Saturday 13 September 2014

Dance is not necessarily sport, either

Jonathan Agnew said something on the radio – during a Test Match at the end of June – about hacking, which means riding around on horses, but not competitively.

He was talking about people who ride horses in their daily life, but are not "recognised" as “participating in a sport”, and he asked them to tweet pictures of what they were doing with a hashtag, because it would (self-evidently?) be a good thing if they were.

I think Aggers is wrong to assume that they would want this. It sounds to me exactly analogous to the case of social dancing. There is nothing wrong with doing dance as a sport, and social dance has pretty similar mental, physical and social benefits to social sport. The tango-salon competitions are a whole other discussion, and a very interesting one (also sometimes farcical). Sport-dance can be a lot of fun. But conceiving ALL dance as sport would be harmful and there is no reason to assume that anyone would or should want that.

Just because some people define sport as prestigious doesn't mean everyone has to. The concept of sport isn't entitled to take over the whole world of healthy physical activity.

I could pretty much replace the word "Art" with "Sport" in this post and it would end up with virtually the same meaning. In fact, let's try some of that:

There's nothing wrong with artistic sporting dance. Lots of dance is certainly art sport. But it is wrong to talk as though dance is necessarily performance, and that non-artistic, non-performance dance is some sort of inferior 'just-for-fun' offshoot, defined as low-quality, because high-quality dance would be art win something. This belief does real harm to people who would enjoy non-art non-sport dance and be good at it, and real harm to dance communities. ...
... There should be more people dancing, more commonly, than there are, without being obliged to feel all artistic sporting about it. And without feeling that if they ever get good, they'll automatically be artists sportsmen and expected to teach or perform compete. Those are all totally different vocations and have no necessary connection with each other, or with just dancing. They're not needed to validate the quality of anyone's dance. (And they don't, incidentally).
Competition dance is necessarily standardised, because without some standardisation, fair judging is very difficult and seen-to-be-fair judging even more so. You need rules and criteria; and there’s a reason why some (or, in my opinion, most) great social dancers consider “Campeonato” style tango stupefyingly boring and artificial, despite the competition itself being great fun as a sporting event. But back to the previous post:
Being an excellent social (or indeed solo, or religious, or football-terrace) dancer is a valid and possible goal, and it's always nice to have more of them.
Why would social dancers want to be “recognised as participating in sport”? That would be poisonous – just as poisonous as being “recognised as artists”.

I'm not saying it's not tempting. If you put a lot of work into doing something well, the siren song of public or peer recognition will call to you, one way or another. But we should think properly about how to fulfil that legitimate desire in a way appropriate to the context - not blindly adopt the artistic or sporting model. And even if we occasionally organise a competition of a sporting nature, which could be huge fun, that doesn't mean we should let it take over or influence what we are doing otherwise, more than it deserves to.

It would be much better if social dance were more widely recognised as what it really is - play. And adult humans don’t need a prefabricated validating excuse – “sport” or “art” – for playing together. Or even with a horse.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Monica Paz - tomorrow

London tango peeps who appreciated my long piece "Argentine Tango for TV Viewers" might like to know that both Monica Paz and Antonio Martinez, who appear in one of the videos I chose, are going to be at Negracha, London tomorrow - not together, Monica is going to teach the class this week and do a demo with Marek I believe, [Sorry - the demo is at Corrientes tonight - not at Negracha yesterday! my mistake, I misunderstood what was said to me. But yes it's with Marek] and Antonio is DJing at Corrientes on Saturday, and Monica will teach there too.