Friday, July 16, 2010

MA SODA 'entry examination' UDK 2010 Writing exercise: Critique of another appilcant's solo: 'Flashdance' - By Alexa Wilson

Q: 'What did you see? How did it work? What was its wider frame of reference? What critical feedback do you have?'

I saw Bulut from Serbia, a tall woman with big black hair in a skant black leotard, perform the beginning of the audition routine from the 1983 movie 'Flashdance' just as it was done in the film to its hit song 'What a Feeling'. She performed it complete with making a mistake and asking to begin again, which she did twice before continuing to deconstruct the notion of an audition, 'art' and contemporary dance conventions as they currently stand in Europe through a monologue which parodied dance and herself as a performer.

To me the irony of her deconstruction was that satirical dance deconstruction itself is now a well utilised convention within contemporary choreography, originated by Pina Bausch in the 1980s and the likes of Jerome Bell in the 1990s. Therefore I presume that she was self-consciously playing upon cliches as such references to 'Flashdance' and the trend towards 1980s retro being 'hip', which has usurped the western world for the past 10-15years.

This solo was clever within its own conceptual framework and well performed by Bulut, taking the audience on an initially cringeful journey of cliche through an enticing and skillful presentation of theatrical piss-takes of various conventions within post-modern dance, which became demonstrative. These consisted of referencing 'using intuition' like a sniffer dog, 'internally motivated movements' which were basically hip hop moves, intellectualising herself within an existential paradigm of 'reflections', being 'out of control' and being 'smart, but not too smart' as well as 'pretentious'. It was entertaining and a strong piece, evidence of a quixotic and sharp mind and clever wit.

The journey of descent that the work took was into a neurotic, narcissistic, self-referencing set of mock 'confessions' and the work ended with her dancing to another of 'Flashdance's songs 'Maniac' and tossing herself clumsily around on the floor with limbs landing heavily before sneaking off the stage and out of sight before the music ended.

I thought it was particularly clever in summarising what this audition process for the MA SODA course is, which is an experimental, intellectual European dance version of 'Flashdance'. She referenced not only this film's cult status to ironically 'express' the way that dance essentially can no longer because it is seemingly in the grips of serious intellectualism and physical minimalism, but to deconstruct the intensity of the conventional audition process itself, which is the part of this film that her dance referenced. This film is very 'hip' right now.

My main criticism of this work is along the lines of my current questioning about post-modern dance in general. Satire is now an institution within contemporary dance and so is speaking through an entire 'dance'. Dance has long since been the 'new theatre' in Europe. With all her skills, performance talents and well crafted ideas, perhaps Bulut could turn her attentions to deconstructing something beyond dance itself, such as any number of pressing issues in the world right now. This not only risks more personal exposure as an artist but contributes something to the world at a time when it is actually in crisis. It is also safe and no longer boundary pushing when something becomes a trend as it is afraid to actually say something which has genuine risk involved.

Deconstruction is very important to any art form in questioning power structures and humour can be powerful, but there are a few more interesting things that this performer could put these skills and talents to than entertaining the dance scene with self mockery. I also wonder, where to from here with self-referential deconstruction, which brings us to the surface? Does this actually unconsciously mirror the larger state of the world in not really knowing? In which case the post-modern theorists have won their case and a reflection of surfaces is all we now have- even inside such (self) bludgeoning artistic 'self-consciousness'.

By Alexa Wilson