dance-par-art - 6/20/92
What the future might think of 20th dance.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: justin at inmet.camb.inmet.COM (Justin du Coeur MKA Mark Waks)
Date: 25 Nov 91 22:50:41 GMT
Okay; I don't normally post articles from the Letter of Dance, but
the current discussion of future archaeology (and particularly Joshua's
paragraph on Coke) simply forces me to. This ran about 1 1/2 years ago,
in the first April issue of the Letter of Dance.
Rudiments of *Ballo Dimenio* of the Late 20th Century
by James October
In the latter half of the twentieth century, a form of dance developed that was
unique to the time period; nothing quite like it has been seen before or since.
It was partially improvisational in form, but the details of its motions have
been long regarded as lost.
Now, however, a newly-discovered cache of ancient picture books (known to that
culture as "BASF 120"-- the correct pronunciation of "BASF" is currently under
debate) has shed new light upon this mysterious dance form. Using computerized
analysis techniques, we have extracted enough visual information from these
books to begin reconstructing the dances contained therein.
There is one caveat to the information contained herein: we could not be
certain of the speed at which the reader was supposed to read the books. Dr.
Hindmity of the Princeton Parahistorical Institute suggested that the total
length of the books should be 120 minutes, hence the labeling; this is,
however, clearly erroneous -- to be a reasonable recording of human action,
they must take between five and eight hours. Dr. Gottrong of Yale Physiotechnic
has analyzed the motions of the people on the books, and concluded that, for
the motions to be comfortable to an average human, the tapes should last
approximately seven-and-a-half hours each. This is the assumption that we are
The books appear to be part of a series of recordings, and are titled "Club
MTV". (The pronunciation of "MTV" is also under debate -- it is argued that
American culture of the time may have returned to the ancient practice of using
`v' and `u' interchangeably, which would result in "Muh-too".)
The exact purpose of these recordings is unclear. Some scholars have suggested
that the subjects of the recordings were the aristocrats of the day, and that
their actions were being recorded for posterity; this idea is reinforced by the
presence of apparently major musicians of the day, such as "Motley Crue" and
"Bon Jovi", who would come to perform for this elite crowd. (NB: it is assumed
that these musicians were important, based upon the amount of respect
apparently paid to them. However, no amount of coaxing of the sound track of
the books has managed to produce anything recognizable as music. Some believe
that there is a secret form of encoding being used here, such that this music,
sacred to the aristocrats, comes out as simple noise if not properly decoded.)
One radical school of thought believes that the recordings were distributed as
simple entertainment to the masses. This is absurd on the face of it, for a
number of reasons. First, the title makes it clear that this is some sort of
"Club", which was, in 20th-century terms, an exclusivist gathering. Even more
importantly, it is readily obvious, by Mannshaft's Theorem, that any form of
participatory dance is considerably more enjoyable than simple vicarious
pleasure. This "visual entertainment" theory is obvious rubbish.
The author is firmly of the opinion that these books are a form of far-sighted
dance instruction. It was far-sighted because gestalt-theory education, though
common today, was almost unheard-of back in the Second Millenium, when linear
education was still the norm. However, the use of rapid movement from one
scenario to the next, presenting a set of forms almost simultaneously, makes it
clear that primitive gestalt education is exactly what this was, designed to
educate members of the "Club" in proper dance etiquette and style. I present
here an analysis of the rudiments of this dance style, which I have termed
"wiggle dance", or *ballo dimenio*.
