Something Happens When Everybody Moves
Dance as ritual, protest, and aspiration
A program of short dance films/videos curated by Terry Fox
3–4 pm · 4–5 pm · 5–6 pm · 6–7 pm
Comcast Auditorium, Lower Level
Planetary Dance, Anna Halprin (USA/2016/12.18 min), You better second line! Jazz funeral in New Orleans for Juanita Brooks (David Curley/USA/2009/7.38 min), Flying Lesson (Rosane Chamecki, Phil Harder & Andrea Lerner/USA/2008/5.49 min), Occupy Wall Street: the story behind seven months of protest (www.guardiannews.com/USA/2012/4.42 min), Occupy (Stephan Koplowitz and Axis Dance Company/USA/2017/4.24 min), Holi Festival Of Colour (BBC Planet Earth II/UK/2016/2.50 min), Beat Box Philly (Warren Bass and Liz Goldberg/USA/2003/4.44 min), The Making of Episode 31 (Alexander Ekman/USA/2017/5.24 min), Man Walking Down the Side of a Building (Courtesy of Trisha Brown Archive/USA/1970/2.35 min), “Its Show Time" Amazing Dance in a NYC Subway (SVfrosTV on YouTube/USA/2017/0.42 min), Translucence (Jeannette Ginslov/UK/2015/7.08 min)
This past February 2018 thousands of people filled the streets of Philadelphia in a spontaneous combustion of celebration over the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. A week later it is said that over a million filled the streets again for the victorious team’s homecoming parade. Celebrants had green hair, wore green clothes and dog masks (symbolizing the rise of the underdog). One man spread his grandfather's ashes on the Parkway parade route!
Barbara Ehrenreich in her book Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy remarks how sports in today's world provide one of the last ways people can experience collective ecstasy. She ends her book stating, “We need more on this crowded planet to acknowledge the miracle of our simultaneous existence with some sort of celebration.” 1
When invited to curate a video program for the Philadelphia Museum of Dance, the charge was to consider how people gather, considering it as “choreographic assembly.” This idea was inspired by the conceptual thinking of French choreographer Boris Charmatz, who is a featured guest artist in the Philadelphia Museum of Dance event. His Musée de la danse is a “nomadic idea” which observes and places dance or the art of motion, in various spaces and places enlarging the ways we can observe and participate in both performative gestures and political attentions. “Offbeat propositions and fantasy collections are all born directly from a reflection on what this playful and hybrid museum could become. Turning upside down the established relations between audience, art, and its physical and imaginary territories.” 2
With all this in mind I set out thinking first about the way we move in urban space, in everyday passage or artistically choreographed presentations or in mass turnouts. I also thought back to my first encounters with dancing in the streets in movies, like Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography for West Side Story, where tough teenage gang members commandeer playgrounds, sidewalks and empty lots, or Gene Kelly’s puddle stomping tap dance in Singin’ in the Rain. I thought about how Kelly’s romantic solo later morphed into Michael Jackson’s censored protest in his Black or White video. I googled the numerous “flash mob” videos posted on YouTube. There was a lot to consider.
I also thought back to a dance on film/video series that I co-curated for Philadelphia Dance Projects with Gretjen Clausing, currently Director of PhillyCAM. Over 10 years of looking at entries and screening some of the most interesting dance documentaries and short works, including YouTube posts and MTV, has revealed that the overriding content of the work had to do with the desire on the part of dancers/choreographers and videographers to move dance off the proscenium theater stage and out into the world—to be present in and responsive to what is the natural world and the human-made one within it. In short films and videos, dancers were everywhere—train stations, beaches, steps of formidable architecture, abandoned city spaces, and wide open landscapes. Pedestrian motions mingled with or were augmented by all kinds of dance styles.
This program is a sampling of some of those attempts by artists as well as the everyday public to reclaim natural and civic space through movement, dance, ritual, and protest. The program title riffs off of an Albert Einstein quote: “Nothing happens until something moves.” What is it that happens when everyone moves? What new meaning emerges? What connections are made? The selected videos may demonstrate ways people have found answers.
We humans are always alone and together. As cultural philosopher Michel de Certeau has observed of people in the city, “Their swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities.” 3
In these films and videos we see how people assert their physical presence in conventional and unconventional ways, through making art, thorough mourning, through celebrating, through protest movements, through flights of fancy—in a dance that reflects what many things, feelings, beauties, and changes can happen when everybody moves.
1 Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.
Henry Holt & Co. (2006) p. 261
2 Boris Charmatz, Musée de la danse
3 Michel de Certeau. Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Rendall, University of California Press (1984) p. 97
Photo: George Simian