Meaning of Movement

Dance has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up I threw myself into ballet, jazz, and tap lessons. Three to four times a week I would sit at my desk at school and glue my eyes to the clock as the last hour of school progressed. I would fly like a rocket out of my seat and make my way to my dance school were I would spend hours doing the thing I loved most. My favorite type of dance was and still is ballet. The grace, poise, and strength needed is something I have always appreciated about the art. However, dance can become a competitive and very pressuring mind game, so my career of dance eventually came to a close.

When I transferred to Geneseo my sophomore year, I knew I had to get involved in the community somehow. My mind immediately went to my first love— dance. In that time I joined two dance groups/teams/troupes. By the time registering for classes came for this semester (spring ‘19), I not only wanted to take my required courses, but I also wanted to take at least one or two courses that would challenge me academically and/or would capture an interest of mine that wasn’t strictly academic. That class for me was DANC 104: Cultural Dance— Latin Cultures taught by Deborah Scodese-French of the dance department.

This course teaches the most influential dances in Latin cultures and how they relate historically and culturally to those areas. For example, something I did not know was that the tango that we think of today is far from the original tango. Tango was first born as a duet between two immigrant men to pass time on the impoverished streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now, as someone who has had classical ballet training for about 15 years, and has always been told to have very graceful, and poised mannerisms; I’m sure you can imagine what it was like when Professor Scodese-French told us to “stomp into the earth,” and “be heavy in your movements.” Honestly it took me a bit.

In the course we talk about how African-styled dance is a key ingredient in most Latin dances as well. African dance requires having lots of your energy channeled to the earth. Bent knees, heavy feet, all to get close to the ground. By being one with the earth and stomping your feet, you are giving your thanks to the planet and making your presence known. The same thing can be seen in the Indian folk dance native of the Punjab region: bhangra. I was on the bhangra team here at Geneseo briefly before injuring my foot, but I still remember our practices learning about how most movements are close to the ground. Again, the reason being to make your presence known with the earth.

So when I received Dr. McCoy’s email about wearing comfortable clothes for our next INTD: 288 class, I was instantly excited for what was in store for Mark Broomfield’s guest lecture. Mark Broomfield, also of the dance department wasted no time and had us standing and stomping along to a jazzy beat. Looking around, everyone seemed to laugh at themselves, but I think we all became comfortable with being uncomfortable.

For the rest of the class, we used movements to express how feminine and masculine identities are distinguished in movements. We also tried to transform those movements to make them gender inclusive. Gender classification in dance is something very prominent in the book, Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans by Kim Vaz-Deville and how the baby dolls are predominately feminine. These baby dolls not only use this platform to distinguish and celebrate themselves, but to also take their New Orleans back for themselves.

These two classes: DANC 104 and INTD 288 led me to ask myself, “Why is that so many cultural dances from Indian, Latin, African, and other regions used loud, close to the earth movements, while growing up doing ballet I was taught to basically be an airy, flying, angel?”

From what I understand (and I would love another interpretation on this), ballet was born in France and grew faster in European countries, places which, for the lack of better words, developed into states that grew economically, politically, and culturally. These European regions would soon be known as “the Old World” once colonization started and were thereby thought of as “superior.” On the other hand, these African and Latin cultures endured such terrible enslavement that their cultural dance, was something much more than just dance. It was a fight for themselves to be heard.

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