LiveTweet: YouTube Music Awards

Dear readers,

While I can promise no real insight, I hope to have some interesting things to say about tonight’s first ever YouTube Music Awards. I may post a summary here afterwards, but for now, follow along as I live tweet the event. You can follow me @readymadeal and follow the hashtag #YTMA for general commentary and hullabaloo!


Top 5 Things You Learn in Grad School

Everything you needed to know in order to exist critically in the world in five easy statements, brought to you by four years in a Humanities PhD.
  1. Penises (and their logic) are everywhere.
  2. Everyone is racist (yes, you too).
  3. Discourse circulates (and language is unstable).
  4. God (and the author) is dead.
  5. It’s a little more nuanced than that.

No joke. No facetiousness. No regrets.


Quick Thoughts Puma’s “Dance Dictionary”

I just heard about it today, but you may have seen this new Puma project, “Dance Dictionary” passing around on social media, the platform it’s specifically developed for since late April, when it debuted. At it’s most basic, the “Dance Dictionary” converts customizable phrases into short dances you can share broadly. (Its purpose is to promote their new perfumes, but they’re nowhere in sight).

You can play with the Dictionary here (click “Get Started”>”all sentences” then pick a sentence frame you like and you can change the two underlined words, mad-lib style, by clicking them). Here’s the “Trailer” for the project:

I really love and appreciate this PUMA project–It can and does serve as an archive, oral history, ethnography, a movement analysis tool, and a well-filmed showcase of some of the most talented and direction-changing dancers of the current moment, who are being allowed to operate within their individual styles. Mashable has a nice article here about its positive components.

…and I simultaneously HATE IT. (That’s not a nuanced scholarly assessment, but it’s how I feel.) I hate it for its insistence on one-to-one word and dance correspondence (on mimicry and playacting  rather than the mimesis or suggestion native to the showcased forms), for its glossing of existing moves/combinations of moves with these new silly ‘dictionary entries,’ and, as always, for not crediting the fucking dancers. Some of the dancers’ names and the choreographer are available in press if you poke around, but there are 25 dancers and no identification of them on the project site itself. (Not to mention no other production credits.)

Few random thoughts/things I’d like to consider further myself (and a possible future paper?!)

  • The specific syntax (how things fit together) of the “language” they’re creating here, and how that differs from the syntaxes of each of the respective styles (B-boying moves go together differently than Popping, is different than how a Dancehall freestyle would be formed)–and how this relates to the algorithm being used (which has its own syntax).
  • Would love to hear more about how dancers were thinking about the non-verb and noun lexical items; there are several prepositions and conjunctions in the mix here.
  • The moves of Dancehall dancer, Dionne Rennée (in the green pants) is used for many of the sex-related ‘words’ like Milkshake and others.

More thoughts to come. In the meantime, what do you think?


Jammin’ and Journalin’ Week 1

So, as I mentioned briefly yesterday in my post about some of the music being used, I am once again taking a Hip-Hop studio-based class. My good friend Abby Zbikowski (read more about her company, Abby Z and the New Utility, here), is teaching, and this term she’s asked us to keep a journal in lieu of other writing assignments.

I’ve decided to use this blog to journal. Now, I generally use (or don’t use, as the case may be) this space for analysis of already made representations of popular dance and movement. But as I begin to narrow my research focus I’ve realized I’m really interested in the training, labor, and strategy of the practice of popular dance. As such, ‘journaling’ about my embodied experiences and those of my classmates can help shape my research.

I’ll be breaking things down into observations, successes, and disappointments, which will be about my personal experiences, teaching popular dance, and teaching of popular dance in the university setting.

Week 1

Observations:

There are a few categories of students in our class (and most elective technique classes at a university). At the most basic there are

  • people who know how to move their bodies/where they are in space
  • people who don’t

Complicated by the binary of

  • people who have experience learning from a ‘formal’ teaching setting
  • people who don’t have the knowledge of how to be in a studio class

Along with

  • +/- a sense of rhythm and musicality
  • +/- willingness to just try something even if you’re gonna look bad
  • +/- awareness of differences in quality of movement (do you hit that movement, or do you approach it? Is it grounded or bouncy? What is the pathway through space of  your hips, does that look different?

Successes:

We began to work on some krumping techniques/movements, and Abby asked me to demonstrate for the class. (squee!) One day I will be as awesome as these guys: just kidding, I’ll never be able to do it like that, but it’s fun to try.

Disapointments:

I had to stop in the middle of doing tricep pushups. My shoulders are really messed up, and I need to work on stretching and strengthening so I can have greater mobility. While we’re at it, also my knees are kinda crappy…

Stay tuned for Week 2!


YouTube Gem: Numbers in Action

My friend, colleague, and current Hip-Hop dance instructor Abby Zbikowski (more on the class soon) has been playing a number of songs this term that are really hype, and after this one had been in my head all day, I decided to use are good friend Google and track (no pun intended, actually) it down.

