Genres and styles
2018 - Director : Plasson, Fabien
Choreographer(s) : Mudgal, Madhavi (India) Valli, Alarmel (India) Petipa, Marius (France) Ek, Mats (Sweden) Carlson, Carolyn (France) Rizzo, Christian (France) Brown, Trisha (United States) Merzouki, Mourad (France) Marin, Andrés (Spain)
Author : Anne Décoret-Ahiha
What is dance? In the 1960s, dance anthropologists attempted to arrive at a universal definition, applicable to all the forms that can be encountered worldwide.
For behind terms such as “ballet”, “modern”, “jazz”, etc., lie distinct groups of characteristics in gesture, dynamic, music, use of space and even dress.
Once familiar with the codes and conventions that govern a particular genre, the viewer is better able to recognise and appreciate all it has to offer. But between “hip-hop”, “flamenco” and “modern” dancers, there are also differences of style which have to do with personality, the performer’s feelings, etc.
Some work with crossovers, drawing their inspiration from different dance vocabularies. Others set out to explore new avenues and, in so doing, contribute to the emergence of new currents. Dance remains unique - a one-off living art!
Samanvaya - Madhavi Mudgal et Alarmel Valli
In India where all art is sacred, there is a classical dance tradition which draws its sources from the great mythological texts. There are seven main styles, including Bharata Natyam performed by the dancer on the left of the screen and Odissi, on the right. Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal put these two styles into perspective and so bring out the distinctive features of each and their similarities. The very upright posture of the one contrasts with the undulating curves of the other, as marked by three points of flexion: head, upper body and hips. The hand gestures might be based on the same symbolism, but how different they are in practice! Each style expresses the energy of the divinity to which it is linked. Power and vigour in the case of the former, in the image of the god Shiva. Grace and sensuality for the latter, better suited to the temperament of Vishnu.
Le lac des cygnes – Marius Petipa
Let us return to Europe and Swan Lake. Tutus and pointes characterize the classical ballet vocabulary. Based on the principals of en-dehors and aplomb, it is expressed in pure and graceful lines: the verticality of the supporting leg, the arabesque of the leg behind, the diagonal of the arms extended by a graceful hand. This principle of movement is to be found in the impeccably synchronous way the corps de ballet moves, dividing up the stage space into linear, circular or rectangular shapes. This pursuit of uniformity is also one of classical dance’s driving forces!
Giselle – Mats Ek
This extension of the leg, prolonged by the rear elongation of the opposite arm, illustrates a movement and a form characteristic of classical dance. And yet Mats Ek choreography is closer to the “neoclassical” style. A fact confirmed by the sequence on the ground, where the female dancer crawls under her partner, and when she walks with her feet parallel and even en dedans. All elements that bear little resemblance to academic codes! Using classical vocabulary whilst taking a few liberties with its conventions this is what Russian choreographers such as Michael Fokine and George Balanchine did in the course of the 20th century. As for the term “neoclassical”, it only emerged in 1949 penned by Serge Lifar.
Blue lady – Carolyn Carlson
Contemporary dance underwent an explosion in France in 1980. It was with this new term that the young generation, who had studied in the modern schools in the United States and Germany, claimed their right to exist on the dance stage. There were no similarities between the choreographic styles that came through. In short, arthouse dance, which has as many different faces as it has choreographers.
Carolyn Carlson's style is instantly recognizable: fluidity of the torso, multidirectional projection of arms and legs, thrusts turned aside, rolled up, stopped; whirling skips and studied slow-motion. The broad range of qualities in the movement renders Carolyn Carlson’s dance unpredictable and shot through with fantasy.
100% polyester – Christian Rizzo
Through the physical disappearance of the performer and the simplicity of the approach, Christian Rizzo's installation queries the origin of the danced gesture. Where does this latter begin? Does it necessarily come from the dancer’s body? And the choreographic performance, is it supposed to be danced? These are the questions which were raised at the dawn of the 1990s by a movement of French contemporary dance, the “non-dance”, which rejects virtuosity and technical expertise, by removing the danced movement.
Interplay - Jazz tap ensemble
Jazz is, first and foremost, a style of music followed by a whole series of dances with syncopated rhythms. Among them, tap dance is distinct in its use of the foot as an actual percussion instrument. A complexity of rhythmic and sonorous combinations developed according to whether the impact on the floor takes place with the heel, the tip or the flat of the shoe. To achieve this, the dancers continually shift their point of support, passing from one leg to the other, sequencing sliding, jumping, pas chassés and croisés. When the orchestra falls silent, they give free reign to improvisation, competing with each other in dexterity, before picking up the same sequence together again.
