Monday, December 17, 2012

"The Last Goodbye"...Isis Masoud

Mainstream media is particularly adept at categorization and association. "Pink is the new black" or "hip hop is about bling and video babes" are two examples of broad generalizations that actually hold little validity when you dig deeper into the subject matter. Pole dancing, is a excellent example of this urge to classify and stereotype. Despite the fact that pole dancing has a long and dignified history in Chinese and Indian culture (practiced by men and women alike), in the United States, there has been a tendency to sexualize the art form and project a "dirty taboo" onto a genre that requires a tremendous degree of legitimate skill and strength. Isis Masoud is a contemporary choreographer who seeks to enlighten people's perception of pole dancing, and bring attention to the unique possibilities that the vertical element provides

MUSICALITY: According to game theory, whenever you change the rules of a game, your approach and strategy must change relative to the new landscape. For a choreographer, adding the element of a new apparatus ought to inspire a broad range of creative, innovative options. Some choreographers are able to fully explore the opportunities that a new prop affords...and some are not. Fortunately for us, Isis provides an excellent example of a dance that explores this new element completely. Whether its the ability to create circular movement phrases in mid-air or the unique perspective that the pole brings to certain body lines, Isis' use of the pole allows us to see her choreography in ways we are not accustomed to. Similar to the way one feels when walking on a glass window at the top of a skyscraper, looking down through a glass bottom to the street hundreds of feet below...when we see an attitude line or arabesque suddenly suspended above us, free of gravitational constraints, it is a thrilling new experience. On a similar note, the opening phrase from (0:03-0:06) is such a simple, fetal position...yet the chance to see it rotate in motion is breathtaking.

DANCER SYNC: For a performance that is required to defy gravity, the continuous flow of momentum and energy becomes paramount. Looking at (0:40-0:44), Isis creates a logical kinetic flow that begins in a ronde jambe, into a straddle rotation, and resolves in a spiral wrap. This kind of "dynamic logic" is often lost on amateur choreographers, who become so enchanted by a "cool move" or "sick move" that they forget the flow. A good movement phrase ought to animate the dancer with fluidity and logic, never choppy or disjointed. Interestingly, a good choreographer can ALSO create the ILLUSION of chaotic, incongruent movement...while still forming a phrase that makes kinetic sense to the dancer who is asked to dance it. Watch the extended moment from (1:08-1:27) to get a feeling for just how adept Isis is at creating phrases that flow with unbroken continuity...literally a physical, visceral, stream of consciousness. Also, it is wonderful to note, that at the end the video, Isis shares the choreographer credit with her dancers, Marlo and Kyle...this type of generosity and humility is not often seen in the dance world and ought to be recognized!

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: As I noted before, the ability of a choreographer to fully explore a new medium is paramount to the resulting success. As a viewer, I found myself immediately drawn into the story and pictures that Isis creates with the pole. Moreover, I became so throughly invested in the movement and emotional arc that eventually the "pole" seemed to disappear. Call it willing suspension of disbelief, but I began to see the dancers simply levitating and rolling through midair. I imagine it being something akin to seeing ballerinas en pointe for the first time. The skill and technique of the choreographer and dancer, creates an "impossible," yet immersive dream that draws you in and entrances you.

KUDOS to Isis for taking hold of this vertical medium and allowing us to reconsider and appreciate "pole dancing" through her choreographic, artistic filter.

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