expressionist dance

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KAZUO OHNO

Kazuo Ohno, died in 2010 aged 103. He was one of the pioneers of butoh,Japan’s striking contribution to contemporary dance. Butoh, which incorporated elements of existentialism, surrealism, German expressionism, kabuki theatre and eastern spiritual thought, was a reaction in part to the horrors of the second world war.

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I recommend finding some clips on YouTube to get an idea of Butoh in motion.

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Wassily Kandinsky, “Dance Curves: On the Dances of Palucca” (1926)

Dancer and choreographer Gret Palucca (1902-1993) was a former student of Mary Wigman, the leading figure in German Expressionist dance. In 1925, Palucca opened her own dance studio in Dresden and developed close contacts with various Bauhaus instructors, many of whom greatly admired her dance style. Wassily Kandinsky’s four “analytical drawings,” which were based on photographs of Palucca by Charlotte Rudolph, illustrate how closely the dancer’s style coincided with the Bauhaus aesthetic. The drawings and photographs were published in the arts journal Das Kunstblatt in 1926. According to Kandinsky, Palucca’s “principal assets” were “1. Simplicity of the whole form, and 2. Construction of the large form.”

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What I find most concerning about the supposed “pedophilia” issue surround Sia’s recently released music video for “Elastic Heart”, is how bitter and jaded some of us have become, so much so they would jump to such a severe conclusion. I’d never heard of Sia before and even now I’m not a massive fan, however I do actually really like this song and the music video. “Elastic Heart” shows us an artist who has a real distinct sense of artistic identity and her ability to execute it well.  When I first saw the video, I interpreted it as a representation of a father-daughter relationship and the father’s unwillingness to let his daughter grow up and leave the safety of his protective parental cage. However it’s wide open to interpretation, but the fact that so many voiced concerns that it portrayed a paedophilic relationship is really disheartening. Have we really gotten to the point where if a pop video doesn’t exclusively show half-naked women gyrating around, we can’t understand it?

To be fair the reaction of the internet defending the video is significantly larger than those criticising it, but I find that this being an issue at all is ridiculous in itself and just downright bizarre. The reportage on both sides of the argument also frequently refer to the girl in the video as scantily clad but I ask; since when has a young girl wearing a flesh-coloured unitard been considered scantily clad? Or more specifically, when has a flesh-coloured unitard worn within the parameters of expressionist dance or physical theatre ever been considered anything other than a part of the performance?

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Mary Wigman

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Artist: Mary Wigman

Video: Hexentanz (late 1913)