Unreal Nature

July 10, 2016

Too Neat

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… It is showmanship with a vengeance, it is a drill of automatons.

This is from ‘Graham’s Chronicle; Uday Shankar’ [1937] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

She believes in unexpectedness of composition, and she succeeds in keeping up an unremitting intellectual tension. There is no slack anywhere, physically or intellectually. She has, besides, an emotional steadiness in projection that binds together her constantly explosive detail, a determination which controls what might otherwise seem unrelated and fragmentary.

These are certainly rare qualities. I think anyone who likes dancing will admire her. But it seems to me her courage could go even further. She seems to watch over her integrity with too jealous an eye. She allows her dance to unfold only on a dictatorially determined level. But a dance unfolds of its own accord on a great many contradictory levels. And I miss the humanity of these contradictions.

To speak more in terms of dance, it seems as though Miss Graham were too neat.


This next is Denby’s essay ‘Massine and the New Monte Carlo’ [1938]:

… As a pictorial arranger Massine is inexhaustible. But dancing is less pictorial than plastic, and pictures in dancing leave a void in the imagination. They arrest the drama of dancing which the imagination craves to continue, stimulated by all the kinetic senses of the body that demand a new movement to answer the one just past.

… Take the Seventh. Every gesture is visually clear, but every gesture is at the same pitch, hit equally hard. The picture changes, but the tension remains the same. It’s all very agitated. There are sometimes more, sometimes fewer people on the stage; they get on top of each other, lie down, run around, jump, crouch, whirl, pose, wave, or huddle, and they never give any sense of getting closer together or farther apart, of getting lighter or heavier, more open or more shut in, more soft or more hard. It is showmanship with a vengeance, it is a drill of automatons.

… Because Massine’s tension is static he can never make us feel the curious unfolding that is like tenderness. Like a Hollywood director, he gives us no sense of human growth (there isn’t time), he keeps everything at a constant level of finish; everything is over as soon as it starts. He has no equivalent for mystery except to bring down the lights. So the Seventh, though danced with fervor and transfigured by the most wonderful sets and costumes in the world, leaves a sense of cheapness …

My previous post from Denby’s book is here.




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