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Conference examines dance in a shrinking world. (News).

How do dances change and acquire meaning as they circulate between cultures? As movement slinks body to body across national borders, how do the distinctions shift between Western and non-Western, traditional and contemporary, folk and the-atrical forms? How does the passage of time alter these migrations? Participants at the thirty-fourth annual conference of the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD), held October 26 to 28 at New York University, were challenged to consider all of these questions. More than 120 presenters at the confererence, "Transmigratory Moves: Dance in Global Circulation," contributed their insights in three days of panels, roundtables, workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and performances.

On day one, attendees--many sitting on the floors of the overflowing classrooms--could hear talks on Panamanian "devil" dancers, belly dancers in Brazil, contact improvisation as a global export, the rave culture's presumption of spirituality, the development of lindy, reggae, and bhangra rock in the United Kingdom, and many other topics. The nature of conferences is that too much happens at once, and an attendee had to make tough decisions--to go, for instance, to a workshop on the classical Indian form kuchipudi that was informed by the teacher's study of aikido, a Japanese martial art, instead of, say, a roundtable on interactive, Web-based performance or a panel on contemporary social dance forms.

One highlight of the weekend was a panel convened to honor CORD Award recipient Deborah Jowitt, whose lucid dance criticism has graced the pages of The Village Voice for more than thirty years. The panelists, all friends and colleagues of Jowitt, pondered questions of dance's migrations through time and' the effects that political and social changes have had on the art form, in a discussion that paid tribute to Jowitt's contributions to dance research. Dance historian and critic Lynn Garafola (a senior editor at Dance Magazine) spoke about Edna Ocko, a passionate and all-but-forgotten critic of the 1930s whose writing and advocacy for the field mingled with her radical politics. How quickly dance criticism passes into history emerged as a theme. In a paper about AIDS and dance, critic David Gere moved the audience to tears when he read excerpts from Jowitt's obituaries for AIDS patients. Elizabeth Zimmer, dance editor of The Village Voice, discussed dance writing's various forays into the ephemeral realm of cyberspace. Lastly, former Merce Cunningham dancer Carolyn Brown examined the journey of one particular dance, Summerspace, from its original 1958 production by the Cunningham company, to recent revivals for the New York City Ballet and the Zurich Ballet.

After these four lively talks, critic/historian Marcia Siegel facilitated a conversation with Jowitt about her current research on choreographer Jerome Robbins. "What drew me to dance history," Jowitt remarked, "was a very old-fashioned sense of how wonderful it was to sleuth." Opening Robbins's journal, she was surprised to find herself, as its reader, addressed. She paraphrased the late choreographer, "You who read this will have a different experience, because you can flip ahead and see what happens. For me, the future is a blank page." The papers honoring Jowitt and a transcript of the conversation will be compiled and published in Dance Research Journal. For more information on CORD, visit
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Author:Sperling, Jody
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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