The time came. Same place, four years later. Where it all began. The first Choreomundus cohort met there, so did the next four generations. Our Choreomundus family has expanded and we only want it to grow from here. The first Choreomundus Alumni Conference took place August 26-28 at NTNU, Trondheim, and it was fabulous!!!
It makes me very happy to remember that during all of our activities and rehearsals as well as during the final performances, our games and exercises always consisted of a sense of community and groupness, division of roles and responsibilities, and audience participation. Our goal was for our group to become bigger and bigger everytime we visited the schools and more and more children would learn the songs and rhythms we had prepared for them. During our 3-day projects, we aimed at letting the children's voices to be heard, while making sure that every individual had the responsibility to send the message that the refugee crisis and primarily child-refugee rights and needs must be taken seriously into consideration by governments and should be a subject of discussion among all family members of a household.
Apart from it being a mode of expession of emotion and sentiment, dance can also serve as a platform for expression of gender, that marked identity that we think is unchangeable. From the day we are born, or even much earlier than that, our sex and gender our socially defined. What we (should) wear, how we (must) walk, the amount of space we occupy in our everyday life is largely defined by the role of gender in society. In the dance context such observations become quite evident from the posture our bodies take, our facial expressions, and the costumes we wear.
By: Natasa Chanta-Martin
Last weekend I participated in a 8hour dance workshop entitled Visualizing Sound. It was dedicated to the sounds and rhythms we produce while dancing, audibly or not, and it got me thinking: the inner pace we give to our dance stands as an immediate scene-setter in regards to the atmosphere we create for ourselves and the audience. One could more easily visualize sound during a tap dance or body percussion show, but what happens during a performance of ballet, contemporary, hip hop, dabkeh… What if we were to observe a dance without the "necessary" musical accompaniment? How easily could we "enter" in the mood of the piece without its music? I immediately remembered Jared's performance during our second year of Choreomundus. We were being assessed on Perfomance of Heritage and while he had a whole piece of choreography planned out, the music and the video accompanying the whole performance just froze. He had two options, he could stop and ask for a second run or he could continue. Having already set the scene for us, Jared chose to continue and used his louder breathing as tempo and feeling-maker for the rest of his contemporary-hip hop performance. It was so inspiring!
So after searching further into this phenomenon of visualizing the sound you want to dance to, I ask you to try and guess the music of this video:
Then try and imagine what music, sound, or rhythm these dancers had in their head, what was the common pulse that made them move together at times? How did they know when to stop? What had their choreographer told them?
The exact opposite, but equally interesting, is when the music itself defines the dance and does not let you think in your own musical sphere. When you watch the dance in collaboration with its music it seems that you are trapped for life in the sound-picture the participants created for you. Yes, there is always personal takes in what we see and subjective opinions on aesthetics and musicality, but isn't there a point where all you hear is what you have been culturally taught to hear? And doesn’t what you hear up to a point define what you see? I ran into this amazing example video which was also part of an academic project:
What do you think ?
I invite you to engage in a discussion on this complicated phenomenon: the numerous possibilities dance has to visualize sound!
By: Natasha Chanta-Martin
There has recently been a global shout out to Greeks and the new Greek government. International media claim that the big twist from 40years of family-tree-driven governors to a left wing, young, independent president will make outstanding differences in Greece’s economy, human rights, education etc. Domestic news are bombarded with quotes from the new Ministers and their over-ambitious statements on how they will change our lives for the better: minimum wage will increase, second generation immigrants will finally get citizenship, the school system will change, unaccompanied youth criminals will be monitored by sociologists, each of these statements relating to their own ministry. However, the Ministry of Culture is completely ignored in media and in reality. Not a word has been said about the arts and culture sector of a country which has been declared as the “cradle” of “civilization”. So, what happens to all the dancers, musicians, actors, painters and all the other artists who have been struggling for decades and decades trying to make a living through their art? How can a country prosper in all possible ways when attention (not to mention funding) is not given to one of the most vital and important parts of everyone’s life and education? ART! Having studied at Choreomundus, this introduction seems necessary, because once again the Artist is neglected, and creeps up to the anthropologist’s lap for comfort.
Although (almost) every artist in Greece struggles financially for his/her personal productions, projects, performances and promotion, one specific individual has attempted the outspoken: to create an international festival of experimental percussive dance! One would think that it is a crazy idea trying to do something like this in Greece. Who will attend? Who can afford it? Who will fund it?
