Sunday, November 23, 2014

Modern dancing with the pop stars

Hey there,

So as someone who majored in modern dance (which isn't always what some people think it is), I love seeing contemporary choreography in the music videos of pop stars.

While I used contemporary and modern somewhat interchangeably, here is a definition of modern dance, from Wikipedia:
Modern dance is a style of western concert dance which began loosely in the late 19th century and early 20th-century. Modern dance, which has birthplaces in the United States as well as Germany, was a direct response to ballet as the primary form of concert dance. Modern dance refused aspects of classical ballet and broke away from codified movements and balletic narrative structures. Because of early pioneers like Martha Graham, modern dance now encompasses a wide range of styles, many of which are associated with renowned schools and masters. There are over a thousand Types of Modern Dance including the Graham and Horton techniques. Eventually, postmodern dance would reject the formalism of modern dance and include elements such as performance art, contact improvisation, floor work, release-technique, and improvisation.

So for me, the choreography in these videos stands out from other music video choreography because it's less literal and more abstract in it's movement vocabulary and motifs. It's less of a direct visualization of the music, and rather works in conjunction with the song to create meaning, rather than being dictated by rhythm, melody, and lyrics.

That being said (and I share this with the caveat that I don't watch many music videos to begin with), here are three that have stood out in the past several years. And, weirdly enough, I'm going to share them in the order of the Choreography track at UMD's Dance program, three semester long classes, choreographing for solo, duet, then group.

So first up, a solo. It's the music video for Sia's Chandelier:

The  choreography is by Ryan Heffington, and the dancer is Maddie Ziegler (who was born in 2002!!). If you haven't seen the video, you might've seen a Saturday Night Live skit referencing it this past Halloween. And this year, it won the MTV Music Video Award for Best Choreography.

The second video is a duet, the music video for Pink's Try.

The choreography is a collaboration by the Golden Boyz and stunt choreographer, Sebastien Stella. The dancer/love interest is Colte Prattes, who is on the faculty of the Broadway Dance Center. Colte is actually touring with Pink, but as soon as he's back I think I'm going to be planning a road trip up to NYC.

Third and not least is a group piece, the music video for Carrie Underwood's Something in the Water.

The choreography is by Travis Wall, a former So You Think You Can Dance competitor, and the dancers are company members of his dance company, Shaping Sound.

What's HUGE about this is the challenges dance has as an art form, in the south. And the majority of pop music videos tend not to help. You can check out the comments on YouTube for a clear example of this. I remember talking about it in undergrad, and how in many parts of the U.S. south, dance had to be coded as physical activity, just to even be considered as programming, particularly in educational settings.

Which it is, very intense and strenuous physical activity, don't get me wrong. But that's the subject for a whole other post.

What I thought was interesting was that the three pop artist who came to mind were all female. And I wonder how many male pop artists incorporate contemporary and modern dance into any of their music videos.

That being said, if you have any music videos which features modern choreography, please share them in the comments,

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