El Trilogy – Trisha Brown
A key figure of postmodern dance that emerged in the USA in the 1960s, Trisha Brown, who refused both academic and modern heritage, enriches this more recent work with the spirit of jazz. The qualities specific to the American choreographer’s dance - looseness and fluidity - find a resonance in the isolations and hip swaying of jazz dance. In an intimate dialogue with the music, the choreography also becomes orchestral. The performers do appear not as a synchronous group but as body instruments, which, while playing together, express their own individual specificity.
Agwa - Mourad Merzouki
The dancers in Agwa are also Brazilian, but its choreographer is none other than Mourad Merzouki from the Käfig company. He devised a dance on the theme of water, that precious source of life, which interweaves figures from popping and breakdance with elements of capoeira and samba. The soundtrack is also made up of diverse musical styles, not normally associated with these types of movement, and this contributes to the build up of energy by the dancers.
El cielo de tu boca - Andrés Marin
Flamenco, an Andalusian gypsy dance which became a theatrical art at the beginning of the 20th century continues to explore new avenues. Andrés Marin embodies this flamenco, which one might call “contemporary”, through his pared-down scenic aesthetic, but also through his distinctive style. The way he stamps his feet on the floor is delicate and subtle. His arms define a somewhat linear space. Alternating intense tension with relaxation, the dance nonetheless remains faithful to that energy, so characteristic of flamenco, which sometimes borders on transcendence: that untranslatable state known as “duende”.
Katlehong Cabaret – Via Katlehong
Energy, fervour, enthusiasm is also what the dancers of Via Katlehong communicate. We also discover the percussive dimension of the dance: with feet-stamping, hand-clapping which characterize gumboots, a dance, born in the gold mines of South Africa, invented by the black miners who developed a rhythmic communication code using their rubber boots. Gumboots is now danced on international stages by troupes eager to reveal the history of the South African people. This is illustrated by Katlehong Cabaret, a show designed as a succession of paintings that evoke life in the townships.
In more depth
BRETECHE, Guy. Histoire du Flamenco : Eloge de l'éclair. Biarritz : Atlantica, impr. 2008. 257 p.
CHALLET-HAAS, Jacqueline. Terminologie de la danse classique. Paris : éd. Amphora, 1987. 159 p. (Sports et loisirs).
FRETARD, Dominique. Danse contemporaine : danse et non danse : vingt-cinq ans d'histoires. Paris : Editions Cercle d'art, impr. 2004. 174 p. (Le cercle chorégraphique contemporain ; 1).
GUEST, Ivor, ALEXANDRE, Paul (trad.). Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris : trois siècles d'histoire et de tradition. Paris : Théâtre National de l’Opéra : Flammarion, 2001. 336 p.
LUSTI-NARASIMHAN, Manjula. Bharatanatyam : la Danse classique de l'Inde. Genève : Adam Biro ; Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, 2002. 175 p.
MOÏSE, Claudine. Danse hip hop : respect!. Montpellier : Indigène, 2004. 135 p. (Indigène esprit).
NOISETTE, Philippe. Danse contemporaine mode d’emploi. Paris : Flammarion, 2010. 254 p.
PLISSON, Michel. Tango : du noir au blanc. Paris : Cité de la musique ; Arles : Actes Sud, 2001. 1 vol. (180 p.) + 1 CD audio. (Musiques du monde).
POUDRU, Florence. Serge Lifar : la danse pour patrie. Paris : Hermann, DL 2007. 255 p. (Hermann Danse).
SEGUIN, Eliane. Danse jazz : une poétique de la relation. Pantin : Centre national de la danse, 2017. 352 p.
SORIGNET, Pierre-Emmanuel. Danser : enquête dans les coulisses d'une vocation. Paris : La Découverte, impr. 2010. 321 p. (Textes à l’appui. Série Enquêtes de terrain).
VENKATARAMAN, Leela, PASRICHA, Avinach. La danse classique indienne : une tradition en transition. [S.I.] : Editions de Lodi, 2003. 144 p.
AUGE, Catherine, PAIRE, Yvonne. L'Engagement corporel dans les danses traditionnelles de France métropolitaine [en ligne]. Ministère de la culture et de la communication, 2006. Disponible sur : http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/dmdts2006/publications/etude-dansestraditionnelles.pdf
Anne Décoret-Ahiha is an anthropologist of dance, doctor of Paris 8 University. Speaker, trainer and consultant, she develops proposals around dance as an educational resource and designs participatory processes mobilizing corporeality. She animates the "Warming up of the spectator" of the Maison de la Danse.
Texts and bibliography selection
Maison de la Danse
The "Genres and styles" course was launched thanks to the support of General Secretariat of Ministries and Coordination of Cultural Policies for Innovation (SCPCI)