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wundayatta's avatar

What are the politics of dance? How does that compare to the politics of music?

Asked by wundayatta (58321 points ) October 12th, 2012

I imagine some people will think, ‘What? Dance isn’t political.’ But maybe if you think a little more, you might start to see political aspects of dance. It’s pretty easy if you look at the history of dance. But see if you can figure it out yourself.

In what ways do people seek to express power through dance? How does dance help people express power? Are people even aware of what they are doing? Maybe if you compare it to music, it might be easier to see these things.

I think there are probably a myriad of ways that the arts are used to express power. I just wonder what I can learn from my fellow jellies about how they see it. Stories of specific instances where you have been influenced to take action within the community via dance or music would be very helpful. Also, if you want to define how you understand these terms, that would be good, although not fully necessary.

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6 Answers

dabbler's avatar

Pina Bausch must have had some kind of idea when she made “Politics of Noise” nearly twenty years ago. That was one of the most fascinating dance pieces I’ve ever seen.
Her writings says she was not interested in how people move but in what makes them move.
The “noise” of the piece seemed to me to be the completely disparate movements going on all over the stage.There were individuals, couples, groups… things happened and suddenly they converged and became regrouped differently.

I’m not sure how that answers your question, but it got me thinkin’ !

Here’s a blog that mentions her pokes at politics.

Shippy's avatar

“Gum Boot” Dancing was initially very popular amongst Miners in South Africa. As you are probably aware, mining is huge industry here? Because the Miners were not allowed to talk, they communicated by a dance whereupon they donned wellington boots. Attached to the boots were often bells or other paraphernalia. They would stomp their feet in a certain rythm to call out to other miners close by. Then proceed to pass a message this way. This often took the place of drumming. It was also was used in matters of protest. Today Gum Boot dancing is still very popular here, but more as a tourist attraction.

I am not sure what it is about this dance, but it chokes me up inside. It speaks so much of our past. Also of the beauty of rythm and passion.

dabbler's avatar

This question has me thinkin’ more (leave it to wunda to come up with a Q like that !).

If you take politics to be the dynamic of power among individuals in the public arena then it seems to me there are strong parallels in dance.
A pas-de-deux shows person to person negotiations, conflict and resolution.
Group dances often only show the power of cooperation, which is nice but far from a complete picture. Companies like Pina Bausch’s or Merce Cunningham’s that are reknown for less structured ‘forms’ often vividly demonstrate discord and isolation… and sometimes resolution and cooperation.

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you, @dabbler and @Shippy. I really appreciate the ideas you have put forth and the examples. Really helps me see more about this issue.

I’m glad I got you thinking, @dabbler. I wish more people were interested. Or would just take a shot at it, even if they aren’t all that interested.

I’d never heard of gum boot dancing before, @Shippy. Reminds me of dances in American slave history. We have so many ways to communicate, and somehow it seems like people overlook dance a lot. Perhaps they don’t realize that it can contain explicit code, or even worse, from the perspective of people tyring to control others, it is possible to create new language on the fly with dance.

The people I dance with do that all the time, but I never realized the revolutionary potential it has until you told us about the gum boot tradition.

Shippy's avatar

Here is a video of it! Gum Boot Dance

Yetanotheruser's avatar

It stands to reason that the gum boot tradition came from the drum traditions of many indigenous African societies. Some talking drums were designed to sound like speech; some can be heard as far as 20 miles!

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