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robertogreco : madonna   3

Zadie Smith: dance lessons for writers | Books | The Guardian
"“Fred Astaire represents the aristocracy when he dances,” claimed Gene Kelly, in old age, “and I represent the proletariat.” The distinction is immediately satisfying, though it’s a little harder to say why. Tall, thin and elegant, versus muscular and athletic – is that it? There’s the obvious matter of top hat and tails versus T-shirt and slacks. But Fred sometimes wore T-shirts and slacks, and was not actually that tall, he only stood as if he were, and when moving always appeared elevated, to be skimming across whichever surface: the floor, the ceiling, an ice rink, a bandstand. Gene’s centre of gravity was far lower: he bends his knees, he hunkers down. Kelly is grounded, firmly planted, where Astaire is untethered, free-floating.

Likewise, the aristocrat and the proletariat have different relations to the ground beneath their feet, the first moving fluidly across the surface of the world, the second specifically tethered to a certain spot: a city block, a village, a factory, a stretch of fields. Cyd Charisse claimed her husband always knew which of these dancers she’d been working with by looking at her body at the end of the day: bruised everywhere if it was Kelly, not a blemish if it was Astaire. Not only aloof when it came to the ground, Astaire was aloof around other people’s bodies. Through 15 years and 10 movies, it’s hard to detect one moment of real sexual tension between Fred and his Ginger. They have great harmony but little heat. Now think of Kelly with Cyd Charisse in the fantasy sequence of Singin’ in the Rain! And maybe this is one of the advantages of earthiness: sex."



"But both men were excellent dancers. Putting aside the difference in height, physically they had many similarities. Terribly slight, long necked, thin-legged, powered from the torso rather than the backside, which in both cases was improbably small. And in terms of influence they were of course equally indebted to James Brown. The splits, the rise from the splits, the spin, the glide, the knee bend, the jerk of the head – all stolen from the same source.

Yet Prince and Jackson are nothing alike when they dance, and it’s very hard to bring to mind Prince dancing, whereas it is practically impossible to forget Jackson. It sounds irrational, but try it for yourself. Prince’s moves, no matter how many times you may have observed them, have no firm inscription in memory; they never seem quite fixed or preserved. If someone asks you to dance like Prince, what will you do? Spin, possibly, and do the splits, if you’re able. But there won’t appear to be anything especially Prince-like about that. It’s mysterious. How can you dance and dance, in front of millions of people, for years, and still seem like a secret only I know? (And isn’t it the case that to be a Prince fan is to feel that Prince was your secret alone?)

I never went to see Michael Jackson, but I saw Prince half a dozen times. I saw him in stadiums with thousands of people, so have a rational understanding that he was in no sense my secret, that he was in fact a superstar. But I still say his shows were illegible, private, like the performance of a man in the middle of a room at a house party. It was the greatest thing you ever saw and yet its greatness was confined to the moment in which it was happening."



"The art of not dancing – a vital lesson. Sometimes it is very important to be awkward, inelegant, jerking, to be neither poetic nor prosaic, to be positively bad. To express other possibilities for bodies, alternative values, to stop making sense. It’s interesting to me that both these artists did their “worst” dancing to their blackest cuts. “Take me to the river,” sings Byrne, in square trousers 20 times too large, looking down at his jerking hips as if they belong to someone else. This music is not mine, his trousers say, and his movements go further: maybe this body isn’t mine, either. At the end of this seam of logic lies a liberating thought: maybe nobody truly owns anything.

People can be too precious about their “heritage”, about their “tradition” – writers especially. Preservation and protection have their place but they shouldn’t block either freedom or theft. All possible aesthetic expressions are available to all peoples – under the sign of love. Bowie and Byrne’s evident love for what was “not theirs” brings out new angles in familiar sounds. It hadn’t occurred to me before seeing these men dance that a person might choose, for example, to meet the curve of a drum beat with anything but the matching curving movement of their body, that is, with harmony and heat. But it turns out you can also resist: throw up a curious angle and suddenly spasm, like Bowie, or wonder if that’s truly your own arm, like Byrne.

