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February 13, 2008

(insert dumb pun about listening to me here)

Posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 6:28 PM in the category article ideas

I've been thinking about this in relation to dancers. I'm not sure if dancers are really where they're heading with that project thought - I think that's a bit serious and got some political work going on. Dancers just seem kind of ... frivelous in comparison. But perhaps that's interesting in itself. Perhaps it's worth talking about listening as 'fun' as well in terms of participation in serious public discourse.
But I'd like to write about 'listening with the body' and the way dancers (especially DJs) listen to music with an ear to dancing. And how partner dancers share the way they hear the music by getting in closed position (and open! because lindy hoppers are badass and don't need closed to communicate!) and just feeling the way the other person is moving their body. And the truly wonderful, amazing thing about partner dancing is that this isn't conscious - if we had to stop consciously think 'hm, how is my partner feeling the beat here?' the whole thing would collapse. It's about training your muscles to respond automatically to physical stimuli.

Here's an example: one of my first ever yoga classes the instructor was pushing on my back, right about where the leader puts their hand. He said "stop pushing back - let me push you into place". I didn't even notice that I was pushing back - it was just a matter of, as a follow, my 'giving back what I was getting' - returning equal pressure to make a nice connection. So I had to learn to let him move my body about without returning pressure.*

Any how, when you're partner dancing, you've got all this stuff going on in your body, unconsciously. And then the music starts. And your lead 'sets the tone' of the relationship/partnership for the dance - they tell you how they feel the bounce (nice and big and Swedish? Miserly and American? Horrifically absent?), and that bounce is the easiest way for you to keep in time - you bounce along to the beat. The harder the music swings (ie the less on-the-beat-abrupt-yuck it is - the longer the delay between beats, the more time squeezed out of every beat), the more time you have to do deeper bounces (this is where I just can't articulate it - it's something you have to see and feel), etc etc.
And because you're a team, you give back an idea of how you're feeling the music. If they're a great lead (which is congruent to being a great person in this instance), they'll respond and incorporate your feeling into the partnership, so it's not all one-way.

And all this before you even move! You're still in place just checking each other out, 'listening' to the music.
And it's even more complicated it it's live music - the band is feeling each other out, they might be checking out the dancers...
It's all very interesting. Improvisation makes music so much more fun and challenging - anything can happen. So you all have to have really nice connection so you can communicate. You've all got to be giving back what you're getting. Equal pressure.

Any how, I think it's interesting. And I'm going to send in an abstract, but I'm not sure they'll dig it. We'll see.
I'm finding people think my dance stuff is kind of hippy dippy. I feel like one of those fruit loops you meet at conferences who give papers about..., well, that weirdo, completely off-the-wall, nothing to do with anything stuff. I think people hear 'dance' and think the way they do when they hear 'ficto-critical'. But most academics simply don't dance, ever. And most have never partner danced more than once or twice. And that's especially the case as the last generation of ackas retire. It kind of proves my point, though - anyone who dances regularly doesn't think 'woah, fruit loop'. They give dance as much importance as music or visual texts...
...after all, how come we're all so keen on words and less interested in nonverbal communication? I mean, I'm not that much of a hippy dippy type. I don't have any time for crystals or faith healing or past lives. I mean, I even find improvised 'arty' dance discomforting ("I'm a tree, I'm a flower!").

...ok, now I'm ranting and being mean about hippies. I guess I can't get on that wagon if I grow my own veggies (go tomatoes (even if you are eating my clothes line)! go mutant lettuce refugees! go unbelievable amounts of passion fruit!) using compost from the compost bin (go incredible fertiliser!), don't bother with makeup or leg shaving (w the goddamn f?), don't understand high heels and take less time getting ready to go out than The Squeeze. And that no car/love bike thing? Not exactly pushing me to the mainstream.
But come on - you know what I mean when I'm talking about the fruit loop types. That's not me, ok? I'm, like, TOTALLY normal! Rrlly!!1!!

*aside: this is where I feel 'compression' comes from - you give back the pressure your partner gives you (unless they're super-tense, but that's a different story). For the equilibrium made by that equal-return of pressure to become them actually moving you, you allow the pressure to build up until it sort of 'tips' you over into moving. It's really hard to explain, but it's not a matter of just immediately doing as your partner moves you - you have to return the pressure until you reach the point of 'critical mass' where they then initiate movement. There are all sorts of other things going on (including what they're doing with their bodies - are they moving their body weight?), but it's sort of working around that idea.

Posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 6:28 PM in the category article ideas