[iDC] First/Second Life dance/music

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Thu Jul 9 23:31:03 UTC 2009

I hope this isn't out of order here, but Scott's work in Second Life 
relates to some of the work Foofwa d'Imobilite, Azure Carter, and I have 
been doing over the past ten years or so. Foofwa and I are interested in 
issues of labor and work as they relate to dance and music production; his 
choreography challenges traditional notions of 'invisible work' which 
everyone from Merce Cunningham dancers to ballerinas 'do' (not to mention 
ice-skaters, etc.). Labor and its description have been integral to a 
number of his Foofwa's pieces, which at times are accompanied by verbal 
descriptions of the physicality involved, the 'gift' given to the 
audience, and so forth. In our work together, we've performed pieces such 
as Ennui, where we dance/play together as fast as possible until we can't 
continue - again, the physicality of the production (in a situation of 
course within which the physicality is supposed to be transparent, of no 
account). I do a lot of work in Second Life, and Foofwa, Azure, and myself 
have 'translated' complex avatar movement (created from files produced 
from rewritten motion capture software, but that's another story) into 
real-world performance; the movements are really impossible to imitate (in 
terms of choreography, topology, and speed), and the performances end up 
dealing with the labor and fit of 'real' bodies in real time in relation 
to 'virtual' bodies in real time. There are contradictions in all of this; 
there is also a disturbing background - how little dancers are paid or 
respected for their labor, (the dancers I know rehearse, say, 4-6 
hours/day) - and how dance such as ballet or Cunningham requires enor- 
mous commitment and stress, in relation to health issues, injury, aging, 
and even personal relationship problems - commitment which is taken for 
granted, and almost never acknowledged. The dancer commits hir entire body 
to work and a work span in general of two or three decades at most (of 
course there are exceptions; Merce is one of them). It's somewhat 
different for musicians, (and this also depends on the musical culture, 
habitus, etc.), but the problems are similar. There were a spate of 
articles about all of this in relation to Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 
years ago - feminist analyses of figure skating in terms of the 'perfect' 
fluid body and lack of sweat. (Harding was derided for her thighs, for 
example - more than praised for her athletic skill.) Finally, there's a 
tendency to decry physical labor in these areas in terms of creativity and 
art, as if a soccer player is less an artist than a painter. Foofwa's work 
also touched in this in pieces such as Dance/Run, which involved dancing 
while running in city streets for ten-fifteen kilometers or so; he trained 
for months to be able to accomplish this.

If this has been covered before on the list, apologies.

- Alan

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