I think of young Luther Vandross, singing backup a few feet behind Bowie, during Young Americans, watching Bowie flail and thrash. I wonder what his take on all that was. Did he ever think: “Now, what in the world is he doing?” But a few performances in, it was clear to everybody. Here was something different. Something old, and yet new."
zadiesmith  dance  dancing  writing  fredastaire  genekelly  haroldnicholas  fayardnicholas  michaeljackson  prince  2016  janetjackson  madonna  beyoncé  davidbyrne  davidbowie  rudolfnureyev  mikhailbaryshnikov 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong? - The New York Times
"It’s a truth only selectively acknowledged that all cultures are mongrel. One of the first Indian words to be brought into English was the Hindi ‘‘loot’’ — ‘‘plunder.’’ Some of the Ku Klux Klan's 19th-century costumes were, of all things, inspired in part by the festival wear of West African slaves; the traditional wax-print designs we associate with West Africa are apparently Indonesian — by way of the Netherlands. Gandhi cribbed nonviolence from the Sermon on the Mount.

We sometimes describe this mingling as ‘‘cross-pollination’’ or ‘‘cross-fertilization’’ — benign, bucolic metaphors that obscure the force of these encounters. When we wish to speak more plainly, we talk of ‘‘appropriation’’ — a word now associated with the white Western world’s co-opting of minority cultures. And this year — these past several months alone — there has been plenty of talk. In film, there was the outcry over the casting of the blonde Emma Stone as the part-Chinese Hawaiian heroine of Cameron Crowe’s ‘‘Aloha.’’ In music, Miley Cyrus wore dreadlock extensions while hosting the V.M.A.s and drew accusations of essentially performing in blackface — and not for the first time. In literature, there was the discovery that Michael Derrick Hudson, a white poet, had been published in this year’s Best American Poetry anthology under a Chinese pseudonym. In fashion, there was the odd attempt to rebrand cornrows as a Caucasian style — a ‘‘favorite resort hair look,’’ according to Elle. And floating above it all has been Rachel Dolezal, the presiding spirit of the phenomenon, the white former N.A.A.C.P. chapter president who remains serenely and implacably convinced of her blackness.

Questions about the right to your creation and labor, the right to your identity, emerge out of old wounds in America, and they provoke familiar battle stances. The same arguments are trotted out (It’s just hair! Stop being so sensitive! It’s not always about race!) to be met by the same quotes from Bell Hooks, whose essays from the early ’90s on pop culture, and specifically on Madonna, have been a template for discussions of how white people ‘‘colonize’’ black identity to feel transgressive: ‘‘Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.’’ It’s a seasonal contro­versy that attends awards shows, music festivals, Halloween: In a country whose beginnings are so bound up in theft, conversations about appropriation are like a ceremonial staging of the nation’s original sins.

It can feel like such a poignantly stalled conversation that we’re occasionally tempted to believe we’ve moved past it. A 2013 NPR story on America’s changing demographics and the evolution of hip-hop made a case that the genre has lost its identification with race, and that young people aren’t burdened by anxieties about authenticity. ‘‘The melding of cultures we’re seeing now may have Generation X and Generation Y shaking in their boots with claims of racial ‘appropriation,’ ’’ the rapper and performance artist Mykki Blanco said in an online discussion about fashion’s debt to ‘‘urban culture.’’ ‘‘To Generation Z, I would clearly think it all seems ‘normal.’ ’’ Hip-hop culture is global culture, according to this wisdom: People of Korean descent have dominated the largest international b-boy championships; twerking is a full-blown obsession in Russia. ‘‘We as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture,’’ Questlove, the drummer and co-founder of the Roots, said last year in an interview with Time magazine in which he defended Iggy Azalea, the white Australian rapper derided for (among other things) affecting a ‘‘Southern’’ accent. ‘‘If you love something, you gotta set it free.’’

