Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Blog to Watch: Sarah Dahnke's Pen Pal Project

Good news!
Danceblogger Sarah Dahnke (who, i think it's fair at this point to consider a dance blog mogul) is at it again with a new project! It's called "the Pen Pal Project" (check it out here) and it utilizes video and blog space to network a few different lines of (visceral/visual/filmic) communication between dancers. It's an idea that has certainly been considered before: what is a way that artists who are far apart can utilize new technologies/options to interact and collaborate? However, this project stands out to me (aside from the fact that i'm participating in it) in intention and origin - i think Sarah's coming at it from a really interesting perspective.

Sarah writes:
This project was born out of questions about race and identity, wondering why we as a culture must judge people immediately based on physical appearance and skin color, despite the fact many do not identify with those who look similar to them.

I began to remember my elementary school days, when I had a pen pal in another country who never had any idea what I looked like, and it didn’t matter. We began to learn things about each other, about our families, our traditions and our lives without judging each other exclusively on looks.

I’ve collaborated with strangers around the country to trade dance videos and have a movement “conversation.” As this exchange evolves, I hope to learn about these women based on their movement choices and their choreographic topics. The regular back-and-forth between myself and three other collaborators will be documented on this blog. The final product will be edited into a video installation in 2009..

One thing that occurs to me in reading this description is the lovely paradox of trying to interface questions of race/identity and visual culture with the medium of film. Is it possible to use a visual medium to somehow resist the use of vision as a defining/binding/restricting action? Certainly film and dance share the power to utilize and subvert the viewer's gaze (yum! don't even get me started on gaze theory!) but i'm excited to try and access these ideas in the more casual and intimate pen pal format.

So check it out and get in on the action, and check out myfirst letter/winterbreakplaidkitchen dance here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

blast from the past/what's the word birds?

We now interrupt to announce that I'm bizz-ack! (i.e. back)

Hopefully I'm not interrupting the flow of things too much.

I've got a great excuse though for being away, though - GRAD SCHOOL. Yep, I've been slaving away in the delta (well, more like Northern Mississippi) at Ole Miss/the University of Mississippi (*whispers* go Rebs Cotton Bowl champs yeeeaaaaahhhh!). I'm working on my M.A. in Southern Studies. And what is that, you ask? Basically any and everything that has to so with the American South, falls under the umbrella of Southern Studies. If you need more clarification/want to know more, check these out, especially that last link. I think it gives one a pretty good ideas of the wide possibilites available in this field.

I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing my thesis on, but more and more I have a feeling it's going to incorporate dance. Especially as I am finishing up a paper now that talks about Soulja Boy and the "crank that" dance phenomenon and how it can be viewed as an articulation of Southern identity, while also making the argument that the Black dancing body has been and continues to be a key marker of aforementioned Southern identity.

Hm, heavy right? Maybe. Maybe I'm just flattering myself. In any case, I want to return to this space - this space being this blog - because one, I miss it, and two I need a space to air out my ideas and to simply talk about dance. So in the future, I see myself maybe posting parts of my paper/refining my thesis, but for now (and in the future), I just wanna share and deconstruct some shiz, if only so I can get back in to the practice of writinf about physical movement.

Starting with:

The lovely Amel Larrieux (whose mother is the equally lovely dance critic/academic Brenda Dixon Gottschild, to whom I owe much in the way of my research over the past few years).

Now, what strikes me and what I adore about her movement is the gentle, almost vague quality of it (and I am looking primarily at her and not so much the other bodies, although they are moving just as much, if not more so in certain moments). I think part of it has to do with her focus - her eyes are often closed as her head moves from side to side, or when they are open, the look into the distance or up, down, and around . . . there is no particular point of focus.

(Do people talk about that enough? I mean, just how much what a dancer does with her eyes determines the overall quality of her dancing? And how that separates the okays from the greats/the boring from the interesting?)

Returning to the video, I also think the use of spilt screen and the subtle special effects adds, rather that detracts or distracts from, the movement. It somehow works together. I think the cinematography also has something to do with that.

I could go into this a little more but, I'm interested in hearing other people's thoughts.......and I'm sleepy. lol. And I've got a road trip in the morning, so I need to go to bed. So, thoughts?

..............p.s. i like being back :)...........................

For your slow-mo pleasure...

I've been sucked into the APAP vortex, but I'm hoping to be back to posting after monday. The conference has been really interesting, invigorating, maddening, and exciting, and after i've gathered my thoughts about it a bit more, i'll push out some insights to shar about it with you.

In the meantime, check this out.
It's from Julia Griffin via done with Phantom Camera.
I'm starting to storyboard for Julia's solo ("Glass Tree in Harlem"), and some of the slow-mo i'm lookgint to utilize has a similar arc as some of what they're doing here. I also think it's a great example of well-done dancefilm in that it points out how good a film can look with very simple movement and shots, given a great location and good lighting. Enjoy!

Find more videos like this on

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here, on this cold 2009 morning, i present to you what we're going to change in 2009.
Or, perhaps more precisely, that we will change in 2009, but need money to do so.

I was at the Amanda Palmer show last night (till oh...5:45 am...) to ring in the new year and she said something along the lines of: "this year it's different, because there's this great weird atmosphere in the air. People everywhere have had such a horrible year, but they're excited. It's not often that those two things happen at the same time."

Please consider starting the year off right and supporting the A.O. Movement Collective!