[dance-tech] FW: theory query

  • From: Simon Biggs <simon@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 09:19:38 +0000

The division of labour in dance-tech work is not quite the issue you
present, as Johannes observes. Troika Ranch is one example but there are
others where this division does not exist or takes a different form.
Professional dance is nearly always a collective activity, involving
dancers, choreographers, designers, composers, engineers, technicians and
producers. If there is a division of labour in dance that should concern us
it is not the one to be found in an example such as Troika Ranch but rather
that more pervasive form of social formation, the relationship between
choreographer and performer. In so many instances it is the case that the
choreographer holds full authorial rights and the dancer is simply treated
as a resource they use. I have never understood why such highly skilled and
creative people receive such poor financial and artistic recognition for
their work.

I am a visual artist and in that discipline it is far more often the case
that people work alone. When they do collaborate it is just that, a
collaboration. This situation in dance (it exists in music too) where
authorship is focused on a single panoptic author, when so many others are
also involved, I have always found problematic in the extreme. When I have
worked with dancers and choreographers we have always sought to name the
dancers alongside the other author's of the work. So, I would suggest that
the primary division of labour that dominates dance can be diluted and more
collectivised through dance-tech work. Socio-economic forces here are not
fixed and, as is often the case with new forms of practice, they can be
rendered more motile.

The observations you raise about the relationship between artists and
institutions is not one that is specific to dance-tech. It effects all
artists. Different artists have different strategies. Some take their work
to market and seek to live off the revenues (galleries, theatres, cinemas,
bums on seats, etc). Others choose to take a less commercial route and to
work within the non-profit sector (artist run spaces, festivals, dance
centres, etc).

Given the shift of public funding away from the arts to other "good causes"
and the simultaneous ramping up of research council funding for artists, as
creative practice is accepted as a form of research, many artists who once
looked to the arts councils and similar organisations now affiliate
themselves with academic institutions. The detail of how this is happening
and the numbers involved are a new phenomena (and generally this is mainly a
UK situation) however there has always been a close relationship between
artists and academia. It is out of that relationship that discourses are
established between disciplines, discourses that have long underpinned the
development of the creative arts and allied theoretical and other
disciplines. It is also out of this relationship that the next generation of
artists usually emerge.

Some artists, as you observe with your example of street dance, choose to
not affiliate themselves with any conventional social structure that is
likely to financially secure their work. However, if we were to study the
economic structure of street dance, as well as other examples of street
culture, we will of course discover that there is money involved and
mechanisms of exchange. From my experience in this area (from 25 years ago)
most street culture was associated with alternate social formation, such as
communes (back then), gangs (still very much around) and criminal networks.

The nice thing about the sort of theoretical tools we are employing here is
that we can turn arguments around on their heads with ease. Thus, one could
argue the latter two examples above are not alternate forms of social
organisation but founded on the very principals of free capital and
laissez-faire economics. In this respect we could thus argue that street
dance is actually the most socially conservative and least collectivised of
dance forms.



On 10.11.06 00:50, "Tony Schultz" <dance_plan@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Thanks Johannes, Marlon, Matt and Simon
> I have a good reading list now so that should keep me busy for a bit.
> Here is some of my thinking.  Much of the work that incorporates
> dance and technology is characterized by a division of labor between
> dancers on one side technologists on the other.  Troika Ranch is a
> perfect example.  Mark Coniglio covers the technical work while Dawn
> Stoppiello produces the dancing.  Though this is perhaps unavoidable
> I find it problematic.
> These divisions of labor are accompanied by their own inherent power
> dynamics.  In this situation dancers operate inside a system they may
> not fully understand.  In addition, money going toward technology
> purchases is money not going to pay dancers.  Isnt there a "zero sum
> game" aspect to this whole dynamic?
> While we are on the issue of money...
> This is a difficult practice to imagine outside of the setting of a
> large institution.  The work is contingent on the power structures
> that make their funding possible.  If the work undermines the power
> structures that make it possible then the work will cease to exist.
> Yes?
> Just as breaking, electric boogaloo, krump, hyphie, etc, have emerged
> as powerful and relevant dance forms outside institutional
> structures; can we expect an emergence of some kind of digitally
> mediated/enhanced dance?  Will this new form be as culturally
> significant as the above mentioned forms of (for lack of a better
> phrase) "street dance"?  Will it be characterized by a division of
> labor.
> Will this emergence need a vanguard or manifest "organically"?  Will
> the practitioners care whether you refer to their work as "sensor
> dancing" or "dance technology"?
> Sorry if this seems to be a change of subject.  In my mind these
> issues are all linked together.  Hopefully this issue is not too
> provocative to be addressed.
> Looking forward to responses.
> Tony Schultz

Simon Biggs

AIM: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor, Edinburgh College of Art


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