Tag Archives: Costume

OMG! FYI: ASA

In an attempt to circulate good things in the world, publish more frequently here, and in turn get more traffic which in turn helps the above, I’m starting a category I’m going to call “OMG! FYI:” which will be brief posts featuring informal musings on things I like, and am not necessarily thinking critically about (although we should always be thinking critically).

For today, that’s this excellent feel-good vid, Nigerian-born singer Asa’s “Why Can’t We.” I’m so behind the times, it came out in May, but a friend just turned me on to it as a pick-me-up, and boy was it effective. …and affective. [Read about affect basically meaning emotionally impactful, here]. I didn’t know about Asa at all before today but you can read about her, as I did, on her Facebook page or her website. Can’t wait to find out more about her and her team!

Asa: “Why Can’t We”

Things That Are Awesome about This Video: (aka, why I picked the tags I did)

  • The color!!! What a gorgeous palette. On close inspection you can see the majority of the frame is filled with greys and neutrals, but it’s the pinks and yellows that really stay with you! (one could say they pop! haha, get it? Also, actually, just noticing this now, very similar to this blog…)
  • The song. It’s happy sounding. I’m trying to learn more about music so I know why it’s happy sounding, other than the lyrics. I think it has something to do with what I associate that instrumentation with, as well as the overall mood/sonority/timbre? [Those are words that one uses for music…right? Help in the comments SVP!]
  • The dancing! First, that there is dancing. Second, I just finished teaching about American Bandstand and Soul Train in the lecture course I teach. And this is a lovely abstraction of the sets and space of those shows. But it also uses the movement from those shows, particularly Soul Train, showing them in both their historical and current forms. Look out for Locking, Popping, some New Jack Swing era dances (Running Man and others), and a lot of new, current dance flavor.
  • I love Asa’s style! I would wear every outfit she wears in this video; the silhouettes are a perfect balance of contemporary and retro, completely flattering, and just crazy enough to be gorgeous. Plus, LOVE her hair, her glasses, and…well everything.
  • err…any interpretations or sentiments on the TV character at the beginning? (and could someone identify the language, I’m having trouble.) My guess is that he’s referencing another song of hers, and/or that he and the TV index her global circulation. But…it makes me slightly uncomfortable.

I think, as I sort of alluded to above, I also like this video because I associate it with other videos/media/experiences. The two below are the most resonant:

Soul Train Line 1973

This is an amazing find from 1973 which I actually just stumbled upon, and seems to have been uploaded earlier this month following Don Cornelius’s tragic suicide; amazing first and foremost because Cornelius came down the line himself! Which he had never done before and I don’t think ever did after. But also wonderful for its range of styles presented–it’s crazy to look at the footage from ST and see the kernels of many of the genres we have today–I even saw some bonebreaking/flexing!

And, this:

Prom Scene, Footloose (1984) [no video available currently]

Which, of course, is strongly influenced by Soul Train, as well as the introduction of b-boying into the movement vocabulary and consciousness of middle America through various breaking films that came out in those years, including Wild Style (1983), Flashdance (1983), Beat Street (1984), Breakin,’ and Breakin’ 2 (1984).

Signing Off!

Well. That was much more involved than I anticipated. I’ve got four posts sitting in the draft pile, better just get them out so you can read them! Thanks for reading, this has been an installment of “OMG! FYI:” stay tuned.


Rosas Danst Rosas and Beyoncé’s “Countdown”

Earlier today a very dance-literate fellow student wrote the following on my Facebook wall: “Have you seen the new Beyoncé video “Countdown”? She is showing her baby bump still moving and shaking it. The last 15 to 20 seconds is a direct quote from a Rosas Danst Rosas.”

This prompted me to do two things: try to find the newest Beyoncé video (not yet up on the BeyonceVEVO page), and watch Rosas Danst Rosas to try and see the connection. Let me tell you, once you’ve seen both, which I have brought together for you below, you cannot miss the connection!

Rosas Danst Rosas was choreographed originally as a dance for the concert stage in 1983, and is Anne Teresa de Keermaeker‘s most well known work. What I have posted below is a Dance for Camera version directed by Thierry de Mey, who was the composer of the original score. This film version was released in 1997 and features dancers from the second generation of de Keermaeker’s company, Rosas.

