os verdadeiros "criativos") dançar em paz!

{Please click on the pictures to access sources}


A few years ago, when I was at my last go (so far…) at “structured” or “conventional” dance, a colleague brought to my attention the book “To Dance is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication”*, by Judith Lynne Hanna, which I then bought. Today I feel particularly like transcribing here a chapter from it entitled “Dance?”, highlighting upfront the following excerpts:

There is obviously a need to define or, using Abraham Kaplan’s phrase, to “specify the meaning of” a behavior before exploring its complexities. For the anthropologist who strives to identify, describe and explain phenomena within a cross-cultural perspective, it is essential to adopt a definition which both indicates the sets of features which are referents for a concept and, also, remains flexible about empirical issues.

Of course, our choice of conceptual apparatus, our working distinctions, need constant refinement, and we must be alert to indications that something may be escaping us because our approach has blind spots. A decade ago I began (as observer, participant, and/or field researcher) to examine dance forms ranging from classical theater ballet to popular dance in the West to Latin American, Caribbean, and African social and ritual forms; later I examined a variety of dance forms from other parts of the world. I wondered if these were common characteristics in the kinds of phenomena different people call dance (or what westerners would generally categorize as dance – as a westerner I am obviously influenced by my culture). Examining dance cross-culturally to formulate hypothesis, to establish the range of variation of dance phenomena and their concepts of culture or social organization, I was forced to develop an overarching analytic definition.

Such a definition should, I thought, transcend the participants’ concepts of dance, which undoubtedly, include some criteria that other groups exclude and debar, some they encompass. Further, the definition should include behavior which the appearance of what is generally considered dance, even though, for the participants concerned, it is not dance because they have no such concept. I have observed or read about a number of groups who seemingly have quite different ways of conceptualizing what I think of as dance.

Many societies have multiple words for different dances without having a single generic term. (…) For the Ubakala of Nigeria, drum accompaniment is a necessary part of dance and, thus, the word denoting dance also denotes a drum and a play. Elsewhere in Africa, for example among the Akan, Efik, Azande, and Kanba, dance involves vocal and instrumental music, including the drum. On the other hand, many African groups, such as the Zulu, Matabele, Shi, Ngoni, Tutkana, and Wanyaturu, do not use drums and some even denigrate users of drums. Among the Tiv of Nigeria, the word dance also encompasses activities we exclude from the performing arts: games and gambling.


The following conceptualization of dance is a researcher’s abstraction (an etic concept) partially generated from analyzing native (emic) definitions. This working definition was reached through empirical observation, a survey of literature relevant to dance, consideration of dance movement elements and the human body (the instrument of dance) in motion, and through adhering to a holistic approach. Holism does not mean an attempt to know everything, but it assumes that dance is essentially meaningful in its sociocultural context. It implies functional relations within a system but does not assume total interrelatedness nor relationships of equal importance.


***
*To which I would just add: indeed, to dance is only human – it doesn’t need to be transformed into “rocket science”!
Ou, para colocar a questao de forma mais amena para certas cabeças duras e incultas em terras onde quem tem meio olho e’ rei e quem tenha lido, decorado ou copiado meia duzia de livros se auto-intitula “doutor cientista” e/ou "especialista", ou ainda quem tenha feito uma “visita oficial” guiada de meia hora, com guarda-costas, a uma das verdadeiras fontes de Cultura (… que Dançam desde que a humanidade existe e cujos conceitos precedem de milenios quaisquer “contemporaneas teorias da dança” - para hoje serem apedrejadas com calhaus abusivos e atrevidos tipo "o povo nao sabe o que e' bom"…), se considera “pesquisador”, “antropologo”, “etnologo”, “pensologo”, ou… “dançologo”: Dançar e’ humano, nao tem que ser transformado em “ciencia da pedrada” (e como a autora deste livro o demonstra bem... com a simplicidade e humildade de uma verdadeira autoridade na materia)! Em suma: deixem-se de exclusivismos, elitismos, racismos, vulturismos, imperialismos ocidentais, neo-colonialismos, imposicoes, reducionismos e limitacoes fascistoides, novo-riquismos culturais e pseudo-academismos arrogantes (wa xtranhala!) e dancem so'… se souberem e se puderem! E, acima de tudo, deixem os outros (os verdadeiros "criativos") dançar em paz!

{Please click on the pictures to access sources}


8 comments:

VDV said...

Eué!! Não tinha dito que há por aí criaturas que não fazem a mínima idéia de onde se vieram meter?! Valeu.
PS: Enjoy your holiday!

Koluki said...

Pois e’, pois e’… E’ no que da’ passarem-se vidas inteiras a exercitar o corpo, sem minimamente se exercitar a mente, porque se esta’ convencido que esta ja’ e’ naturalmente “brilhante” pelo nome de familia ou a cor de pele com que se nasceu … Mas eu tambem ja’ tinha dito que nao teem culpa: sao apenas produto do tal sistema de que se dizem contra… De facto, de dois sistemas, que somados e divididos dao no mesmo tipo de arrogancia ignorante: o colonial-fascista e o afro-stalinista! E o que e’ pior e’ que a coisa ja’ nao tem remedio, por muito que tentem agora reformular os seus (pre)conceitos, porque com o auto-convencimento que lhes e’ tao caracteristico, ja’ publicaram todas as birras e papeis higienicos com que deixaram seladas suas insignificancias… para todo o sempre, amen!