But many of the most dogged critics of cultural appropriation are turning out to be the very people who were supposed to be indifferent to it. Members of supposedly easygoing Generation Z object — in droves — to Lena Dunham’s posting a photograph of herself in a mock hijab. Others argue that the cultural devaluation of black people paves the way for violence against them. ‘‘What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?’’ Amandla Stenberg, the 16-year-old star of ‘‘The Hunger Games,’’ asked, in her video message ‘‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,’’ which criticized pop stars like Katy Perry for borrowing from black style ‘‘as a way of being edgy.’’ In June, young Asian-Americans protested when the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as an accompaniment to a lecture called ‘‘Claude Monet: Flirting With the Exotic,’’ invited visitors to pose next to Monet’s ‘‘La Japonaise’’ while wearing a matching kimono. And South Asian women, objecting to the fad for ‘‘ethnic’’ wear at music festivals like Coachella, continued a social-media campaign to ‘‘reclaim the bindi,’’ sharing photographs of themselves, their mothers and grandmothers wearing bindis, with captions like ‘‘My culture is not a costume.’’’

Is this just the latest flowering of ‘‘outrage culture’’? Not necessarily. ‘‘The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred,’’ Stenberg acknowledges in her video. But it has never been easier to proceed with good faith and Google, to seek out and respect context. Social media, these critics suggest, allow us too much access to other people’s lives and other people’s opinions to plead ignorance when it comes to causing offense. When Allure magazine offers tips on achieving a ‘‘loose Afro’’ accompanied by a photograph of a white woman, we can’t overlook how actual black women have been penalized for the hairstyle — that two years ago it was widely reported that a 12-year-old black girl in Florida was threatened with expulsion because of her ‘‘distracting’’ natural hair, and that schools in Oklahoma and Ohio have tried to ban Afros outright. We can’t forget that South Asian bindis became trendy in the mid-’90s, not long after South Asians in New Jersey were being targeted by a hate group that called itself Dotbusters, referencing the bindi, which some South Asian women stopped wearing out of fear of being attacked.

Seen in this light, ‘‘appropriation’’ seems less provocative than pitiably uninformed and stale. It seems possible that we might, someday, learn to keep our hands to ourselves where other people’s cultures are concerned. But then that might do another kind of harm. In an essay in the magazine Guernica, the Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie called for more, not less, imaginative engagement with her country: ‘‘The moment you say a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying: As an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.’’

Can some kinds of appropriation shatter stereotypes? This has been literature’s implicit promise: that entering into another’s consciousness enlarges our own. Reviewing ‘‘Green on Blue,’’ Elliot Ackerman’s new novel that looks at America’s war in Afghanistan from the perspective of a young Afghan, the writer Tom Bissell said ‘‘there would be fewer wars’’ if more novelists allowed themselves to imagine themselves into other cultures. It’s a seductive if utterly unverifiable claim. But what cannot be disputed is how profoundly we exist in one another’s imaginations. And what conversations about appropriation make clear is that our imaginations are unruly kingdoms governed by fears and fantasies. They are never neutral."
appropriation  culturalappropriation  2015  parulsehgal  colonialism  decolonization  hiphop  music  fashion  generationz  amandlastenberg  popculture  questlove  culture  mileycyrus  casting  film  bindis  kamilashamsie  otherness  othering  nuance  stereotypes  elliotackerman  tombissell  cosmicrace  larazacósmica  mykkiblanco  genx  generationx  geny  generationy  millennials  michaelderrickhudson  hair  clothing  bellhooks  madonna  context  genz 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Madonna earns the wrath of Joyce Banda - full statement | World news | theguardian.com
"3. Granted, Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude. Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can't be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/82482268187/neither-the-president-nor-any-official-in-her]

[also here: http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/04/10/malawi-state-house-responds-to-madonnas-outbursts-full-text/ ]
philanthropy  charity  kindness  madonna  malawi  joycebanda  whitesaviors  africa  self-importance  charitableindustrialcomplex  2014  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
april 2014 by robertogreco

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