Coetáni Experimental Flamenco Festival took place in Athens a day after national elections. It was a 5day intensive festival that consisted of classes, performances, viewings, and discussions. Not only did it take place in Greece, it also experimented with a widely recognised traditional art form, Flamenco. Although, in performance contexts Flamenco has grown tremendously and is experimenting in various directions, Coetáni still is one of a kind for a class-based international festival. Classes included: flamenco dancing for the camera, flamenco couple dancing and more, and the teachers were highly established flamenco performers, such as Leonor Leal, Félix Vásquez, Chloé Brûlé, Marco Varga, who experiment with their art form in different ways. Guest artists included dancers from Canada, Greece, and Austria.
As I have mentioned in my previous Dance Diary, I am one of the founders and organisers of the Athens Tap Jams, another series of community-based events of percussive dance which does not receive any external funding. In a much smaller scale I do relate to what the organiser of Coetáni is going through, and I, therefore, have decided to write this post. Last Tuesday the Athens Tap Jam community hosted a fundraising Tap Jam to help and show its support to Coetáni Experimental Flamenco Festival. Tap dancers, singers, flamenco artists and jazz musicians all jammed together and experimented with their arts, their bodies, their shoes. ATJ is an official sponsor of Coetáni and the money raised at the JAM was added to the festival’s Indiegogo Campaign which you can find here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/coetani-experimental-flamenco-festival.
Coetáni wants to transform Flamenco dancing in Greece, give it another twist, look at it from another angle, EXPERIMENT with it; ‘just like the new government is doing with Greece’, an international news anchor might say! In order for Coetáni to become an annual gathering of important people and flamenco enthusiasts who are willing to experiment, and since it cannot find any domestic funding, it has to look into international funding organisations. In order for its audiovisual promotion to convince outsiders, Coetáni has sought help through crowdfunding in order to create a documentary film of the first ever international experimental flamenco festival in Greece. In support of dance, percussive arts, experimental arts and inaugural brave attempts, I urge you to take a close look at this campaign and to contribute in any way you can.
In dance we trust, because EARTH, without ART is just ‘EH’.
By Natasa Chanta-Martin
Sunday, Nov. 2nd 2014: I am very happy to contribute to this month's Choreomundus alumni blog as an important event has taken place in Greece: the Athens Tap Jams have finally begun! After almost a month's preparation, and just 4 months since Choreomundus 101 ended, I managed to make a contribution to the Greek tap dance community.
A tap jam is a gathering of tap dancers and (most likely) jazz musicians who engage in a live session of music making and rhythm trading! Tap Jams can be found in many parts of Europe and the USA, Australia too. In the past few decades, Europe has created its own style and attitude towards tap dance and has managed to host tap jams in a variety of European capitals. Today we can find the London Tap Jam, the Paris Tap Jam, the Amsterdam Tap Jam, the Basel Tap Jam, the Berlin Tap Jam etc…'So why not start the Athens Tap Jam as well?', I thought…
It all started from my active participation in the London Tap Jam (LTJ) during the last semester of Choreomundus. Participation meaning not only attending, but dancing, bringing friends and musicians along, even helping out in its organization! The lived experience of a monthly tap jam got me very excited and made me feel that sense of community through dance practice. My previous training in dance such as classical, modern, and jazz genres did not fulfil me in the sense of belonging in a community of equal dancers and dance enthusiasts maybe because I would either find myself in the dance studio or the theatre stage. In tap -rhythm tap that is-, I have had the opportunity to dance with live musicians, on the streets, with the spectators being next to me and/or right in front, on the same level…
So after Choreomudus ended and having obtained so much useful information and training on community dance practice, I decided to attempt organizing the first Athens Tap Jam. It took place at Kreuzberg Urban Culture Bar in the hot spot of Athens, Kerameikos area. My friend and fellow tap dancer, Elina and I took care of the organization- we found musicians, printed flyers, spoke on the radio, and spread the word to anyone we saw! The ATJ was becoming a reality!
In the late evening of this Sunday night everything was ready: wooden floors were installed in the bar, musicians had connected amps to instruments, our host and tap dance mentor, Thanos Daskalopoulos, was fully excited and we let the jazz-tap improvisation begin! Men and women, ladies and gents, youths and elders, beginners and pros took the leap and made their way on the wooden floor, where no-one knew what would come up next: swing, funk, bossa nova?? Musicians were dancing, tap dancers were playing music and the audience was cheering…
Not many people had seen such a dance event before and the fact that they first witnessed it in Athens and through the Athens tap dance community put a great smile on my face. My smile is now even bigger since the second Athens Tap Jam will take place on the 21st of December!! Stay tuned…
By: Natasa Chanta-Martin
31st August, 2014: one of the hottest days (and nights) in Athens, Greece. However, dance and music were not absent. To the contrary, a huge multicultural arrangement was brought to the stage at Rematia Theatre in Haladri, Athens. The stage was dedicated to the Earthdancers , a group of hundreds of dancers and musicians from all over the world. One could say that this was an enlarged image of a Choreomundus performance…
The so-called Earthdancers-Music and Dance Festival took place in Athens for the 5th consecutive year. The participants covered the following countries: Romania, Italy, Palestine, Panama, Georgia, Greece, Jordan, Korea, and Mexico. Each of them performed traditional songs and dances with the accompaniment of live music. Very Choreomundus, if you ask me!
