Quebec choreographer Marie Chouinard’s 2005 evening length bODY_rEMIX/ gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS features dancers with a variety of prosthetic apparatus: cane, walker, forearm crutches, and… pointe shoes. No doubt there are many perspectives on this work: cyborg, fetish, ableness, and more, yet for me it is a dance about dance. In bODY_rEMIX her company dances on pointe… they dance barefoot… and they also dance with one foot in a toe shoe and the other barefoot. This act alone is a simple yet powerful shattering of a pervasive trope. That one either dances on pointe or barefoot is an “obvious” statement. It is a cultural norm so obvious it isn’t really a norm, or never stated as such. It’s a little bit like having a whole culture moving together on a giant cultural conveyor belt so that we all think we’re stationary when we’re actually just focused too narrowly to see that we’re all, always in motion.
Presented in the context of so many other prosthetic devices the pointe shoe takes a less romanticized (if more fetishized) place as a modification to the human body. A cyborg “enhancement.” Gracie Kendal is thinner than Kristine Schomaker. Beyonce in 16cm heels has a very different body image and presence than Beyonce barefoot. A dancer in toe shoes can, with years of training, do the impossible: dance on her toes. Is this an angelic act? Or a bondage act? Or, like The Oracle at Delphi, does she have one foot in the pain of this reality, and another in the flight of a different reality. A hacker hunched over a flat-screen creating visual poetry in cybernetic space.
I was able to watch the full, evening-length work in high-quality video on the remarkable website Balletoman.com. And in turn, I surfed my way (and, uh, the bulk of the day) over to Balletoman.com because of a LinkedIN discussion. Steeve Austin asked,
What about a short film where the actors don’t act but dance? Can dance tell a story like words or acting can?
and Ruby isla Cera Marle replied,
I think you only have to look at something like Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man which tells the story of jealousy and murder all through the medium of dance. I think that dance film would always need music to help convey a story/emotion.
I’d never seen Bourne’s The Car Man (also a compelling work) which is how I wound up surfing over to Balletoman.com to watch it, along with bODY_rEMIX/ gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS. So if you actually have stuff to get done, be sure to avoid Balletoman.com! However if you’ve got a little time, poke through their impressive library – it’s a wonderful resource!
R E L A T E D . M A T E R I A L S
• Marie Chouinard / Wikipedia
• bODY_rEMIX/ gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS / Balletoman.com
• Matthew Bourne / The Car Man / Balletoman.com
• bODY_rEMIX/ gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS / Luke Jennings, The Guardian, The Observer
• Dance Writer’s group / LinkedIN
• Dance Writer’s Group / Dramatic Dance Film discussion (have to join the group to read the post)
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