2010 – Court ballet into milky–bar–arts’ times: a Cultural Studies’ view of dance reconstruction

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What does the term ‘milky-bar-art’ mean? The materials used for expressing artistic ideas by some contemporary artists, especially perforators, fitters or even stage setting creators, give the impression of either abominably low-quality fakes or kitschiness of the eighties. On the one hand, it seems to follow the designer trends and so-called sociorealism aesthetics perfectly, but on the other hand, it’s the result of the beautification process the daily life is exposed to. If one were to look up the actual ‘milk bar’ definition, he would surely see that such a place is rather cheap, neither exquisite nor meeting the clients’ needs. Its main goal is to satiate one for a moment, stuff him up, sate his appetite. The similar pattern concerns art. More and more often artists, as the result of the projections of their emotions, serve us up with the products proudly bearing the name of contemporary art; homogenised aesthetic pulp. The artistic returns to pop art or references to the revolutionary tastes through re-creation and semantic deconstruction are not always the outcome of any conscious actions. The artists are neither aware of their technique and skills nor, needless to say, of the fact that they have just strayed far beyond the traditional forms of the artistic creation.

The same phenomenon appears as far as dance is concerned. In Poland, numerous TV-shows such as: ‘You can dance’, ‘Taniec z gwiazdami’ (“Dance with stars”), or ‘Gwiazdy tańczą na lodzie'(Stars Dancing on Ice) ushered in a new dancing-era. The abovementioned programmes present us with the pleasant (though not aesthetic), spectacular (though far from theatrical) pulp-dance. Its choreographies are reflection of the greatest choreographers’ works, but having been sprinkled with pop-culture flavour (for the easy digestion’s sake), they are not targeted at too refined an audience. But all those choreographies take only the ludic elements on, while conveying no considerable message, being utterly bereft of its semiotics. The rest of the world resembles the situation pretty accurately (one cannot omit the fact that the Polish television copied the fad from the Western Europe and America). In comparison, however, Polish ‘You can dance’ places itself much above American, Spanish or German counterparts.

The phenomenon of increased interest in dancing has an undeniable effect on stage dancing. The critique dance, the postmodern dance and the ballet are, after all, more and more often replaced by demi-classique. It should provoke the discussion amongst culture researchers  on the actual meaning of any dance reconstruction. First and foremost, the dance reconstruction, as it can be noticed in other fields of fine arts, is the answer for the post modernistic historism. The need for knowing the sources stems from the search for the truth about our descent. Browsing through different reflections upon dance based on the earliest choreologic works, one realises the various interest dance aroused throughout the ages. The aim of the re-creation should, however, be born in mind. Generally, there are two main methods: either the courtly dance is going to be the rudimentary medium of conveying lucid messages to contemporary public, or similarly to the folk dances in Polish People’s Republic, dance will acquire peculiar touch of the already ended history and will become another dull mush fed to tourists visiting historical sites.

In this presentation I will point to different occurrences of the reconstructed courtly dance, usually blended with the mass culture. There are many examples, both positive (understanding by this creative, aesthetic use of dance as an art) and negative. The review will range from Madonna’s stage shows to different films as well as the opera and stage dancing. All in all, dance and its semiotic background are not only another highbrow art, but also our everyday life.

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Tomasz Marcin Wrona