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?

About readymadebouquet

Twenty-something dance scholar, dancer, linguist/langophile, poet, and amateur fashonista, in the process of getting my PhD in Dance Studies, and lovin' every second of it. This blog will reflect the multiplicity of my inspirations and creations. View all posts by readymadebouquet

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