PS: I will, thanks!

Diasporense said...

A menina dança? Olhe que me deixou com muita vontade, com essa tripla mensagem transmitida por um pé com o texto e pelo outro com as imagens e pelas mãos com a música. Bonito! É desta estética que a nossa Angola precisa para se tornar mais bonita, né? Nota 100, como sempre!

Diasporense said...

Ah, esqueci-me de dizer algo sobre aquilo de “o povo não sabe o que é bom” – essa é a marca registada de todas as mentes e regimes totalitários. Mantêm-se ditadores no poder até à morte, não se permitindo eleições porque “o povo não sabe o que quer ou o que é bom para si próprio, portanto não tem capacidade para escolher”… valha-nos Deus!

Koluki said...

Dancemos!

Koluki said...

Porque ate' vem a proposito, mesmo que apenas indirectamente, decidi 'transladar' para aqui o seguinte comentario que postei ha' 2 dias no Africanpath, a um artigo entitulado "US: What is our name? From African to African again" de Rodgerick Williams:

Added: August 19, 2007 12:59 PM

Interesting Article

I would start by echoing Benin’s point that, by all accounts, all humans come from Africa. Then there are a few other points that I would like to put to your consideration:

1. I could be wrong, but as far as I know, “Negro” continues to be to this day a conventional term to refer to the so-called “negroid race”, taken as the equivalent to the so-called “caucasian race”. Politically, it has been used in earlier NAACP documents and by leaders of the civil rights movement such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Culturally, it even named the Afro-Caribbean Negritude movement lead by Leopold Senghor and Aimee Cesaire. What has always been an offending word is “Nigger”;
2. Beyond all racial designations, conventional or not, what seems to be questionable, first and foremost, is the concept of race itself. It is thought to be an offspring of the “European Overseas Discoveries” started in 1492, when the first Portuguese ships reached African coasts. Before that, there was only one race: the human;
3. As an African who has lived in Europe for half of my life, it never occurred to me to identify myself as “African-European”, because I am not such an entity: I am African, as all my cultural and identity references are African, no matter where I happen to live on this planet. And, besides, I never came across anybody calling themselves “African-European”;
4. From there, it appears to me that the issue is really one of citizenship: for whatever reason, the term “African-American” came about because there are individuals in America who would rather affirm their cultural identity as African and, at the same time, are citizens of a country called America. And it is that citizenship that enables them to claim the same rights under the American flag as any Caucasian, Asian or Latino citizen of the USA. However, the way the contemporary world is politically organised doesn’t make it easy for people to claim double citizenship, i.e. you cannot be simultaneously a citizen of the USA and of South Africa, for instance, unless in very special circumstances;
5. All this probably just to say a very trivial thing: we are who we are wherever we happen to have been born or where we happen to live.

And, to round it all off, how about all “African-Americans” and any qualifying “African-Europeans” starting serious plans to return “en mass” to our Motherland?

By:
Koluki

Canadiano said...

Estimada Koluki,
Depois de ler atentamente o texto aqui apresentado -- com a ajuda de minha esposa que eh mais versada em Ingles academico -- e tendo lido tambem num outro blog as materias que o terao provocado -- permita-me a ousadia de mencionar esse facto e espero que me perdoe caso esteja errado -- ficamos sem duvida alguma de a quem eh que “afinal ainda falta muito” para chegar a este nivel e quem eh que devia ser “corrido a paulada” de meios verdadeiramente intelectuais – desculpe-me a crueza destas expressoes mas acho que uma vez que nao o faz, concerteza devido a sua notavel educacao e correccao, alguem tem de o fazer por si, ou seja usar tambem alguma da linguagem de quem eh “especialista” em insultar a inteligencia alheia.
Sou angolano residente ha muios anos no Canada e venho acompanhando ha um tempo este e alguns outros blogs. Tenho que lhe confessar a minha profunda admiracao e tambem da minha familia, pela consistente qualidade, diversidade e actualidade de tudo quanto aqui vem dedicadamente apresentando, questionando e discutindo.
NOSSOS SINCEROS PARABENS E QUE O BLOG KOLUKI CONTINUE POR MUITOS E FELIZES ANOS!!!!!!

Koluki said...

Caro amigo Canadiano,

Seja bem vindo a esta casa!
Obrigada pela pertinencia e acutilancia das suas observacoes.
Se vem acompanhando ha' algum tempo algumas das sagas em que me vejo envolvida na "lusosfera", certamente tera' observado que tenho preferencia, a menos que me censurem, por expressar as minhas opinioes sobre questoes que provoquem a minha reaccao directamente nos blogs onde tal se verifique. Mas... sabera' que, entre as 'especialidades' de alguns esta' a censura bofiento-stalinista, a meio de provocacoes e insultos do mais baixo coturno. Por regra nao lhes dou troco, mas ha' niveis de arrogancia ignorante verdadeiramente insuportaveis!
Anyway, my friend, muito obrigada pela atencao que tem prestado a este blog e volte sempre. Apresente os meus cumprimentos a sua esposa e familia.

Um grande Kandando!