As is a usual habit, I was sitting on the couch the other day surrounded by laptop, iPad, various stacks of books, papers, notebooks, writing implements, index cards, etc. And, as is usual, over a few hours of sitting there working I end up in a tiny, tiny ball. At some point, I have to stretch or risk permanent hunchback-ness. That’s not a real word, but let’s not get caught up in symantics right now, we’ll get to that soon enough! So I grab a foot and flex a leg above my head rather mindlessly. After about 2 minutes of this…
Carboy: Please stop doing that.
Carboy: That Circus of Soleil bit that you are doing.
Me: I have to stretch or I’ll stay like Quasimoto forever.
Carboy: Go ahead and stretch, just don’t do that crazy bendy business.
Me: I’m hyperflexible. It’s a rare genetic condition. You can’t discriminate against me there are laws.
Carboy: It’s weird and it doesn’t look right.
Me: In whose opinion?
Carboy: I just said. Can’t you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth. Besides everybody knows you shouldn’t be able to do that.
Me: Please don’t use that term with me, it has no meaning, it’s like saying dirt or germs… it’s meaningless.
Carboy: Everybody is generally accepted knowledge.
Me: Where? Here in Los Angeles, in California, in the US, in France, in Pakistan, in this century, this year, before the Kennedy assastination, after 9/11? It’s meaningless. Don’t use hinky words around me that have no meaning.
Carboy: Like hinky?
So here is my point and I do have one… it’s still all interpretive, truth and Truth, all interpretive. A brilliant French scholar once said a very brilliant and very French thing… data is context. Brilliant. And French. But brilliant still. (I’m just kidding, I adore my French scholar pals, they are the ones that usually rattle my cage in the best way!)
I am all about context. It’s my scholarly “thing.” I am also all about aesthetics, it’s another one of my scholarly “things.” Aesthetics are contextual. How have we have gotten stuck in the primitive way of thinking in our society where we believe that aesthetics are carved in concrete and that this or this is supposed to be the way a model looks, or a dancer looks, or a professor looks? We are an evolutionary species. Haven’t we learned yet that there is not one correct way, but many correct paths, that beauty is seeped and strained through many constructs?
One could argue that Michelangelo’s David was oddly proportioned, under-endowed, and lacked in a lower jaw. Or one could marvel at the beauty that was gifted to us by one artist with meaning and purpose for a certain time with the hopes of a permancency to all times that only tactile art can hope to give. David was created with context for a certain audience. One can also assume that when a sculptor chooses a medium like stone, he or she is hoping that the piece will endure through time to a new and unknown audience. But the sculptor doesn’t know that audience so he can’t scuplt for them. He sculpts for himself and for his time and his place, his world and his truth. When we apply contextual criticism, we must remember that it is our truth and no one else’s truth necessarily and furthermore that it is not Truth (with a captial T) for all.
One of the amazing things about dance is it’s immediacy. That is, you see it once and then… it is gone. We remember it, we think about it, we can talk about it. We can even capture it on film, but it is not marble or canvas, it is movement, it is human. For it’s pure humanity, it is special. And who I love as Giselle or Albrecht is my truth in ballet and may be different from your truth and your preference. The beauty of dance is not that all dancers look and move the same, but that they are different. That each is an individual who gives their gift of art. Dance is human. When an audience learns to love that aspect of dance, then we may learn to understand that height, weight, color, and other personal aspects of the dancer are part of their art. Let it be truth for them and let them tell us of their truth and their art. When we dictate as a critical audience that we only want dancers of a certain height, weight, color, school or style, we begin to dictate an art and what we will get will lack in creativity, in warmth, and in humanity. Then dance will be dead. Dance is human beings. Love the people and you love the art.