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Movie Review: Swing Kids

5 Feb

Dance is a form of movement. Not just the one made by the body to the rhythm of the music, but how people unite and become a strong unit to protect their society. It is a creative yet powerful way to rebel against those who fail to understand one’s ideals and belief. It’s inviting and moving.

Swing Kids is a movie about a group of kids, the “Swing Kids”, whose passion was dancing the Swing or Jitterbug. The Nazis tried to control their “dance parties” as they believe that through their music and dance, they are rebelling against Hitler and Nazism. Occasionally these kids got into fights with the brownshirts of the Hitler Youth brigades. This was in Nazi Germany during 1939.

The main plot of the movie is not really dancing but how it creates a powerful way of self expression and idealism. Instead of joining the Army, Peter, Thomas and the rest of their group used dance as a form of political outlet. Since during this period, Hitler was already proposing a holocaust against the Jews, the Swing Kids did not allow themselves to be pressured to join HJ, because they would rather do something that they are passionate about than embark themselves into a world where they know they will end up dead. But due to a bad timing of stealing a baker’s radio, Peter was forced to join HJ. Thomas, claiming he is Peter’s friend, joined HJ as well to give Peter his support. They were both enjoying the best of both worlds: HJ in the morning; being Swing Kids at night. Unfortunately, Thomas was brainwashed into the Nazi ideals and clouded his judgement. This cause the life of one of their friends. War was between the two friends and eventually, Peter had to resign himself to what he truly loves to do, dancing. At the end, he ended up being joined in the work group just because he stuck with his belief that he would rather be free than become a Nazi.

In the movie, it was shown that dancing was prohibited during the Hitler period because the Nazis believe that the music that was played during dance parties brings hidden message to the people who join. And since they don’t play German/Nazi music, they are threatened that their people will be turning against them. This clearly shows that dancing can be a very successful propaganda when dealing with political issues. Even the music that is being played affected the beliefs of the Nazis that’s why they would require the song played on the radio be a German song. This shows their nationalism.

Even if I got dizzy watching the actors dance in the film (due to fast and jerky movements. I’m a ballerina, I’m used to seeing fluid and graceful movements. Sorry. 😉 ), I was able to appreciate the beauty of the dances there. I admit that they aren’t my cup of tea and you will not see me dance the Jitterbug or even a swing that often but the movie somehow opened my mind to a new perspective in dance. One positive factor was that I got into the music (old songs are my favorite) so that added to the charisma of the film. 🙂

Swing Kids does not only show how people were able to come up with a way to rebel against the Nazis but it also showed how dance can be a strong and an effective way of communicating with people.

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Dancing in One World

26 Jan

*Chapter 8 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

Dance, just any other thing, cannot be detached from the people who make and perform it. It has a life of its own and exists in time. It shows us different stories from the past, present and future. It lets the people be aware of events that define the society.

It continues to preserve its essence through the different interpretation of people. The past comes alive in its dances as long as the dancer of today feels alive while performing it. Music is also a part of this conservation. A lot of notations have already been developed to continually tell the story of the dances and add some elements from the present and future. Artists have also contributed to this by sharing messages through their dance, music and performances.

Dance truly reaches out to the people. It communicates and shares the tradition of a society from generation to generation. Dance creates a world where people have respect from one another. Dance is the most powerful tool in creating unified existence.

Modernizing Dance

26 Jan

*Chapter 7 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

The revolution of dance was not just about how the dancers move. It’s also about how the art form should be made and whom. Mostly in dance theaters, men were the ones who are on stage but women were the stars of ballet. Ballet was unique in one way but since society is male-dominant, change in the performers and how the art form should be catered to the people were still hard to resist. That brought the modernization of dance during the 19th century where it was endeavored by the public and women’s talents were not just watched but also idolized. Thus, ballerinas were well rewarded; they both had money and fame. They had no reasons to disengage themselves to the institutions that the society’s traditions had taught them. Women were now empowered to set up their own shop and proclaim their selves as artists. Ballerinas goal was self expression and that triggered the impetus in dance theater. There was freedom when it comes to expressing the dance.

Modernizing dance started when women created something that poets and artists took for granted: the intention to follow personal inspiration without catering to the taste of some private institution. This is what was known as Romanticism. A lot of  iconic women involved themselves in transforming dance from expensive entertainment into free self expression.

