Dr. DeFrantz and The Vigilance of Dance

The Dr. DeFrantz workshop, as many of my classmates have already addressed in previous blog posts, was the most eye-opening discussion I have ever sat in on. I feel truly privileged and lucky to hear what Dr. DeFrantz had to say about dance, the knowledge he had about the evolution of dance, and how dance is seen as a performance within various cultures.

The act of vigilance, in relation to care as a course concept, when actively dancing, was heavily emphasized. The act of performing to portray a message in the most careful matter was something that stuck with me for the rest of the weekend as I kept replaying his lecture over and over in my head.   

Attention was drawn to the Congo Square as it became an actual place for Black people to speak through music and dance. Race played a role during his lecture as he mentioned stratification and alluded to the Apartheid as well as Jim Crow.

What particularly caught my attention was the definition of twerking which is defined as: dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance. A few parts of this definition stuck out to me. One being the dance characterized as “sexual” and two, the emphasis on the low, squatting stance. Dr. DeFrantz described the belief in being closer to the Earth as a way of “being ready.” It’s fascinating how certain bodily movements can transform and cycle into a sort of negative connotation depending on which cultures are giving the meaning to the performance. The evolution of dance is now at a place where the low, squatting stance is portrayed as “nasty,” but those weren’t the original intentions of the dance that it evolved from. Thrusting hip movements are stigmatized and sexualized in the media due to the mentality that is ingrained in society. Certain cultures have a lack of vigilance as some could be unaware of where twerking derived from.

I appreciated Dr. DeFrantz speaking about how music and dance intersect. He brought up very crucial points. Specifically, he mentioned the value in dynamic rhythm and how that disagrees. It was fascinating to hear about the differences in music in terms of dance and culture and how that shapes our view of society. I believe this can be tied to cultural appropriation and stereotypes as Dr. DeFrantz mentioned, such as “black girl sass.”  

Overall, I believe his lecture was very well done and fascinating as I never took the vigilance or the time to think about the performance of dance. As a dancer myself, I have participated in hip-hop routines. As a performer, I am confident enough in my technique to showcase it to an audience. Although at times, I never considered being sexualized to certain viewers due to their connotations of certain body movements. That is an unfortunate risk for performers due to the audience having the capability to make any sort of meaning of text that is presented to them.

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