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Posts Tagged ‘dance

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard”*…

 

neighbors-keaton

Neighbors. Dir. Edward F. Cline/Buster Keaton. Perf. Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Keaton. Metro Pictures, 1920.

 

As he migrated from vaudeville stage to movie set, [Buster] Keaton realised the comedy itself did not need changing, though the opportunities afforded by the camera could extend the world in which the spatial interplay he had developed since childhood took place.

“…the greatest thing to me about picturemaking was the way it automatically did away with the physical limitations of the theatre. On the stage, even one as immense as the New York Hippodrome stage, one could only show so much. The camera had no such limitations. The whole world was its stage. If you wanted cities, deserts, the Atlantic Ocean, Persia, or the Rocky Mountains for your scenery and background, you merely took your camera to them.”

Keaton’s comedy derives largely from the positioning —and constant, unexpected repositioning— of his body in space, and in architectural space particularly. Unlike other slapstick performers who relished in the close-up and detailed attention to the protagonist, Keaton frequently directed the camera to film with a wide far-shot that could contain the whole of a building’s facade or urban span within the frame. Proud of always carrying out his own (often extremely dangerous) stunts, this enabled him to show the audience that his actions were performed in real-time —and real-place— rather than simply being tricks of the camera or editing process. It also allowed him to visually explore the many ways in which his body could engage with the urban form…

An appreciation of that greatest of all silent comedians: “Buster Keaton: Anarchitect.”

* variously attributed to actors Edmund Keane, Edmund Gwynn, and Peter O’Toole

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As we take the fall, we might send delighted birthday greetings to Stanley Donen; he was born on this date in 1924.  A Broadway dancer (who befriended a young Gene Kelly), Donen followed Kelly to Hollywood as choreographer, then a director– of such classics as On the Town (1949) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), both of which starred Kelly who co-directed.  Donen’s other films include Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),  Funny Face (1957), Indiscreet (1958), and Charade (1963).  Credited (with his rival, Vincent Minelli) with having transitioned Hollywood musical films from realistic backstage dramas (a la Busby Berkeley) to a more integrated art form in which the songs were a natural continuation of the story, Donen is highly regarded by film historians.

One might note a kinship between Keeton’s astounding physical relationship to his surroundings and that of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Fred Astaire in Donen’s films…

Stanley_Donen_(cropped) source

 

Written by LW

April 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

“For I have trained myself and am training myself always to be able to dance lightly in the service of thought”*…

 

dance

For the last 11 years, Science and the AAAS have hosted Dance Your Ph.D., a contest that challenges scientists around the world to explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available: interpretive dance. [see here and here]

This years winners have been announced:

Scientific research can be a lonely pursuit. And for Pramodh Senarath Yapa, a physicist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, even the subject of his research is lonely: singleton electrons wandering through superconducting material. “Superconductivity relies on lone electrons pairing up when cooled below a certain temperature,” Yapa says. “Once I began to think of electrons as unsociable people who suddenly become joyful once paired up, imagining them as dancers was a no-brainer!”

Six weeks of choreographing and songwriting later, Yapa scooped the 2018 “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest. The judges—a panel of world-renowned artists and scientists—chose Yapa’s swinging electron dance from 50 submissions based on both artistic and scientific merits. He takes home $1000 and immortal geek fame…

Learn more, and see other category winners at “The winner of this year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ contest turned physics into art.”

* Søren Kierkegaard

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As we tempt Terpsichore, we might spare a thought for Glenn Theodore Seaborg; he died o this date in 1999.  A chemist, his discovery and investigation of plutonium and nine other transuranium elements was part of the effort during World War II to develop an atomic bomb; it earned him a share of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Seaborg went on to serve as Chancellor of the University of California, as Chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, and as an advisor to 10 presidents– from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton– on nuclear policy and science education.  Element 106 (the last of the ten that Seaborg discovered), was named seaborgium in his honor.