With beautiful and flashy costumes, each group represented its country and urged the audience to clap and cheer at every ending pose. I was usually occupied with my camera trying to capture the moments in order to provide you with some audiovisual footage. The camera left my hands, however, when the performance of the Palestinian group finished. The host had announced to the audience that the reason we only saw female dancers performing was because the male dancers were denied access and were obliged to stay inland due to the unfortunately ongoing war-like situation. The dancers received a standing ovation from the Greek public and were awarded from Palestine's ambassador in Greece for their courageous and dynamic participation in this year's festival. A long speech followed by the host who spoke about the importance of dance, music and the arts in general in peace-making and their contribution in countries and cultures connecting with each other. The atmosphere had changed; people were crying and clapping at the same time and it seemed as if the festival had come to an emotional grand ending. I could clearly connect with this context and deeply understand what the host meant by presenting dance as a tool for world peace and intercultural dialogue. I had experienced it to the core and continuously for two consecutive years and exactly a month ago it had come to an end…
Moments later, the night continued with the performance of the Jordanian participants, whose music selection was as close as it could be to the Arab-influenced Greek music. I was extremely happy to recognize the Dabke, a dance widely spoken about in Choreomundus through one of my favorite people, Jana. The delicate shaking of the shoulders and the back and forth movement of the chest and legs made me almost hear Jana's "Yah!". I just smiled…
The Greek participants were not absent, rather they were very vividly supported by the spectators during their presentation of traditional and folk dances, such as Kalamatiano, Ikariotikos, Ballos, Zeibekiko, Hassapiko, and Syrtaki. The latter, mostly known as Zorba Dance, influence by the film Zorba the Greek, which is based on a novel by Nikos Kazatzakis 'Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas', was presented as a form of national symbol of Greece. It is interesting to note that Zorba Dance is utilized as a national symbol outside Greece and only in official occasions where Greekness is presented to other countries, like in the example of the Greek Airforce marching band's performance in St. Petersburg in 2011. Zorba Dance seems to have a completely different significance in a "non-Greek" context. The only time I danced Syrtaki was when I was quite far away from Greece! I personally remember that during Choroemundus, and while explaining to a fellow student in Norway where I am from and what I am studying he replied: 'So will you be researching the Zorba Dance?!'. He definitely put a smile on my face. If you would think that such a short part of that movie became so famous…
A very different performance was definitely the one by the representatives of Italy. A rather complicated game-playing took place before actual dancing began and one thought immediately came to my mind; my dear friend Sara claiming, asking, and being surprised throughout 2 years of Choreomundus: "Italy doesn’t have traditional dances!... Is there Italian sword-dancing?...Really??". So I picked up the camera once again this time to update Sara on some "authentic Italian dancing"!
Following was the performance of Romanian dancers in traditional costumes, men in their percussive leather boots and women with red roses on their hair. This couple dancing will always remind me the Choreomundus experiences from Szeged, Cluj, Visa and Gherla, and the long-lasting discussions of gender roles in dance! When you observe the dance do you see humble Transylvanian women maintaining their circle, cheering for their men and tiptoeing calmly not to wrinkle their skirts? Or do you see powerful females and their strong arms and shoulders being the only support by which the men could ever hold on to in order to show off their skill?
Another dance that showed distinct roles of the female of and male participants was the performance representing Korea. The woman were standing mostly in lines facing the audience, while the men were spinning and jumping with their special ribbon hats, presenting a music and dance practice known as Pungmul. With just a slight movement of their heads the dancers would manipulate the long ribbons connected to their hats and make them track very wide concentric circles around themselves. I was excited to have witnessed this performance as it reminded me of the Choreomundus sessions with prof. Judy Van Zile. The dance ethnologist offered great insights on Korean Dance and a very descriptive overview of dance genres practiced in Korea today. Hip hop for example, has developed its own character in Korea and has contributed to the different hip hop styles worldwide. An extremely useful perspective from which prof. Van Zile used to explain and analyse dance phenomena and their social contexts was through the notion of 'relationships'. We observe dances in relation to something, or someone, or some other dance. We obtain certain information about dances depending on the relationships we build with our interlocutors.
Even in this case, I have been writing about the Earthdancers festival from the Choreomundus lens. I might not had attended this series of performances if it hadn’t been for Choreomundus, the knowledge I obtained from this programme and the fantastic individuals I met, my favourite of all time EarthDancers…
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in all posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the association or the MA program.