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On the Curvature of Dance

2009 September 20
by Tedb0t

The contour that a hand describes arcing through space is of a fundamentally different nature than the contour of a pencil’s mark, which is a remnant, but not from that of the hand that wielded the pencil.

Here we find the critical separation between the act and its imprint, between the cause and the effect.  Dance is a medium of causes that crucially leaves no mark except that of the phenomenological mark in the mind (brain) of the reader (observer).

When viewing a dance, under casual circumstances, we may not bother to attempt to fix in our imaginations the curvature that a body traces in the air, but rather leave it as a more holistic impression, an abstraction characterized by high-level features (degrees of activity, changes in energy-level, recognizable gestural signs, etc.).  The contours of a moving body supplement the contours of the body itself, extending it into another measurable dimension.  Visualizing these lines is not necessarily the goal, but rather building an awareness of them that shapes the perception of the entire dance.

Traditionally, and in general, dances do not leave marks in the sense that drawings do.  Dance does not visibly or permanently alter the intrinsic medium of its performance (spacetime).  A drawing does, however, transform a medium, additively or subtractively, with the aid of an extrinsic influence or medium (a pencil, a brush, an eraser, pigmented oil and water).  A dance’s extrinsic medium is the dancers that make it up, and its mark is like that of a poem read aloud—accomplished over time, with only the audience’s senses and memory available to contemplate the artwork.  A dance-poem leaves no residue upon its own medium.

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