1. I don’t really know anything about dance, but ignorance never stopped me before, so here goes. By “dance” I mean what we usually mean, both the high-art spectacle and the participatory pastime, both ballet and quadrilles. But I also mean any cultural practice that involves some kind of choreography, which would in a broad sense include what in theater is called “blocking”, and really any ceremonial or ritual motion of the body or its prostheses that achieves what Gregory Bateson calls “metacommunication”: representation deeper than, or antecedent to, language. Funeral processions, Guignol puppet-shows, kayfabe wrestling, Crip Walking, a conga line at a wedding: oh man, it’s all just so
It seems to me that what we're lacking today in the "modern" West, and what the "primitive", dancing cultures you describe do not lack, is the capacity and will to do some ~thing~ (dance, ritual, etc.) together that has no first-order, direct value (financial or otherwise), and to treat this ~thing~ with the care and reverence needed to do it right. We are an atomized culture, so we don't do much together. And, we are a fundamentally irreverent culture, so what we do must always have some first-order, direct objective -- making money, staying healthy, etc. -- at the individual level. No higher-order values for us, please. Of course, much of the historical avant-garde reveled in irreverence, and the dismantling of old follies. The new avant-garde would need to be in reaction against our atomized, irreverent, first-order culture. How can we do things right, as if they really matter, without a sense of the sacred, without grounding in tradition? And, in doing so, how can we maintain an impish, exuberant good humor that mocks self-serious autocrats like Turkmenistan's deceased 'Head of the Turkmen' and France's long-deceased Sun King. No doubt, it will be a hard line for us to dance.
From the historical dance archives...
This essay: Decidedly not phooey!
In that alternate reality are you making boots? I know that’s probably not it. It’s probably some brand I’m not aware of. But god damn that would be pretty sweet, a guy named Justin wearing Justin boots, that he made! Way I figure it a guy like that might have an awful lot to dance for.
The paragraph on Wagner reminds of Anna Mikhailova's operatic aspiration (though not the de-Judaized part!) - particularly in her "Ultimate Game" combining football (a/k/a soccer to Americans) and opera. It is "not to make a performance of football players running around while singing Wagner", she notes, but where "Opera should learn from football how to inspire the happy intensity of feeling that you are present, as you watch teams playing with the ball. I am curious to see how football ACTIVITY can grow within the RULES OF OPERA...." She is talking about EXUBERANCE here.... https://mikhamikhailova.wixsite.com/annamikhailova/ultimategameopera
"Perhaps, one of these days, when we’re feeling really carefree, we’ll go out dancing."
I often recommend to people that they go out dancing. Works for me.
Enjoyed your essay, My wife (Fresno girl) and daughter took up ball room dance about five years ago. The dance floor is a great place to leave behind politics and dance off some the residual exuberance left over from 74 years of life.
Here's the more recent (and detailed) talk:
Thanks, Justin. Need to print this out and read it since I invariably end up skimming online.
Thought you might like the second half of this (on modern dance. Starts around the 43 min mark. He also has a more recent video on dance):
All that cultural innovation, transgression, and play of the unmoored imagination...wasn't that in some sense synonymous with late capitalism, something that helped foster it? Thinking of Daniel Bell's Cultural Contradictions but also Rieff, here. As Robert Hughes asked: what happens when the shock of the new doesn't shock any more. No wonder sensitive souls in the late 19th c. wanted to escape Europe and go back to what they thought was the "primitive" (the subconcious, rather than the surpa-).
I think you're really onto something with this idea of 'burnout' in the 70s. Mark Fisher (citing Berardi): the world ended in 1976. Do you hear that in Miles Davis' 'In a Silent Way'?
I am waiting for another sale so that I can grab an annual subscription (having accidentally cancelled the discounted monthly one when I tried to change the payment method)…
Thanks for the education/lead/reminder on Kant.
""We call those echoes “art”, but this term marks out an anthropologically distinct, and likely unusual, ontological commitment to a nature-culture divide that all human societies by no means share. A more basic and universal account of what is going on might be suggested in the notion of exuberance.""
If we wish to play/dance then we can blur our categories by slashing them together, to hold in mind in order to unfrack our attention in a creative blur: art/rites/dance/rituals/religion/morallity/world/worlding/world-building/living/exuberance
I am not here to subscribe but exuberate.
This piece reminded me of the most exhilarating movie I’d seen in years, Gaspar Noe’s “Climax.” I was slightly stoned when I saw it, but I’m still fairly sure that it was, indeed, avant-garde, and was almost all about the promise of dance.
You continue to inspire me. I am forced to examine my own work to be certain I am not merely parroting your perspective through the scrim of my own. Or perhaps I should simply stop the examination and be subsumed. In any case, many thanks.