Thursday, August 23, 2007

Women and Dance: sylphs and sirens

Christy Adair is a freelance writer and cultural critic, contributing to such dance journals as Spare Rib and Everywoman. Women and Dance: sylphs and sirens (Macmillan, 1992), is a text used on dance and performance courses in Britain, America and Asia. Adair contributes reviews and articles to journals, magazines, radio and television both nationally and internationally. She also facilitates a range of performance and education events. Adair is a Reader in Dance Studies at York St John University and is committed to radical performance which communicates an exhilaration of moving and challenges social contexts. Christy has significant links with the dance performance industry both locally in the UK and internationally. Her current research interests focus on gender and ethnicity in relation to dance studies and performance. Her forthcoming book is entitled Dancing the Black Question: The Phoenix Dance Company Phenomenon.

In Women and Dance, Adair introduces the reader to an analysis of Western dance from the point of view of gender and post-feminist analysis. Despite the traditionally high profile of women as principal dancers, Adair asserts that modern Western dance is far from a woman-centered medium. Due to the lack of women choreographers and directors, the genre’s vision of women continues to be rooted in patriarchal notions of the female. It is a representation of the female body that is seriously limited, still unable to reflect the depth of women’s reality.

Adair sees the most synchronous images of women having their origins in dance/performance companies that evolved as in the period post 1970. According to Adair, these groups reflected the fluid, politically progressive images of women following the last wave of the feminist movement. Their major contribution was the development of a type of performance that pushed the boundaries of gender and sex-role expectations. In a piece entitled She Is Giving Birth to Herself, Adair describes how the group Bush Mama explores the primacy of woman relating to other women, not woman-as-male-love-object.

The most useful portion of the book was: “The subversives...women’s dance practices.” It underscores Adair's central tenet that images of women will only be expanded with women themselves taking control of developing, directing, and mounting their own work. This, according to Adair, must occur despite the social and economic barriers involved.

This is particularly potent for me as I try to work more on dance and spoken word pieces. I came to the same realization over the last ten years that I needed to do whatever was necessary to control my own work, how it was showcased, etc. It's also an opinion I've shared with other writer/performers, such as Tara Betts and Sharmili Majmudar, as well as initial discussions with dramaturg and performer Coya Paz, founding member of Teatro Luna here in Chicago.

My only two hesitations in recommending Women and Dance are these: it's an extremely dense read, which made for laborious, although worthwhile reading, and that the book is expensive and better gotten through library sources. But simply put, Women and Dance a vital sourcebook for women performers across the board.

  • ISBN-10: 0814706215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814706213

Speaking up about immigration ---

Sam Quinones's new book ANTONIO'S GUN AND DELFINO'S DREAM,
a book of vignettes on immigration that has been lauded in the San Francisco
Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal,
as well as having been featured by La Bloga's Daniel Olivas.

Quinones has spoken about immigration--indeed a hot topic again as
Homeland Security begins cracking down on companies that hire
"illegals"--on NewsHour, NPR, and CSPAN.

The newest feature of Sam's website, is a link
where the public can tell their "True Tale," the name of which taken
from Sam's first book, TRUE TALES FROM ANOTHER MEXICO.
Here's the link, which has five or six stories from people on it.
Lisa Alvarado

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