Project findings presentation

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Project background

This project dates back to one day when I thought a performance looked "dated" and realised I couldn't really explain what I meant by using that word.

Characterising a performance as "dated" or "old-fashioned" means to have an idea about how dance has developed over time, what I call a "personal narrative of dance history", and relate a perception of the performance to one's idea about the development of the art form.

In initiating this project, my main interest has been our perceptions and ideas, which I find much more interesting than a popular vote over what dance companies and choreographers are in vogue or avant-garde.

I want to express my sincere thanks to the individuals who took time to respond, giving me insight into an impressively wide range of views.

Background questions

Questions on the backgrounds of respondents.

What is your professional dance background?

Teacher: 7 (26% of total)

Professional practitioner: 7 (26% of total)

Other: 5 (19% of total)

Dance student: 4 (15% of total)

Choreographer: 4 (15% of total)


Total: 5 different values in 27 responses.

For how long have you been interested in dance?


Average value: 15.04
Median value: 18
Total: 16 different values in 28 responses.

Comments on this project

  • This is a very interesting project! You made me think about my assumptions, now my mind is rolling with wonderings about related issues.

  • I think that your questions are very much pointed to the answers you want to receive. What do you mean by 'dated' dance anyhow? Is having a 'dated' quality contingent on representations of the body, movement, costume, lighting, or photographic framing, ...? What made you select these pictures, and how can you vet responses when some of them are framed to look like old photographs (regardless of the 'dancing' content within)? i have not completed the section on the photographs because i don't think the foundation of your argument is very clear, nor are the questions you pose to your questionnaire-audience.

Questions

Questions regarding use of words such as "dated" or "old-fashioned".

Do you sometimes think "it looks dated" or "old fashioned" about a choreography or dance style?

Yes: 21 (78% of total)

No: 6 (22% of total)


Total: 2 different values in 27 responses.

When you are making up your mind about the quality of a performance, how important is it whether you think it looks "old" or "new"?

Somewhat important: 11 (41% of total)

Not important: 9 (33% of total)

Very important: 7 (26% of total)


Total: 3 different values in 27 responses.

Have you ever while watching a performance thought that the "datedness" or a sense of old-fashioned style added to the quality of the work?

Yes: 19 (73% of total)

No: 7 (27% of total)


Total: 2 different values in 26 responses.

Summary: positive or negative?

Is "dated" a negative or positive characteristic in contemporary dance practice?

While 73% of the people responding have thought that a sense of "datedness" enhanced a certain performance and only 26% find that "datedness" is "very important" when judging the quality of a work, it seems that "dated" retains strong negative connotations.

The question of "datedness" is somewhat contentious, and some responders seem hesitant to use the word.

Examples of included comments that demonstrate the strong negative connotations of "dated":


I would like to reiterate that I do not think that 'dated' is negative.
Hope this is confidential! (after giving examples of "dated" companies)


This reflects the imperative of the new in contemporary dance.

About the choice of photographs

The photographs were chosen with the following criteria in mind:

  • They should represent a range of styles
  • They should include photos familiar and un-familiar to the questionnaire audience
  • They should include pictures I personally am unsure about the "datedness" of

 

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Timeless: 13 (50% of total)

Dated: 10 (38% of total)

Unsure: 3 (12% of total)


Total: 3 different values in 26 responses.

Comments

Part of history

The ballet esthetic is set and therefore dated and timeless to me.

Tutu's are timeless.

Traditional

Ballet is timeless

Too small to really get a sense!

Can't see the image, surely all ballet is timeless...?

The quality of the photo is v good so i question its date dispite it being in black and white.

The dancers are so far away... it's hard to make out much beyond legs and tutus.

The production details clearly dates it.

Balet is dated and timeless tradition

Becase fo the set and black/white

Bit small to see... the photography is dates

Balletic and symmetric!

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Not dated: 14 (54% of total)

Dated: 9 (35% of total)

Timeless: 2 (8% of total)

Unsure: 1 (4% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 26 responses.

Comments

Non specific- seen it lots

Looks wander-y and releas-y, current.

Costumes are simple and movement seems organic.

Could be an old work but doesn't look boringly "dated"!

Community dance study #62 in 1983

Although this is very now it will become dated

The dress style 'dates' it

Objects, costume, action

Seems to have trad. in some yoga exercise. costumes are dated though

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Dated: 10 (37% of total)

Not dated: 8 (30% of total)

Timeless: 7 (26% of total)

Unsure: 2 (7% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 27 responses.