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New Worlds of Dance*

6 Jan

*Chapter 6 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

Dance through Time

Dance in most cultures requires the members to perform movements with other individuals that are approved by their society. It started as a conservative force or medium to rally the faithful to religious devotions, give public sanction to private feelings, define community standards of behavior and test their limits. Traditional forms of dance reaffirms time-honored ways of relating the members of the society to their institutions and gods. So when change threatens the values and customs of the society, the dances can also be affected. And since our world is now gearing towards globalization, societies who hold dear to their traditional dances proclaim their allegiance to the values of their dances as a whole, or at least with most of their members.

Social Dance

As part of growing, whether as individuals or societies, people will tend to leave their communities to “seek greener pastures”. Subconsciously, people take dance with them. This is when they arrive in a new place and start dancing during social events, they re-create an important part of their culture. And when people from different heritages gather and dance as a group, there is a fusion of dance forms. There will be a mix of traditional, social and modern dances and people will be amazed at how they were able to borrow and transform movements and reflect new social realities.

From the time that slaves were traded in America and Africa, to the courtesans from the Europe and the ballroom dancing to the upbeat music of the Americas, the traditional dances from these places have influenced one another by their history. The variety of the dances were fueled by the “dancing of the slaves” and was brought to the “big houses” or “courts” of the kings and queens. And during the Civil War in America, people needed to divert their attention and fear and have an outlet through dancing. These factors have contributed to the new worlds of dance and the history and heritage of each society have greatly influenced by it. The generation of today may not understand the background of the dances because they are too focused on the steps rather than understanding where the steps/movements came from. We should strive to educate the people since we are part of the waning new world and into the modern world.

Slave Trade Poster

 

French Dances

Romero and Grable

 

Classical Dance Theater*

5 Jan

*Chapter 5 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

All art holds a mirror up to the society that produces it. — Yup, definitely true. As an dancer for 22 years, I think I was able to grasp the concept of “art” through dancing. Since I started learning ballet, I got interested in reading books and watching movies/documentaries about culture and art. Indeed, the culture of a nation reflects through their art. I believe that the success of a nation doesn’t always depend on their government or religion, but also through their arts. I’ve seen a number of countries who can describe this.

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Social Dance*

28 Dec

*Chapter 4 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

Social dancing socializes.

Social Dance

I definitely agree with this statement because I believe that dancing not only entertains people, but it also brings them closer to each other. The author said that we only become aware of how much our social dances reflect the values of our society when we come into contact with a society whose dances differ greatly from our own— that is why during global conventions, participants perform dances that will show the audience a glimpse of what their culture is about. As I mentioned from my previous entries, dancing is the universal mode of communication when it comes to culture, traditions and values.

Around the world, people dance during social occasions. This shows the importance of dancing to the society. These dances celebrate rites of passage, whether they are tied to a particular place or time or people just seeking out companionship during social events.

I was very interested in learning that in some cultures, dancing is a way to teach young people how men and women behave in their society. It shows practice in gender-specific roles and attitudes in a society. Dancing can also pass along social skills and practices, acceptable by the public. And all of these are done in the name of pleasure.

Another factor that intrigued me is how dancing was connected to sexuality. Since we all know that Christianity is a strict religion, their perception of hip gyrations and flapping knees are ways of attracting coercion between men and women. But they weren’t able to comprehend well that in cultures like in Cook Island in Rarotonga, even if they display movements such as these, men and women never touch each other. This shows how the dancers are able to fit their bodies together in matching curves without actually touching. That is one skill that is very special because it elicits control, power and focus from the dancers.

Dancing also gives women the power to control in the society. In Islam cultures, they celebrate the sexual nature of men and women. The essence of women being a dangerous being to social order describes the power of the feminine body. Men are vulnerable to female charms and lose control over their bodily urges. This idea makes women a strong persona in the society’s perception of sexuality. Women has the power to make the men weak, even if they deny it.

This chapter also talked about couple dancing. Since in some Western culture there are dances that require couples performing, the essence of being a leader and follower was always an issue. The one unbreakable rule of couple dancing is that the partners must move in sync or as a unit. Even if there are societies that say men are superior than women, when it comes to dancing, women can also take charge. They need to communicate with one another in order to not disturb other couples and distract the whole performance (in the case of waltz). The very structure of couple dancing is continuous communication and being aware of each other’s movements.

But since we are now living in a society where every  person practices independence…the social issue of the time, If no one leads, no one has to follow, applies. We are given a third option, which is to do what we want. And many are doing this just because they want to express their freedom from social strata and enjoy the pleasure that dancing is giving them.

Dance of the Realm*

7 Dec

*Chapter 3 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

Dancing has never just been a set of bodily movements that move through space, with music. It tells stories. Portrays different characters. Describes so many emotions. Defines social status. Distinguishes royalty to common people.

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