I just wanted to listen to it, but turns out it has a kind of rad, though subtle, music video. Check it out:

I think what I like about it is it’s self-reflexivity and that it’s not taking itself to seriously. I also LOVE repetition, so I dig that here. My one critique is that it does look a wee bit like ‘fun with Final-Cut’ but actually even with all of the editing tricks I still was surprised/interested for the duration.

Fave moment, probably: seeing him jump through the blocks. You know it’s gonna happen, but you can’t exactly gauge when, so there was a great kinesthetic unease/excitement waiting for it. OOH. Also, the sign “this is just a music video.” Interesting, right? I think any of us in the biz of talking about representation would say that nothing is “just” anything…but there’s something nice about that assertion.

The directors, the collaboration Us have a graphic design background, no big surprise there once you know! It’s got great design, especially in its attention to font, color, and spacing.

…I wanna see $$$$ I wanna see ££££…


Sammy Davis Jr. Says ‘Boogaloo’

Sorry for the spoiler of a post title–I’ve been watching the second season of I Dream of Jeannie on Hulu the last few days, and I just watched the episode “The Greatest Entertainer In The World” which originally aired February 2, 1967, which features the one and only Sammy Davis Jr.  You can watch it here if you’re interested.

He mostly sings in this episode, (which is interesting because I think of him first and foremost as a tap dancer, and forget about the ‘entertainer’ bit). What stood out is that halfway through the episode, he comments that he’d like to go someplace where the girls are doing the monkey and the boogaloo!

The Boogaloo! In 1967! I didn’t realize that term was already in use at that time. In the 1980s it was used, somewhat mistakenly, as a catch all for what we now mostly call the Funk Styles (i.e. Popping and Locking). Boogaloo is neither one nor the other, and definitely not useful as an umbrella term. Rather, Boogaloo, like so many other individual dances that got integrated into specific styles, has a long independent history. One that, apparently, goes back to at least 1967.

How ’bout that.


VMA 2012 Winners!

For a full rundown of winners across categories, check the MTV site, here. To read my thoughts on the nominees for Best Choreography, go here. I’m not going to get into comments about the actual presentation…suffice it to say it was odd. But anyway,

Best Choreography

went to Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music” with choreography by Anwar ‘Flii’ Burton. That was my second place choice, so I’m ok with it. The video also won Best Male Video, and I mean, it’s a fine video, but I don’t find it particularly fascinating or innovative…

Other notables (to me):

Best Editing: Alexander Hammer & Jeremiah Shuff for “Countdown”

Assessment: I have to say I’m a little surprised. On the one hand, the editing is definitely pervasive, at a high difficulty level, and pretty smoothly done. If we’re talking literally who cut things together skillfully, I’m ok. If we’re talking: has a defined coherent cohesive aesthetic…I’m not so sure.

Hilarious Tidbit: In an interview with GQ, “Countdown” director Adria Perry responded to questions about the use of de Keersmaeker’s choreography in part by saying, “Of course, ultimately I’m disappointed that she wasn’t credited on the video because I know it was everyone’s intention from the get-go. But I’m assuming that’s because they were still finishing it the day that it launched and stuff, it was basically an oversight, you know?” [italics added]…note to self, I can finish something at the last minute and still win an award…

It’s weird as all get out, but the editing prowess by Eric Greenburg on “Mercy” by Kanye West, f/ Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz is extremely impressive. The editing is so seamless and mind-boggling it makes me a little nauseous, but in a good way (?). For me either “Mercy” or “Somebody That I Used to Know” (see below) would have been good. I think Kanye is still a little bit persona non grata at the VMAs however. Like last year, he got a lot of nods but no wins. Check it out below if you haven’t seen it:

Best Cinematographer/Best Direction: M.I.A. “Bad Girls” cinematography by André Chemetoff, directed by Romain Gavras

Assessment: My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the dashboard/My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the radio. –I freaking love this video, in a visceral, the beat is hard, the dessert is hot, she’s filing her nails on the edge of a drifting car type way. It too (like “Where Have You Been”) trades in an Orientalist mish-mosh made possible by M.I.A.’s relative position of power…but I kind of love it. It’s certainly visually stunning and aesthetically cohesive and convincing. I’ve got a post about it sitting in drafts…hopefully I’ll get it out someday.

To be honest, there were a lot of videos nominated across the different categories that I wasn’t familiar with…I guess reading for grad school will do that to you. So, over the next few days I’m going to familiarize myself with the nominees and try to stay more on top of things. I have to say I’m a little dissapointed that the video for Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” didn’t win anything. It was nominated for Most Share-Worthy, Best Editing, and Video of the Year. Not only do I think it’s a gorgeous and innovative concept, but the sheer time-consuming detailed collaborative work that clearly went into it is amazing. Also I am hugely appreciative and admiring of the fact that the whole production team is credited by name in the description box under the YouTube video. Go here to see it!

Thanks for reading, stay tuned! What did you think about the results?


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