Comments

I find this beautiful and the idea of beauty as timeless comes to mind here

Could be a photo diary picture

Ditto to former

Very classical look

But feels a little as I feel I've seen it a lot!

Not quite today, definitely not timeless

The quality and simplicity enables the photo to be timeless

Clear lines, bare chests... this seems "now" to me.

' the body' forms date it

Feel very dated. Extraordinary. Muscle, physicality and stillness

80's

Seen it too often..

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Not dated: 7 (27% of total)

Unsure: 7 (27% of total)

Timeless: 6 (23% of total)

Dated: 6 (23% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 26 responses.

Comments

Visually capturing holding on to some of the aesthetics of today

Wavered between "not dated", manipulation says recent to me but could be of old work/image.

Could be ethnic art or digital art

Modern

Suspension is very contemporary

Broken projected image looks current

A bit 60's illuisionistic

The use of colour and the cubist approach make it dated

The use of technologiy clearly 'dates' it

Picture is not dated. Fragmentation is dated.

90's but nice

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Dated: 17 (63% of total)

Timeless: 7 (26% of total)

Not dated: 2 (7% of total)

Unsure: 1 (4% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 27 responses.

Comments

Says 80's to me

Standard school brochure picture

Unitard with no flare in legs, leg warmers, says 80's to me (at least in the north american dancewear trend).

Looks a little 80's

Could be current and interesting but costume and position lead me to choose dated

Where's bob fosse?

Simple no costume or background to give away time scale

The unitard, and the hair... Just looks 1980's to me. The movement is pretty classic though.

Costumes, movment style dates it

Early 80s

Maybe the costume?

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Dated: 11 (42% of total)

Timeless: 7 (27% of total)

Unsure: 4 (15% of total)

Not dated: 4 (15% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 26 responses.

Comments

Mainly his shirt!

Ballet possibly recent performance

Ditto to other ballet photo, but think its current by colour, costumes and sets.

Classic

Ballet is timeless b/c it will always be appreciated and is highly accessable

No comment!

Lines are pure and timeless

Ballet is the one style that excepts that it is part of history and therefore tells a timeless story really than a dated one

Classical ballet-- Consistent forever, it seems.

Feels less dated as part of culutral heritage. bit sick;)

Classic sould be classic always

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Not dated: 11 (41% of total)

Dated: 7 (26% of total)

Unsure: 5 (19% of total)

Timeless: 4 (15% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 27 responses.

Comments

Inhuman relationship between the bodies, distortion symmetry coexisting

Ditto to #2 & #3

Modern

Conventional photo from the not quite today

Looks like 2 men: that's a pretty recent performance statement.

Body shape dates it

Muscle, physicality

Up to date

This is a timeless classic!

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Not dated: 10 (40% of total)

Unsure: 9 (36% of total)

Dated: 5 (20% of total)

Timeless: 1 (4% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 25 responses.

Comments

Can be anything the only info is movement , i dont have any other information about what this could be

Too close-up to make an assumption, colour quality says not too old.

What is this? bad photography?

I like this photo i think that it is very now

Blurry

Quality of photo dates it

Speed, physicality

What I call 'the place-laban' style

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Not dated: 9 (38% of total)

Unsure: 8 (33% of total)

Dated: 6 (25% of total)

Timeless: 1 (4% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 24 responses.

Comments

A touch too expresssionistic

Aesthetically looks older to me, hair and expression, layout.

Modern

Looks a little dated but could be current too

Dance theatre style #276

Up to date

Phacial expression drama.. not sure here.

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Dated: 11 (44% of total)

Not dated: 6 (24% of total)

Unsure: 5 (20% of total)

Timeless: 3 (12% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 25 responses.

Comments

Possibly richard alston

Could be older, Trisha Brown Co. or some such. Could be new too, really not sure!

Pictures like this caputre the essence of dance for me which is how wonderful it feels to be moving

We all know this is rambert

Becasue of costume

What I call 'the place-laban' style

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Not dated: 12 (48% of total)

Dated: 7 (28% of total)

Unsure: 4 (16% of total)

Timeless: 2 (8% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 25 responses.

Comments

Dance theatre recent

Rather ambiguous "modern dance" shot, gut feeling is that it can't be too old!