It is clear from the books that the pre-eminent dance mistress of the time was
named Julie Brown, who appears repeatedly in the books. She appears throughout,
discussing improvisations with her students. She shows all of the signs of
being the teacher-in-charge, providing encouragement to the students who would
work out new variants of the dances. There is no reference to any other major
choreographers, so we conclude that she was the primary author of this dance
Wiggle dance is unique in the dance world in that it is completely invariant
with rhythm. That is, it is danced in basically the same manner, regardless of
the meter of the music. This extraordinary flexibility is testimony to the
genius of Julie Brown and her compatriots. Essentially, the dance reduces the
music to its most fundamental element, the beat, rather than the phrase, as is
common in contemporary dance. This reduction of music to beat is also apparent
in the "music" that accompanies the dance, which can be compared to Japanese
Kodo drumming in its sublimation of everything beneath the all-pervasive
drumbeats. The other instruments merely supply added timbre to the drum, which
truly controls the dance.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about wiggle dance is that it does not
require you to move your feet. The most fundamental wiggle step, which I have
termed the *anca botta* ("hip thrust"), is a fine example. This step begins by
casting one's hips gently to one side -- we have not yet ascertained which side
is supposed to come first, so I arbitrarily choose the left, making this a
*botta sinestra*. Simultaneously, one sets one's shoulders in the opposite
direction, thus, to the right. While doing all of this, raise the hands above
the head, and slightly behind it, and thrust the jaw slightly forward. You will
see, upon attempting this step, the richness of physical ability that was
possessed by the average late 20th Century American. The above figure is a
crude artist's representation of a dancer doing this motion. [Stick figure
drawing omitted, as it would be even cruder in ASCII...]
Note that nowhere in this motion do you move your feet! This is surely an
innovative and exciting enhancement to the theory of dance, reducing it to its
most primal elements.
Another movement in this dance style I term the *piede al pavimento* ("foot to
the floor"), which is representative of its motions. In this step, almost the
perfect opposite of the previous one, one keeps one's body quite still. One
raises the leg quite high, so that the knee is level with the chest, then
brings it sharply down on the next beat. This movement is generally repeated,
perhaps eight or ten times, always keeping with the same foot. Note that one
should not simply kick; the motion is made entirely by the upper leg, keeping
the calves vertical. Dr. Pinorsky of the ITTS Ancient Biologies Division has
suggested that this movement is to be done when the dancer's foot has gone to
sleep. The author considers Dr. Pinorsky a wiseass.
Many of the dance steps important to this period derive from imitation of the
dances of high-ranking officials, who were great patrons of the arts as part of
their day-to-day lives. One such step is the *girando d'Elvis*, based upon the
innovations of a fellow who apparently, as part of his career as a professional
soldier, would entertain his fellow troops with his bardic and terpsichoric
skills. This step is similar to the *anca botta*, and may, indeed, be a
primordial version of it. The shoulders are more relaxed in the *girando*, and
the hip motion smoother, and more circular. It may be that this movement was
formalized over the years, and degenerated into the somewhat jerkier motion
apparent in "Club Muh-too".
Similarly, the *rotolando* ("rolling") figure is derived from a gentleman who
appears to have risen in rank through the ritualized tournaments of the day.
Variously known as "Sly" or "Rocky", we have fragmentary video excerpts showing
him ritually rotating his clenched hands while hitting a small bag, apparently
to develop necessary callouses for the tournaments. This movement appears to
have been appropriated by the creators of a specialized form of wiggle dance,
known as "disco" (Dr. Hindmity has suggested that the name derives from the
"flying disc" paranoias present at the time. The lighting within a "disco", he
points out, is highly evocative of the lights that these mystic discs were
supposed to have.) Dancers of the "disco" would rotate their hands quickly in
front of their bodies (although without hitting anything), in reverence to this
The field of 20th century dance has only just begun to be explored, and the
evidence is still fragmentary. Nonetheless, we can make confident guesses about
the culture and dance of the time, based on the evidence that we do have. The
author encourages others to observe what evidence they may find, and add to our
knowledge of the original Postmodern Ages.
James October is a researcher for the Institute for Trans-Temporal Studies,
currently doing his doctor's thesis on the proto-culture of late 20th century
America, with a particular focus on the dance of the era. Mark Waks simply has
a perverse sense of humor.
[Inspiration credit to Lord Richard de Lacy, who first said "Twentieth
Century Wiggle Dance" in my hearing...]
-- Justin du Coeur AKA James October
Who actually *watched* Club MTV for an
entire week, as research for this