SEAD portraits of modernity 2: dance ‚exoticism‘

In the framework of the series of History of Choreography workshops taught at SEAD (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance) by Anna Leon, students consulted images of dance modernity drawn from material/books available in the Derra de Moroda Dance archives and created contemporary versions of them. This second selection of their works proposes two visions of the phenomenon of dance ‘exoticism’. Chiara Marolla presents a photograph taken in a shopping mall in Rome representing Buddhist monks meditating on a platform, in order to reflect on the evolution of European (displays and) perceptions of the cultural Other. Charlie Brittain specifically focuses on the role of technology in mediating images of non-Western cultures in the West, creating an image of the image of technologised exoticism.


“I propose this picture as a contemporary version of the image ‘Danseurs de l’Afrique occidentale francaise à l’exposition coloniale’ [in DdM 10238] and as a result of my thinking around the word ‘exotic’, how its use and meaning might have developed from the early 20th century until today. […] I had many questions about how this situation was perceived by people and tourists passing by in that shopping mall and how much that kind of situation is maybe not that far from the one represented in the picture of 1931 […] What I propose with this picture then is just a question on how we see the Other today. How much do we know about that culture and to what extent is our knowledge affected by ideas and images provided by mass media and advertising? How do we think about eastern countries or any culture which doesn’t feel close to us? Where does our idea of the ‘Other’ come from? These questions came from reminding myself how the image of these monks was very commercialized, just like the image of the Orient, advertised as something that can be sold to Europeans as the ‘spiritual, healthy, peaceful East’.” Chiara Marolla

 charlieOne aspect of the early modern dance era that strikes me is how the realms and boarders of dance seemed to be continuously expanding. […] inter-cultural influences still exist, and perhaps in a contemporary dance context are comparable to the international companies, tours and festivals hosted by dance venues throughout the world. I chose to recreate the original image by commenting mainly on the impact technology has played on cultural and artistic exchange. […] With the ability to instantly share our experiences through digital social media, from anywhere around the world, I can’t help thinking that we are almost over-exposed to such information from the internet, and so ‘exotic’ presences in the arts have become much less exciting, and much more common. […] The accessibility of similar images, video and music has lessened the excitement and novelty of such elements within art. […] In the present, an argument might be: why pay for a ticket to go to the theatre, to see the same dress, colours, music etc. that you have seen on television and the internet since childhood? In a way, live art, and especially such inter-cultural influences, have lost their spectacle in the modern day.” Charlie Brittain

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