Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dance Superstars From the Mother Ship

There is much noise and disturbance in the force these few months. Three major events are vying for all the dancers’ attention, resources and loyalty at the moment.

Although we are used to conflicting and competing events, never has there been so many lines drawn in the desert sands at the same time. Frankly, I think it is extremely unfair on all of us as it forces us to take sides, ration our limited resources and worst of all, miss out on a great many opportunities.

These events claim to be for the benefit and edification of our industry yet because they have all been planned back to back, many of us will not be able to enjoy them as we can only afford to attend one or two of them – and even then in limited capacity as participation costs money!

Worse, some of these events are so badly organised and blatantly manipulative that most of us will have to suffer unfair penalisation, hardships and great inconvenience just to gain information to make an educated decision on our level of participation.

In the bid to carve their personal empire, claim dominion and stroke their own egos, some of these events organisers have inflicted their own selfish agendas on us to our detriment. I think it is unconscionable and after reviewing my options, have taken a stand to openly support only one where I think the overall agenda is much purer and less self-serving.

In the last few weeks, many of us have sat and watch with incredulity as two of the organisers commit more mistakes than Britney Spears in her child rearing attempt. We’ve gasped, choked, rolled our eyes, mocked, cracked up and scoffed at some of the ridiculously barmy antics. It’s enough to make me refuse to be associated in any way with these two events. No matter how they turn out, I know they will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all dancers and audiences, marking our industry negatively for years to come.

Someone remarked that although they are badly organised and harbour dubious intentions, any kind of publicity for our industry is desirable. I disagree. I think they will damage the industry and create a negative and false impression of us among the general public, which the rest of us will end up having to fight for years to come.

The speculations of intent, plans and ability of all those involved in these three events have kept all the dancers very busy these weeks. Conversations inevitably veer towards debates on the merits and demerits of the individual events.

Early this morning, Charmaine anxiously watched the clock till she deemed it polite and reasonable to call me to discuss the so-called international competition hitting our shores next month. Chomping on the bit, the poor dear immediately launched into a discussion of the Taiwanese leg of the competition. She informed me that the details and agenda posted on the Taiwanese counterparts’ website deferred from the information disseminated by the local organiser – who is also the main organiser of this entire competition.

I had no answers for her on the discrepancy except to say that from experience, I would not believe a word the local organiser says. Nothing is set in stone and things will always change as long as it suits her purposes. I advised Charmaine to take nothing at face value and to adopt a “I will believe it when I see it right till the last moment” attitude.

In the midst of our conversation, she informed me that someone had approached a dancer friend and teacher for private lessons. This clueless dancer wanted to learn the flamenco style of dancing with the fan for her fusion segment of the competition – a compulsory category.

We hissed with incredulous laughter as we figured out which school she came from. It is obvious she and her teacher have no concept of what flamenco really is. She did not realise that the fan in flamenco is not a dance prop suitable for fusing with our dance. Her arrogance in thinking she can pick up flamenco in a week, with just one lesson, before the competition also amazed and amused us highly.

I was in tearful hysterics as Charmaine recounted our dancer friend’s scornful comments about the cluelessness and lack of ability of this aspiring dance superstar.

Hours later, 3A Gurl called me to discuss the other competing event which will feature a highly respected and eminent musician. I shall not go into details but we suspect that the organiser of this event might have forgotten to inform the star of the show that his concert has a change in dates and venue. We were in horrified hysterics that such a mistake could be made and again, it reinforced my determination not to get involved in this event except as a spectator.

In the midst of this conversation, 3A revealed that she has done some snooping and came across the blog of one of the so-called international competition’s organiser’s students. Yes, go back and read that again. I did. This student also happens to be a contestant in the competition. Actually, I think all the contestants are students of the organiser as most dancers in Singapore have decided to boycott the event because they were only informed about it a couple of weeks ago while the Taiwanese, Chinese and the organiser’s students knew about this and prepared for it way back in March. In fact, the Taiwanese winners were chosen in April while most of us only received a mass email in early May. Nice.

Anyway, 3A said this student blogged that she was doing a flamenco fusion piece for the creativity section. What a coincidence! I immediately conveyed Charmaine’s account of the clueless student to her and after we calmed down from our hilarity, we deduced that it might be the same girl.

3A read out what CC (Clueless Contestant) had written. Apparently she stated that she has only just began practising for the competition. She has just started “writing her choreography” and declared that finding the music to fit it all into was a challenge, especially as she is musically “retarded” or something to that effect.

Silence reigned for a few moments as we choked back our laughter before we lost it completely. If this is how they choreograph dances, no wonder this lot always have to go around shamelessly emulating the choreography and style of others!

Do you know how long an average choreography takes? For stage??? Not in a week that is for sure. And certainly not when it fuses a dance form that you are not familiar with.

And what is with the “writing the choreography” and then trying to find the music to fit it into? Is she for real??? I am hoping it is a case of bad English because they obviously have no concept of how to choreograph otherwise. First you find the music, or in my case, sometimes it finds you. Then it haunts you. It pushes you to interpret it though dance. It consumes you till you piece together the combinations of movements and steps. You dance and dance it till the steps all meld together with the music – hopefully seamlessly.

It is certainly not writing down a set of movements and then desperately searching for the music. That is completely arse about face. Music comes first, then dance. It does not matter which dance form we are talking about … it is the same across the board.

I scornfully remarked that CC should be an engineer and not a dancer. 3A interjected that she was indeed an engineer with alacrity and amusement. Jaysus. Is this the future of our dance world? Manic note writing? Mechanical dancing? Analytical choreography – if you can even call it that?

After all my years of dancing, I know I am still a fledging and possess mediocre talent. I try to learn and be open to new experiences and teachings. I admit my limitations and am cognizant of my lowly place in the whole scheme of things. I would never dare to over-reach myself but humbly beg the superior knowledge and guidance of my peers.

I was amazed when one of the organiser’s students once informed me that she was a principal dancer after 6 months of lessons and how the master workshops had nothing to teach her except choreography and even then, it was “just choreography”. I was hard pressed not to chide her for her arrogance as the master teacher she was talking about, Yousry Sharif, is truly one of the masters of choreography – a fact her inexperience and arrogance have blinkered her to. She could not tell good choreography from MTV video moves and believes she knows more after 6 months than a master of 16 years or more.

My issue with the students from the organiser’s school is that they harbour this deep-seated and totally unjustified and unwarranted impression that they know it all.

The fact that a student with less than a year’s experience believes that she can choreograph a dance, fusing a dance style she has no knowledge of, is indicative of how messed up our world is. I know many experienced and good dancers who, to this day, do not claim to be able to choreograph dances in their chosen dance form. Choreography is a completely different skill from dancing because it requires an additional level of creativity and vision. Yet this neophyte happily revels in her ignorance and arrogance. Amazing.

I always say that the more you know, the less you know. How true. I know nothing because I obviously am doing choreography wrongly all these years – you are supposed to scribe it first then frantically look for the music. How silly of me. I know nothing because I cannot even walk in the presence of Yousry without feeling inadequate and wanting, what more dance for him. I know nothing because his choreography has always challenged me beyond my abilities.

But I do know that our world is being over-run by too many people of this ilk. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.


Blogger 3A Gurl said...

It's an and hide...such a coincidence our recent posts. I just had to mutter about CC too.

11:35 am  

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