Like so many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, Seaborg became a campaigner for arms control.  He was a signatory to the Franck Report and contributed to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

 source

 

Written by LW

February 25, 2019 at 1:01 am

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”*…

 

dance

Someone went through a great deal of effort to stitch together a montage of dance scenes from some 300 feature films…

 

More (including a list of all of the films featured) at: Dancing in Movies: A Montage of Dance Moments from Almost 300 Feature Films.

* Friedrich Nietzsche

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As we tap our toes, we might send closely-observed birthday greetings to Donn Alan “D. A.” Pennebaker (or “Penny” to his friends); he was born on this date in 1925.  A documentarian, he was a pioneer of direct cinema and cinema verite.  While his dozens of films have touched on a wide variety of subjects, he has a long– and very influential– suit in music: starting with his portrait of the young Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back, and continuing through Monterrey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Woodstock Diary, he was instrumental in creating the modern “rock doc.”

220px-D_A_Pennebaker_2_by_David_Shankbone source

 

Written by LW

July 15, 2018 at 1:01 am

“One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another”*…

 

philosophy

There comes a moment in every philosophy student’s life, perhaps when struggling through a logic set or trying to parse some impenetrable Derrida essay, that the inevitable question comes up: What’s the point? A new philosophy paper, published in the June 2018 edition of the Journal of Practical Ethics, argues that there isn’t one.

At least, there’s not a singular coherent point that the field is working towards. Whereas history is clearly focused on understanding our past and biology is devoted to explaining living organisms, there’s some confusion as to philosophy’s purpose. There are clear themes of course, such as the meaning of life, and what constitutes reality. But the subject is huge and sprawling, encompassing questions about metaphysics, epistemology, language, and ethics, among others. Is the point of philosophy to unravel the nature of the universe, or how we know what we know, or the role of language, or answer some other great question?…

Find out why (and whether it matters) at “What’s the point of philosophy? A new philosophy paper says there isn’t one.

* René Descartes

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As we wax philosophical, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Billboard Magazine reported that the teenage dance craze, The Twist, was being picked up by the adult crowd in Philadelphia.

twist source

 

Written by LW

July 14, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible”*…

 

Many scientists know the pain of meeting a stranger at cocktail party or sitting down at Thanksgiving and getting this question: So, what’s your research about?

Though trying to distill the function of mRNA in gene expression into a few minutes of intelligible chit chat may seem as hard as earning a Ph.D., the ability to communicate complex research to the general public is of the utmost importance.

So to help academics everywhere, American Association for the Advancement of Science launched the annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest. Now in it’s ninth year, the contest requires grad students translate their often complex research into a new format, giving them a different perspective on their work and a chance to communicate their findings with the public. It’s also fun…

The full story (replete with videos of victorious performances) at “Jive to the Academic Beat With This Year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ Winners.”

* Richard Feynman

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As we let the spirits move us, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the Roman Catholic Church admitted that it had erred in condemning Galileo.  For over 359 years, the Church had excoriated Galileo’s contentions (e.g., that the Earth revolves around the Sun) as anti-scriptural heresy.  In 1633, at age 69, Galileo had been forced by the Roman Inquisition to repent, and spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest.  After 13 years of inquiry, Pope John Paul II’s commission of historic, scientific and theological scholars brought the pontiff a “not guilty” finding for Galileo; the Pope himself met with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to help correct the record.

Galileo (standing; white collar, dark smock) showing the Doge of Venice (seated) how to use the telescope. From a fresco by Giuseppe Bertini

source

 

“Yes, but does Maine have anything to SAY to Florida?”*…

 

The Rite of Spring: dancers in Nicholas Roerich’s original costumes

Art takes time, both to be created and to be understood. On May 29, 1913, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a ballet, premiered in Paris and promptly saw its audience descend into chaos. What was this new noise calling itself orchestral music? Did they hate it? Did they like it? Were they supposed to like it? Now the ballet and score are classics, but for some critics, this new style was simply another nail in the coffin of true artistry…

From Henry T. Fink’s The Noble Contempt for Melody (1914):

Are melodies out of fashion? Not with the public, which enjoys them more than ever. But the tailless foxes known as Futurists or cacophonists are doing their darnedest to create the impression that they are building up a new musical art, far nobler than the music of the past, into which so puerile a thing as melody cannot be allowed to enter.

