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Friday, March 9, 2012

Opening Tonight: "The Council"

Posted by on Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 5:59 PM

Tonight, at 8 pm at Annex Theater, a kick-ass piece of hiphop/modern dance* by kick-ass dancer and choreographer Markeith Wiley.

Using suit jackets, tables and chairs, and some text taken from Seattle city council meetings, the eight dancers of The Council play out power dynamics and internecine struggle. Wiley grew up street-dancing in Southern California (Long Beach, Inglewood, Inland Empire) before moving to Seattle to train at Cornish and dance in pieces by Ellie Sandstrom, Cruz Control, Saint Genet, KT Niehoff, and gender-queer burlesque artists. Wiley's aesthetic bandwidth is impressively broad, and it shows in his rich dance vocabulary.

Because I don't have a photo for The Council, here's a photo of Markeith:

marketith.jpg
  • The Stranger

Check it out.

*Someone was flipping me some mild shit for using the term "modern dance" earlier this week, saying that the concept of "modern" dance began to be questioned by Merce Cunningham in 1952 and blah blah fucking blah. She seemed to favor the term "contemporary dance." But what am I supposed to say in this context? That The Council is "hiphop/contemporary dance"? Then what's the difference between hiphop and contemporary? Contemporary, by definition, is anything that didn't happen yesterday. The "modern dance"/"contemporary dance" schism is a foolish, academic matter of semantics. And if you stopped someone on the sidewalk in any big city and showed them a video of a Balanchine piece and a video of a Crystal Pite piece, and asked them what they were, what would they say? "Ballet" and "modern." So fuck it—I'm calling everything from Martha Graham to William Forsythe and Christian Rizzo (and probably beyond) "modern dance." At least until a better term comes along that doesn't look ridiculous next to the word "hiphop."

 

Comments (6) RSS

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1
Re your asterisk comment - I am at an academic dance conference at the moment and must say that one of the questions is (always) what do we call what we are doing now since it's not longer 'modern dance'? 'Contemporary' doesn't help define what we are doing and it has certain connections with competition style dance that is different than what we are trying to define.

I, personally, believe that 'modern' still best defines because it is in the tradition of breaking from the tradition. I also believe that historians will label the movement when the movement has moved forward and there is a label to be had.

I still don't know why we need a label.
Posted by SeattleinPhilly on March 9, 2012 at 8:22 PM · Report this
2
ugh, I'm a dancer and I hate the term "contemporary" dance. It's pretentious (which I know will sound funny to people who think all modern dance is pretentious, but whatever) and makes me think of the dance competition circuit...technically wondrous but seriously lacking in artistic impact.

but Markeith Wiliey is fab, so thanks for plugging this show!
Posted by genevieve on March 10, 2012 at 9:25 AM · Report this
TortoiseTurtle 3
"Then what's the difference between hiphop and contemporary? Contemporary, by definition, is anything that didn't happen yesterday."

You answered your own question.
Posted by TortoiseTurtle http://slog.thestranger.com on March 10, 2012 at 9:44 AM · Report this
4
Why not refer to it as hip hop dance theater like the artist does? Dance theater has its own tradition as does hip hop. Why the defensive anger Brendan?
Posted by Dancer on March 10, 2012 at 7:19 PM · Report this
5
I think this is an important discussion to have. Yes it is semantics... but semantics is meaning, and meaning, I think, is pretty important. Hip-hop for instance, is a whole lifestyle, it is a way of creating art, music, and movement that grew out of latin-american and african-american communities in the 70s and 80s. But now 5 year old girls go to suburban dance studios and learn movements appropriated from music videos all under that name of hip-hop. Doesn't it do a disservice to actual hip-hop artists to confound the label hi-hop with two such different practices? We are also in a quandary with the term contemporary as you notice. In America it has taken on a connotation associated with competition dance, but in Europe, where the term modern dance was never adopted, contemporary is a term widely used to refer to current movement investigation practices. Is it fair to label European choreographers like Forsythe, Bausch, or Preljocaj with an American label? It seems a disservice to their work. In the Unites States, the term modern has persisted, despite the fact that, as your unnamed source mentions, the Modern period in art ended in the 1950s. I believe this is largely an artifact of the University system whose dance departments dichotomize dance into either ballet or modern. To say that Martha Graham and Christian Rizzo are both doing modern dance is profoundly limiting and does a disservice to them both. Yes, we are all familiar with the dichotomy between ballet and modern but how are we progressing the perception of an art form by saying that anything that is concert dance but not ballet can be lumped into one category called modern. From Isadora Duncan to Shen Wei, if it's not ballet it's modern? The general public is already skeptical of modern dance. They are afraid the won't 'get it'. Maybe if we were more willing to categorize artistic practices with greater clarity, people could discern what they were actually interested in and we could increase audienceship. Maybe I wound't go see Jose Limon, but I would go see Ralph Lemon... but by listing them both as Modern Dance, I might never try.
More...
Posted by hindu2stepper on March 12, 2012 at 5:18 PM · Report this
6
I think this is an important discussion to have. Yes it is semantics... but semantics is meaning, and meaning, I think, is pretty important. Hip-hop for instance, is a whole lifestyle, it is a way of creating art, music, and movement that grew out of latin-american and african-american communities in the 70s and 80s. But now 5 year old girls go to suburban dance studios and learn movements appropriated from music videos all under that name of hip-hop. Doesn't it do a disservice to actual hip-hop artists to confound the label hip-hop with two such different practices? We are also in a quandary with the term contemporary as you notice. In America it has taken on a connotation associated with competition dance, but in Europe, where the term modern dance was never adopted, contemporary is a term widely used to refer to current movement investigation practices. Is it fair to label European choreographers like Forsythe, Bausch, or Preljocaj with an American label? It seems a disservice to their work. In the Unites States, the term modern has persisted, despite the fact that, as your unnamed source mentions, the Modern period in art ended in the 1950s. I believe this is largely an artifact of the University system whose dance departments dichotomize dance into either ballet or modern. To say that Martha Graham and Christian Rizzo are both doing modern dance is profoundly limiting. Yes, we are all familiar with the dichotomy between ballet and modern, but that doesn't mean it is not problematic, how are we progressing the perception of an art form by saying that anything that is concert dance but not ballet can be lumped into one category called modern. From Isadora Duncan to Shen Wei, if it's not ballet it's modern? The general public is already skeptical of modern dance. They are afraid the won't 'get it'. Maybe if we were more willing to categorize artistic practices with greater clarity, people could discern what they were actually interested in and we could increase audienceship. Maybe I wound't go see Jose Limon, but I would go see Ralph Lemon... but by listing them both as Modern Dance, I might never try.
More...
Posted by hindu2stepper on March 12, 2012 at 5:24 PM · Report this

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