When Is A Dance Too Acrobatic?

acrobats from Cirq Du Solei

The incomperable Cirq Du Solei is famous for combining acrobatics and dance

Controversial dance

This surprising controversy in the dance community popped up when this video started going viral:

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But is it really dance?

Some people commented that is isn’t really dance because it’s really just a bunch of aerials and really qualifies as acrobatics rather than dance.  If you’ve read my previous posts about acrobatics and dance, “Are Gymnasts Dancers? Part 1” and “Part 11”, you know that I feel that just about any movement that goes to music qualifies as dance and why are we arguing about this anyway?  We should all get a life.

Dance Aerials in other countries

Nevertheless, it put me in mind of the German dance that they call “Rock and Roll”.  Now that, unlike the previous example that had beautiful musical interpretation and expression, really does fit the description of a bunch of aerials stuck together with a few very peculiar basic kicking steps.  Here’s an example of Rock and Roll:

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If that qualifies as dance (and it definitely does) then how can anyone argue with the first example?  Yes there is more to dance than stunning air steps, but no matter what I think of the filler steps, the spectacular aerials and the basic step that glues them together are all on beat and do go with the music.  That’s dance!

In fact, the concept of a cultural dance that consists primarily of air steps glued together with a basic step of some kind and very little else, seems to exist in vastly different cultures.  Odd though Rock and Roll’s basic straight forward kick step may look to us (or at least to me), it is in it’s own way distinctly German.

In this stunning example of Mexico’s Quebradita Acrobatica, you see the basic step continually repeated in the second part where the music speeds up.  The sexy fluidity of this movement reflects the culture of it’s parent country as well.  Gorgeous, isn’t it?

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Does it really matter what you call any of it?  It’s all highly skilled movement to music.  That’s good enough for me!

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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Pole Dancing for Everyone

 

pole dancers

A Pole Dance class at San Francisco’s Studio Botan

Pole dancing is a popular phenomenon on the exercise dance scene.  You can take classes at any fitness level in studios like the one in the photo in the bay area where I live.   

Formerly a style of dance relegated to sleazy strip joints, it has become a popular fitness dance fad.  Aimed primarily at women, it’s a challenging workout with sexy fun overtones.  You feel sexy as your body rises to the challenge of using the pole in graceful, strengthening, and sultry movements.  What a great time in history when women can learn to move this way just for fun, to use anyway they want. 

Some do it just for a fun exercise class, some to wow a romantic partner.  Some participate in competitive pole dance and some use it for its original purpose.  Who’d have thought that pole dancing as a job would ever be considered an old fashioned use of this formerly socially forbidden dance form?

Pole dancing really is for everyone now.  You don’t have to have a stripper’s body.  (Even strippers don’t have to have that body any more, but that’s another post!)  You don’t have to be young.  You don’t even have to be a woman.  Once pole dancing began to have mainstream contests, it was only a matter of time before men started getting in on the act. 

I’ve gathered a few short clips to illustrate the amazing variety of this graceful acrobatic art.  The oldest pole dancer, (yeah, she’s about my age.  60 really is the new 30!) Greta Pontarelli, eloquently speaks of her passion for the dance and why she sees it as a great fit for anyone:

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In completive pole dancing, there is now a male category.  The men don’t mimic the traditional style of women but give it their own style and flavor.   It’s easy to see why this gifted dancer took first place in the men’s division:

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And last but not least, in a fitting follow up to my Nov 15 post Who Wants to See A Fat Dancer?

Here’s an example of a dancer who doesn’t let her size get in the way of taking on and showing off her prowess in culturally forbidden dance to women of her girth.  I love the expression on the judge’s face when she does the splits in a perfect landing at the end.  Fat women are not supposed to have the strength and flexibility to do this kind of dance, and while the vote is split because she’s good but not outstanding as a dancer (my judgment) she still flies in the face of common assumptions about the capabilities of fat women and sets a powerful example to the many watchers of this popular TV show about dance being truly the birthright of everyone.

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Gymnasts as dancers, part II

 

87 year old gymnast

Gymnastics as dance demonstrated by 87 year old Johanna Quaas

This is the second post about gymnasts as promised in last week’s post Are Gymnasts Dancers? This is also part of my series on inspirational dancers still wowing us in their senior years. The subject of today’s post is Johanna Quaas, an 87 year old gymnast. In last week’s post I established my belief that a gymnastic routine does qualify as dancing, hence the appropriateness of today’s subject.

 

Watching this video reminds me of Frankie Manning’s 85th birthday dance jam. I was the last partner he danced with in his jam and he popped an effortless aerial with me as an ending flourish. Of course he never would have been able to do that if he was still learning the move, but he didn’t learn it at 85. He learned it (invented it even) as a teenager and after a few decades of doing it, could at 85 do it with a minimum of effort.

 

Johanna Quaas entered her first contest in 1934 at the age of eleven and never stopped. She achieved internet fame when in 2012 she was listed in The Guinness Book of Records as oldest gymnast in the world. She married another gymnast, and went on to coach Olympic gymnasts.  Here she is, not just demonstrating that she is still an active gymnast, but that’s she’s still a really good one!

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While not all athletes remain healthy enough to continue their activity in their eighties, those that are did not suddenly decide to get in shape and learn a new skill at 80. They may have decided to learn a new skill in their golden years, as did yoga teacher  Tao Porchon-Lynch when she took up ballroom dance in her eighties, but she was already active and in great shape from a lifelong dedication to yoga.  Very helpful if you want to blow everyone’s mind in your aging years!

 

I don’t mean to discourage any elderly couch potato from starting an active lifestyle at any age. I do, however, mean to encourage everyone to find an activity you love at whatever age you are now, and make it a part of your life. All of my stories and videos of inspirational seniors have one thing in common besides dance. All of them deeply love the activity that keeps them young. None of them exercise because somebody told them it’s good for them. All of them inspire us not only with their longevity and skill, but with their passion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: find something you love doing and in the memorable words of Roger Miller’s immortal “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd”: “Knuckle down, buckle down, Do it! Do it! Do it!”

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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