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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: growth of dance in America
(Summer-Fall, 1976)

Beiswanger, George
Regionalization of dance: [notes on the notion of regional dance],   pp. 302-307 PDF (6.0 MB)


Page 302


by George Beiswanger
Dance critic Emeritus for the Atlanta Journal.
Regional dance as it is practiced today is not
born of the soil nor bred in the bone. It is
transplanted dance, sown and cultivated by
those who have picked up dance elsewhere
at least in part. Even those who started at
home return bearing cultural goods to bestow
upon the local community.
Regional dance comes in non-regional modes:
ballet, modern, avant garde, ethnic, jazz, or
some individual mix. The language is eclec-
tic, open to inflection and variation, but
hardly "native" even when incorporating
ethnic strains or exuding a flavor of its own.
Norbert Vesak recently set Gift to Be Simple
upon the Atlanta Ballet. It uses Shaker words
and tunes, gestures and movements, motifs
and themes. It "speaks" for a vivid fragment
of the American heritage. But it is no more
folk art than was Doris Humphrey's The
Shakers of 1931 or, for that matter, Agnes
de Mille's Rodeo.
Dance of the folk sort is out of the question
except as an exercise in nostalgia because
American culture no longer supports the
institutions by which dance of the blood-and-
302
soil type is nourished. It is not merely that
the myths and occasions upon which such art
depends no longer prevail. Grassroots dance
(all dance starts as a local affair) has come to
mean person-made rather than people-created
art. Whatever its provenance and style,
today's dance takes for granted the hard won
right to be a personally pursued activity on a
par with the other arts of the twentieth cen-
tury, even those calling themselves non-art or
anti-art.
The regional movement shares this ideology.
Its leaders think of themselves as dancers,
choreographers, artists, instigators of the
creative. The principle of the dance-
invigorated and dance-activating person
informs their endeavors no matter how con-
ventional or far out. They may profess a
regional mystique but they are engaged in
training dancers, producing and reproducing
dance works, cultivating audiences, and
scrambling for the financial wherewithal.
The crux of the matter is not existential but
economic. Dance-making is tied into the
enterprise system of art production, that by
which individual initiative and corporate
organization (the choreographer and the
dance company) proceed to make dances for
a local, a metropolitan, a regional, a national,
a worldwide market. Not that processed and


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