Have seen this picture too many times

What I call 'the place-laban' style

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Dated: 11 (44% of total)

Timeless: 8 (32% of total)

Unsure: 4 (16% of total)

Not dated: 2 (8% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 25 responses.

Comments

A fantastic jete

Timeless, but newer, colour is clue and more of a current representation of technical ability (ie: very straight knees).

Classic

Both dated an timeless as it is only from the style of costume that you can tell it is a recent photo however it is a timeless image

Ballet still ticking along....

Feels less dated as part of culutral heritage. bit sick;)

Evaluate the "datedness" of this photo:

Timeless: 9 (36% of total)

Not dated: 7 (28% of total)

Dated: 6 (24% of total)

Unsure: 3 (12% of total)


Total: 4 different values in 25 responses.

Comments

Future bodies

Seems very late 80's early 90's to me with all those popular odd pointe shoe images!

Makes me ill

(except for the technology of the furnace). Comment: Ow!

Muscle, physicality and setting in daily life

90's - oh so political;)

Intriguing

Companies and choreographers

Choreographers / companies / pieces perceived as "dated"

  • Isadora Duncan
  • Doris Humphrey
  • Martha Graham
  • José Limon
  • Judson Church
  • Merce Cunningham
  • Jiri Kylian
  • Richard Alston
  • Siobhan Davies
  • Plan K/Charleroi Dances
  • Paul Taylor
  • Alvin Ailey
  • Mark Morris
  • Twyla Tharp
  • Mark Baldwin
  • Ghost dances

Generation gaps?

In an art form that is so hard to document and only really exists in the moment of performance, our historical narrative is limited. It is interesting about the response to this research project whether a sense of "generation" has an impact on our perception of dance development.

By the nature of the question, most of the choreographers / companies mentioned are still active (10 vs 5). Existing choreographers and companies are mentioned far more often than older ones.

Names such as Graham and Limon seem associated more with their techniques than with their staged work.

Is a notion of "datedness" limited to the world of contemporary dance? Many of the respondents label ballet as "timeless". It is seen as a "fixed" tradition that is not developing and thus ballet images do not relate to any particular stage of development.

"Development" as idea

The perception of "datedness" of movement (as opposed to datedness of costume etc.) stems from an assumption of development. Development requires a "shift" from "yesterday's" to "today's" style and/or issue.

In dance practice we only really relate to our immediate predecessors. Maybe this makes the development of dance more volatile, more fluctuating?

The "past" of the respondents seems to be the Cunningham/Alston/Davies generation. This generation is what most of the respondents relate to as "experienced history".

Summary of conclusions

"Datedness" perception criteria

Movement

  • Technical
    • 'Vocabulary' based - rooted in context of familiar technique
    • Result of classwork
    • Dancers' training
  • Choreographer's approach
    • Sticking with the favoured formula
    • Limiting aestetics or orientation
    • Old ways of connecting movement
  • Choreographic properties
    • "Simplicity" of structure and movement
    • Simple as in clear: clear in intention and clear in aesthetic
    • Symmetry
    • Balance vs. suspension
    • "body design" and muscularity vs. release

Production

  • Costumes that relate to fashion trends - within or outside the dance world
  • Hair / makeup
  • Music / sound
  • Scenography
  • Light
  • Performance space
  • Costume issue: bare skin is less an issue today

(Besides being very clear about fashion-related costumes or dance wear, respondents did not comment on these aspects in detail).

Viewer's experience

  • "Seen it before"
  • "Does not grab my attention"

Content

  • Dance theater with a lot of anxiety
  • Stimuli from an object or story that is pre existing and has no personal reflection for the performers or audience concerned
  • Lack of thought and integrity
  • Traditional gender roles

Definitions of "dated"

Work that does not challenge.... shape / structure / movement / mood / emotion / politics / people / intellectual activity (any or all of the above.)


If it draws on ideas or principles that have been used by choreographers in the past and then deals with these issues in a similar way


There are a lot of different indications of time/style in choreography, mostly the dancers relationship to

  • individualism
  • subconciousness
  • conciousness
  • communication
and the relationship between those fields. All those aspects are expressed in movement and the purpose/concept/libretto of the choreography.

Summary: respondents' ideas on dance developments

It seems the respondents have these dance developments in mind when using words such as "dated":