Research: Dance Moves

Having recently read Kyra Gaunt‘s essay in Generations of Youth, “The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip Hop” as part of our unit on “youth and place” in the American Studies undergraduate course I am teaching this summer, I watched clips from a 1985 PBS documentary on double dutch called Black Magic that BLEW MY MIND.  Watch the video on my other blog here.  And now I really want to figure out a way to translate their routines via infographics.  Mainly so I can break it down for myself, but also because I know how important it is to positive represent black girls’ athleticism, aesthetics, and power over space – especially via infographics since they’re really hard to find.

By research on how to do this began with Wikihow which breaks down everything from growing tomatoes to parkour.  Wikihow fails epicly at conveying visually how to double dutch.  They read like Ikea instructions.

What the what? What are we doing here, making a spider web? Using lasers to identify the hidden force field like Catherine Zeta Jones-Entrapment-style?

The awesome epicness of this routine and Wikihow’s visual failure to make it any easier for me got me wondering – how could you visualize space within the realm of double dutch?  Surprisingly a quick Google search of “double dutch routine” revealed nothing other than videos and images, with no step by step instructions.  Despite the globalization and institutionalization of this once-street sport, the 411 breaking down double dutch is still hard to come by.  You just have to watch videos or learn from a friend.

But what about dance routines?  Could I use visualizations of dance routines to rethink how to visual space utilized during double dutch?  This begins my exploration of dance visualizations, which ultimately offers an intense look of key dance components, processes, and the spatial meanings of dance.

These are the rules of dance club:

1) Dancing is all about where your feet are – in what direction they’re going, and which foot goes where first.  From this viewpoint, your feet are always parallel with the floor.  You just move your feet like you move fingers across a keyboard.  Super simple.

cha-cha-SalsaDance.png

Only it’s not so simple. Still a little lost?  Me too.  Here’s another version using a few more details regarding time to make it a little easier. These visuals excel for self-taught dancers because they’re only from the perspective of the dancer looking down.  But where’s the rest of your body go?

2) Dancing is moving through space above the ground plane.  With these side views, learning dance moves like the cartwheel (which would have previously looked like two feet print over there and two feet print over here) becomes much easier.  These visuals define dance by what it looks like from the spectator.  You now know how high to be above the ground, how far to move across the floor with a foot suspended, and necessary body angles.

Neither of these visuals capture what dancing feels like.  In these visuals, dancing is going to get the mail.  It’s loading the dishwasher or bending down to put on shoes.  But how can we visualize what space feels like for dance?

3) Dancing is all about getting in a good mood.  This visual breaks down steps into stages, connects those steps with feet routines and song lyrics, AND connects it all together with intense facial expressions.  You cannot Gangnam Style and not finish with a cool pose, otherwise go home and practice the Mambo.  Lots of arrows.

Lasso that sexy lady!

4) Dancing is about articulating your identity.  Who are you?  Because most likely, you dance how you want others to see you or how you see yourself.  Are you a straight white man and want to remind your mate of your incredible microwaving skills?  Want to look ridiculous and have fun doing it?  Then Killer Infographics says dancing is your chance!

9 out of 10 white guys actually read this and learned how to do the Shoplifter.

But there are just single moves.  So far we’ve only seen bits and pieces of dances.  Could you visualize a ballet on a side-view X/Y axis that charts momentum and energy throughout the entire performance?  I think so.

5) Dancing is fluid. When you dance your body should seamlessly glide across the floor.  You are one with the ground plane, your body, the space, the music or your mood or identity, and your partner (or spectator).  When you moonwalk, you are not alone – you are one with MJ.

The sliding is always flat! Also, you’ll need one glove.

Here’s a final infographic for all you all out there still don’t know how to dance that breaks down your body into zones of appropriateness:

Don’t forget to follow Kyra Gaunt at her blog here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s