While the movement vocabulary of the stage and film version are almost identical, and some of this movement has been decontextualized and fit in to various parts of Countdown (see the shirt pushed off the shoulder at around 2:00 in “Countdown”), the full last minute uses not just the choreography but the cinematic aspects of de Mey’s film. The setting, use of the camera, light, and other aspects are recreated in Beyoncé’s video, directed by Adria Petty, who also directed Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams.”

There are certainly other influences and homages in “Countdown.” The colorful backgrounds and use of split screens index Richard Avedon’s famous portrait of the Beatles, Andy Warhol portraits, and the opening credits of the Brady Bunch. The all-black ensemble with cropped pants and exposed socks are being discussed in the blogosphere as references to Audrey Hepburn and Michael Jackson. [Both of these attributions, while accurate, work to obscure the choreographers who inspired the work and style of both of the above, as well as the choreographer of “Countdown”; Bob Fosse, Luigi, Jack Cole, and Jerome Robbins].

So it’s not to say that there aren’t other influences. And for some reason the brief referencing of other performances and people didn’t bother me very much. But to quote once more the friend who clued me in to the video and its connections to Rosas Danst Rosas, “Poor Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker doesn’t even get a choreography mention in the video. I applaud you Beyonce for using dancers in your video and they look awesome however, give credit where credit is due.”

This situation, like that of the use of verbatim Fosse choreography in “Single Ladies,” has me thinking about many questions, some of which are listed below:

Is ‘sampling’ part of Hip-Hop’s epistemology? Does the degree to which the replicated material is familiar to a wide audience matter? When is borrowing borrowing, and when is it appropriation? [Scholar Brenda Dixon Gottschild introduces the element of commodification into her definition of appropriation, which might be applicable here.] But isn’t replication a form of flattery? Does incorporating art known only to a small group into a media which will reach millions serve as an advance to that which is referenced?

What do you think?

Would all be right with the world if (1) the choreographer/dance director of the video were acknowledged? (2) the influence of de Keersmaeker was acknowledged (3) the dancers were credited?

To be continued! Please give me your thoughts below! [Update! I wrote a lot more about this idea in the abstract in this post: What Does Plagiarism *Feel* Like? More on the “Countdown” Conversation]

 


Beggin’ Re-edits: Pilooski vs. Madcon

So, here’s the deal; one amazing Frankie Valli song, “Beggin'”: two quite excellent re-mixes/re-envisionings (read about the various re-incarnations of the song here) which each have quite excellent videos. So, which is better?

I was introduced to the Pilooski re-edit first (the top video), and fell in love with it. The song is precisely a re-edit; there is nothing new, but elements are re-arranged, repeated, and adjusted. The video, which has since dissappeared from YouTube in its official (and good quality!) version, is brilliant. Through setting, costume, and choreography, it traces the intervening years and influences between the Four Season’s version and the world that gave birth to Pilooski and DJing. Watch for subtle changes in costume as well as lighting and choreography- look for the twist, disco, locking, b-boying, and good ol’ rockin’ out.  Don’t forget to check out the DJs in the back- they change too!

Because I was so attached to the Pilooski version, my initial reaction to the Madcon version was adverse. But on its own it is really quite good too. It has a strong aesthetic playing off of the films of the era of Blaxploitation, complete with bell bottoms and afros, and features strong rap verses, using the original song as the hook and building off of it. One ‘plot’ element I don’t really understand is that of the video games. I interpret this as a similar tactic to the contemporary elements in the Pilooski video; because the original song is ‘vintage’ the new version must distinguish itself from that label (although clearly each video has an affinity for some nostalgic past, both of which are more than a little anachronistic, especially the Madcon vid). However, the video game thing just doesn’t work for me.

In the end, I think I still like the Pilooski vid/song better. I think this may also have to do with the fact that Pilooski’s video appeared first, and has since been removed (I suppose for copyright purposes?) while Madcon’s video is hosted by VEVO. But they both are very good. Unfortunately, and characteristically, I cannot find information about the directors or choreographers of either video, so they both lose points for that!

What do YOU think? Let me know in the comments below.


I Whip My Hair