YOUR TURN

This series continues my interest in dance but concentrates on single figures, on their special moves or turns. Previously, dance had been part of a group or communal activity, whether in DOMESTIC ROUTINES, ACTIVISTS or MASQUERADE B. I tend to favour ensembles or a chorus line of sorts, even in GOOD-LUC GODARD. But earlier this year some online videos of jazz dancers caught my eye in which individuals vie with each other to dazzle with special footwork. So many of the moves recalled club and party dancing from my London days, I realised it was part of an enduring folk tradition, regardless of musical fashion. This side of dance, as an exuberant display of personality, also struck me as another instance of presentation inviting picturing or re-presentation. It thus returns me to a fundamental theme for my work.

The single full-length figure also returned me to pictorial basics. This time I quickly settled on a uniform (and largely arbitrary) format for picture shape or proportion, something that had been eluding me recently. Initially the idea was to have very minimal backgrounds and just leave the dancer lost in a kind of abstract realm. That didn’t quite work out for reasons I will come to shortly, but in general the series was to be a much stricter, simpler treatment of the figure. Along with this more stripped-down approach, I also resisted sub-pages. I tried to confine myself to just two or three variations on a figure or setting. Variations are still important to my approach, but because the poses are fleeting moments in the flow of motion (and music), there seemed an infinite number of equally interesting poses available and I wanted to use as many as possible. Previous series had used a lot of sub-pages and extensive variation so it didn’t have the same priority this time. It makes for quite a long page (with only one sub-page) but hopefully the simpler compositions are less taxing.

More notes at the bottom of the page.

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One of the things that instantly appealed about the dancing was the way steps deliberately exaggerated or distorted bodily motion and proportion. It reminded me of very primitive dances that imitate birds and other animals. The dances retain that element of magic, but now it is firstly a game of joints and co-ordination, stretches and locomotion. And this is quite apart from the additional confusions of studying freeze frames to movies. Right there is ample theme of presentation blurred with representation.

As a series, it probably comes closest to PRIVACY PAINTINGS, (where the figures were constructed pre-digitally) and probably reflects a little more expertise in Photoshop at achieving that kind of construction. And as a series it proceeded much more smoothly than anything else this year. Settings were not so easy to minimise because source imagery tied figures intimately to matters of perspective and lighting, to incidental confusions of costume and gesture. There was no way of stripping setting from dancer without impoverishing the figure. So concessions initially allowed an interior, low-light or night setting and soon these suggested night clubs or similar venues. As with the PRIVACY nudes, a setting immediately added to the figure’s purpose or animation. But since they were in the main solitary or isolated figures, they looked either too early or late for the evening’s entertainment and acquired alternatively a comic or pathetic quality I had not reckoned on.

Interestingly, female figures seemed more relaxed and elated, while males seemed more inhibited or fumbling, like drunks or outsiders. I think I have to accept this is a reflection of my state of mind at the time. But it was not something I was aware of until I had pretty much completed the series. All the same, I see the dancers principally demonstrating the opportunity to put their own spin on the moment, to take their turn, regardless of ability or occasion.

Posted 04/12/2017 by gerrybellart

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