fosse’s ghost walks it out

"Zarathustra by the Sea" Setsuko Aihara (2004)

Only in the dance do I know how to tell the parable of the highest things….

I see you jockin' me...

Why would Zarathustra state that he could only believe in a god that could dance? Does it have something to do with music? Invoking a song, particularly when employed in a philosophical argument, is not about clarifying a point, really. Invoking a song is about punctuating a statement. This has something to do with the spontaneity and sincerity in the act of singing because songs are typically about one of two things: praise or blame. It doesn’t matter what genre of music we’re referring to, a song resonates with us as listeners typically because they can be readily related to our situations. In the summer of 2009 the city of Atlanta couldn’t wait to hear the new album from Big Boi (a hometown hero). The sound on the ground (what we were saying in conversations while walking around) was that Big Boi would likely release, at least, a single and that it would be the Number 1 Summer Jam. We’re, of course, still waiting for his album. “Shine Blockas” would have been the song of the summer, but it wasn’t leaked until the fall. Instead the summer jam went to Dorrough and his song “Ice Cream Paint Job.” What’s not to love about havin’ your car look tight?

Artist's conception of the stanky legg

But there’s something really incredible about combining music with dance.

As Erin Manning has pointed out, choreography is everywhere: the ways in which a room is set up conditions the possibility of how bodies will be allowed to move within that space. There is a potential liberation whenever someone or group becomes aware of their movements within a space. This is the moment when that space is laid claim to or in the scope of this writing, the moment when spectacular capitalization occurs. When the agent is able to invest in the spectacle in the manner that the petite bourgeoisie first are capable of investing in the capitalism of the last three centuries.

Archie Bell and the Drells had a fine tune with “Tighten-Up” and many a dj has employed the song, particularly in the early years of hip hop. There is not much new to this form of re-appropriation of musical history. Arguably all history is a re-articulation of what has been true in the past; in the case of music it was a question also of what tunes were both truthful in their narrative and how truthful their call to dance. “A sound plan” is the phrase used to express approval. Tuneful melodies are recycled all the time. So the song “Tighten-Up” was re-appropriated, but what about the dance? Does anyone tighten up any more? Today the hot new dance in Houston (home of Archie Bell and the Drells) is the stanky legg, so named by the the GS Boyz who released the song of the same name in 2008.

But this dance is not so new, some might argue. This looks an awful lot like walkin’ it out:

Which looks pretty similar to c-walking:

And were you to combine these dances you’d have that new dance craze from the West Coast, Jerkin’:

Fosse Tell 'Em

Youtube has been a great resource for learning how to dance, there are ample tutorials and examples to watch and practice in the bedroom or living room with. And it’s also a perfect example of the fundamentally affirmational nature of dancing, isn’t it? These Youtube clips should be seen as extensions of the dancefloor, an infinite expansion it would seem. And while it seems flippant to state this, the infinite expansion of the dance floor seems to provide an emancipatory tendency as demonstrated by Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em who in 2007 recorded and released the song “Crank Dat” and dance onto Myspace and Youtube. This resulted in his nomination for a Grammy in the same year. Not unlike the petite bourgeoisie Soulja Boy is now in a position to be able to own his labor and employ other laborers within the spectacular economy, arguably this places him in a different trajectory from many of his age and ethnicity in the city of Atlanta.

If you watch the video you’ll see something I was surprised to see: Bob Fosse.

And this is the problem with calling it “post-modern” isn’t it? Since we keep seeing that what ever modernism was about is still being explored today. At times it seems as though the only thing that makes a work post-modern is that the history of modernism has simply been ignored.

Consider the following dance seen from Cole Porter’s terribly modernist adaptation (ooohhhh, a play-within-a-play, how PoMo) of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which he called Kiss Me Kate:

Amazing sets, explosive gestures, the dancers seem to form into wild angles and then de-form into slumping masses – this is a crazy dance.

But then there’s this little slice of wonderful here:

This repetition is maybe not a bad thing, maybe not indicative of the failure to cite influences, maybe not even a testament to the brilliance of Fosse’s choreography (although I’m certainly not denying his place in the canon). Maybe this kind of affirmative repetition is what Nietzsche meant in his profession of faith only in a god that would dance.

In fact, if we triangulate this dance-tastic god with his thinking on amor fati (love of fate such that everything that happens in life is always in line with something like destiny) and his thought experiment called the Eternal Return, we get something very profound.

Setsuko Aihara, homestarrunner, devlinne, pbs.


1 Comment

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One response to “fosse’s ghost walks it out

  1. Arin Mason

    Pretty darn smart!

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