Art Critique

International Dance Academy

On Thursday, September 15th, I had the opportunity to view a performance by the International Dance Academy (IDA). The Clemson University Cultural Ambassadors hosted this event, and as a result of attending, I gained a greater appreciation not only for performing arts but also for Mexican culture. There was incredible variation throughout the show; dancers performed as duets, small groups, and large groups. The IDA performed six Mexican folkloric dances that embodied the beauty of Mexican culture. September 16th is the day that Mexico achieved independence from so the performance was an outlet for celebration. While viewing the performance, I was able to evaluate the space used by the dancers, one of the primary elements of dance; focusing on this specific component further allowed me to analyze the artistic effectiveness of the performance.

Dance is one of the most well known performing arts. It goes so far beyond a simple performance. Dance combines elements that are able to communicate ideas, share dreams, and invoke emotions in the hearts of the viewers. Dance is not limited by a language or by culture; the beauty of dance extends throughout the world. By viewing this performance, I was able to overlook cultural boundaries. I did not discriminate, and I did not undermine the abilities of the dancers simply because their culture was different than mine. I was able to appreciate the beauty and learn more about Mexican culture than I would be able to by simply reading a book or doing academic research. I firmly believe that this meaningful performance was a result of the effective use of the various elements of dance.

Perhaps one of the most crucial elements of the performance was the use of space. The dancers certainly incorporated an efficient use of space into their dance routines. Each dance varied in the number of performers, so some dancers appeared to be more spread out than others. For instance, if ten dancers were performing, then the whole stage was used, but if only two dancers were performing, the middle of the stage was primarily used. Overall, there was a fairly medium level of space used throughout the dances. Dancers were required to spread out appropriately so that each individual had plenty of room to perform moves and travel around the stage. In addition, this helped to make the maximum use of space so that all dancers drew attention from the audience. Dancers transitioned well between the use of upstage and downstage. The dancers’ presence in the upstage made concentration more difficult for the viewers because it increased the amount of space between the dancers and the audience. However, the dancers’ presence in downstage helped the audience to focus on the details of the dances.

The dancers moved in various directions, thus creating natural lines for the audience to follow in order to stay focused. Dancers often moved in diagonal lines. These slants allowed the audience to visualize multiple dancers at a time, and transitions from one place to another did not necessarily place only one individual in the spotlight. The orientation of the dancers varied depending on the style of the dance. During partner dances, each pair was oriented so that each member was face-to-face. During large or small group dances, the dancers were oriented so that they were facing the audience at all times. The pathway of the dancers’ movement mostly consisted of curved and straight lines. By doing so, an overall appearance of spatial organization was created. Dancers did not ever appear to be scattered in a random fashion but instead appeared to move in whatever way could make the most efficient use of the space provided. Lastly, the use of space helped to create relationships within the dances. By dancing in close proximity to each other, the performers successfully created feelings of closeness. I was able to see their intentional relationships simply by watching the way that they respected and used each other’s space.

Overall, I feel as if the performance was absolutely incredible. I did not necessarily have high expectations when I arrived at the event, but my mind was blown immediately after it began. The dances helped to reaffirm my love and appreciation for performing arts, and it also helped to form a meaningful connection between the world and the content that has been discussed in class. Therefore, my feelings about the performance certainly changed after the first impression. I learned to appreciate the beauty and vulnerability of art with an open mind. Throughout the event, I used instrumentalism as a lens in order to judge the performance. Instrumentalism is a theory of that believes that art is created, or performed, in order to serve a purpose. The dances were more than a method of entertainment for the audience; they served as an outlet in which Mexican culture could be expressed. The orchestrator of the event explained that, within Mexican culture, dancing is a way to appreciate cultural values, traditions, and heritage. I was very intrigued, so I decided to do research on my own in order to better educate myself about the topic. The type of dance is referred to as Ballet Folklórico. It varies among different regions, but its main function is to combine various elements of history, folklore, and religion to serve as a symbol of Mexican culture (Ballet folklórico, 2016). This presentation of the performing arts gave me a new appreciation for dance and for the expression of culture. The experience was truly enlightening, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to connect performing arts to the content we have been discussing in class.  

Reflection

This activity was very enlightening and memorable for me. Growing up, I was a very involved student, and I was also a dancer for 17 years. Although these were two of my biggest passions, I always kept them separate. Dance was not the place for academic learning, and learning in the classroom was not the place for dance. This class has shown me that, in fact, dance can play an incredible role in the classroom. By watching this performance, I was able to analyze and evaluate the various elements of dance, and by doing so, I will be able to implement the use of dance and other performing arts in my own classroom. As a teacher, I will do what it takes to maintain an open mind so that all judgment shall pass. I will find joy in creative expression, despite the technique by which it is shown.

In addition, the assignment helped me to better understand and appreciate cultural diversity. I was able to see that art, especially the performing arts,  transcends all cultural boundaries. Dance conveys a message that does not need words and communicates intentions without the need to speak. Performing arts create an equal playing field on which everyone can equally express their creativity. In a future classroom, implementing this through dramatic play, centers, small group activity, or whole-group instruction would allow students to step out of the comfort zones in order to relate to their classmates and peers on an entirely new level. Dance will be encouraged, and each student’s talents will be celebrated and admired. This assignment truly challenged my original opposition to performing arts in the classroom; now I see the genuine impact that such expression can have on a student.

If I were to choose another piece to critique, I would probably choose a concert, musical, symphony, or piece of music. Similar to dance, I believe that music has the potential to transcend boundaries in simple and impactful ways. I have always had a heart, and an ear, for music, and I believe that listening to music with the intentions of critiquing what I hear would be very powerful. Music is certainly an artistic element that can, and should be, implemented in the classroom; I would love to have the opportunity to witness its powerful effects from a different perspective.

References

(2016). Ballet folkorico – the dances of Mexico. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/cham/learn/historyculture/ballet-folklorico-the-dances-of-mexico.htm

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