Not content with boycotting melody, these cubists also make war on concord. Not for them is what Shakespeare called the “sweet concord of sounds.” Their music is an endless chain of premeditated discords—shrill, harsh, ear piercing. Concord, they tell us in word and deed, is for the old fogeys who like melodies and other sweets. The musical dishes of the future, according to their recipes, will be made up entirely of mustard, horseradish, vinegar, red pepper, curry, and asafetida. Guten appetit, kinder!

Scriabin, Stravinsky, Ferruccio Busoni, Leo Ornstein, Erik Satie, and a dozen others have thrown their hats in the ring, and each one tries to go the others one better in the cult of cacophony and general lawlessness. They remind one of the sportsmen who vie with each other in breeding ugliness into bulldogs.

From the ever-illuminating Lapham’s Quarterly.

* (Our old friend) Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As we trip the light fantastic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that President Ronald Reagan signed the unanimously-passed Resolution of the Joint Houses of Congress, declaring square dancing the national folk dance of the United States.

Bent Creek Ranch Square Dance Team dancing at the Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina (c. 1940)

source

 

Written by LW

June 1, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I prefer the monsters of my fancy to what is positively trivial”*…

 

In the summer of 1937, stories started appearing in the local papers on and around Nantucket illustrated by photographs of giant footprints found on a local beach. Given the region’s long history of sea-serpent sightings, rumors quickly spread suggesting that, at last, one of the elusive creatures had come ashore.

Soon, indeed, a gigantic creature was spotted on Nantucket’s South Beach.  People came flocking to investigate; but instead of the long awaited New England Sea Serpent, they found something quite different – a serpent of the inflatable balloon variety.

The whole thing had been an elaborate publicity stunt staged by the puppeteer Tony Sarg (pictured, smiling, in the center of the picture below).  Over the preceding decade, Sarg (working with his protege Bil Baird) had pioneered inflatable puppets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair– as a result of which he was widely known as “the father of modern puppetry” and as “America’s Puppet Master.”  His sea-serpent was an attempt to get Nantucket in the news (and, no doubt, drum up a bit of business for Tony Sarg’s Curiosity Shop).  In the event, it worked.  After several weeks drawing crowds to Nantucket’s beaches, the installation made its way to New York City, where it starred in that year’s Macy’s Parade.

More at “The Nantucket Sea-Serpent Hoax.”

* Charles Baudelaire

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As we decide that it’s finally safe to go back into the water, we might recall that this date is Saint Vitus’ Day. Vitus was a martyr in the very early 4th century, who became the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers, and epileptics, and is said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks, and oversleeping.

Given his attachment to both terpsichore and tremors, it’s no surprise that he’s the namesake of a phenomenon– St. Vitus’ Dance (AKA Dancing Mania)– that affected thousands in Europe for centuries.  The condition involved groups of people dancing erratically, sometimes thousands at a time– a mania that affected men, women, and children, who danced until they collapsed from exhaustion.  While the first recorded outbreak was in the 7th century, the first major event was in 1374, in Aachen, Germany, from which it quickly spread throughout Europe; and perhaps the most notable outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518.  St Vitus’ Dance appears to have completely died out by the mid-17th century.

Engraving by Hendrik Hondius portrays three women affected by the mania. The work is based on an original drawing by Peter Brueghel, who reportedly witnessed an outbreak of St Vitus’ Dance in 1564 in Flanders.

 source

Written by LW

June 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

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