Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12/6 BB Response: Body Talk: Messages Behind Mainstream Dance Moves

Today's brown bag was certainly different than most others, taking place in Ryan 212 instead of the Center.  Instead of a presentation per se, the attendees participated by doing dance moves as instructed by Tehmekah MacPherson '02 to show how we use our bodies to communicate and the gendered aspects of these communications.

As a trans woman, I'm very aware of body epistemology: what do we know about people and how from the way they are bodied and physically oriented?  Tehmekah had everyone demonstrate either a hyper-"masculine" or hyper-"feminine" image to show what physical cues we associate with those genders, with the implication that there are other cues that are less explicitly gendered, and therefore there exists language-- body language-- outside this binary...a transgender body language?

A bit of a stretch? (oh look a pun!) Perhaps.  But that was the explicit goal of this workshop: to create body language (a "body vocabulary") that does not explicitly rely on normative gender assumptions.  Although the message of the final dance was explicitly feminist due to the inclusion of lyrics (adding another epistemic layer), the process of deriving the dance steps was narrative (descriptive, not normative) in nature; we charaded emotions, then stylized them into two-beat motions, then strung them together, refined the transitions, and threw in verbal and musical epistemic layers.  The dance was a translation of experience into art in a gender-neutral way; people across the gender and body spectrums participated and made no explicit reference to gender archetypes physically.

One participant said she found herself adapting the moves to her own experience, trying to make them sexy or more feminine.  I found this an interesting observation.  Is it possible, or even advisable, for dance to be gender-neutral?  The dance itself is, but it's performance depends on the particular bodies performing it, each of which have a different gender positionality.  Thus the same dance had feminine flares in some people, masculine in others; some made it sexier, some funnier, some more technical, some more artistic.  In this way the gendered was melded into the dance on a particular (personal) level, and not imposed upon the subjects by the dance's nature.

Xavia Publius

No comments:

Post a Comment