Re: Fascinatin' Rhythm (longish)

Warren Sproule (Warren.Sproule@SOCIOL.UTAS.EDU.AU)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 10:48:12 +0200

Some very loose articulations and comments on what's developing into a
juicy thread...

A central set of ideas seems to be crystallising around the 'Drill/Dance'
nexus: first, that all societies seem to engage in some form of dance, but
that not all societies practice military drill; secondly, and related to
this, dance as spontaneous, expressive and ludic vs. drill as imposed,
routinised and necessarily learned; thirdly, the important qualifiers that
some types of dance *also* entail regimentation, a command structure,
uniformity, repetition, etc, but *need not* have these elements to
presumably qualify as "dance" - contrarily, "drill" structured around (or
unstructured because of) spontaneity, absence of coordination, the
expressive individual gesture/outgush of emotion, is inconceivable, simply
ISN'T drill by definition. With this in mind, I think Ruby Rohrlich's posts
on the topic (2/12 & 2/14) have got the disparity between the two
activities essentially right. The excellent examples of disciplined dancing
provided by Lynn Maners and Tom Kavanagh I'd take to be an overlay, imposed
top-down, on an originally spontaneous set of movements, a kind of taming
and ritualising of the originally cathectic: Military drill is by contrast
pure rationality, massified and made flesh...

Counterproposals to Ruby's position have modified rather, than disposed of,
her claim: Lynn, I'm outside my bailiwick here, but I don't see why viewing
many types of dance as 'expressive' is a "Western/ethnocentric" construct -
what am I missing? Matt Hill's example of the discipline involved in his
daughter's dance class is [a] a bit too specific, and [b] seems close to
saying that what requires a degree of hard and often drudge-like work
renders the *whole* enterprise joyless - do the career academics amongst us
REALLY want to endorse that? :-) Peter Junger's post factors 'spontaneity'
into the Drill equation, which seems to ignore the engineered element of
drill altogether; both Tom and Mike Salovesh give vivid illustrations of
the enjoyment ('buzz') to be derived from the well-performed drill - but
this is a cosmetic by-product (drill is compulsory regardless of the
participants pleasure-levels), and I'm tempted to remark that old soldiers
are hardly immune to the workings of cognitive dissonance (au contraire
:-)); and the 'pure' entertainment of victory parades, drum & bugle corps,
the military tattoo - what Mike Cahill crisply called "drill shorn of its
military functions" - seem too closely wedded to statist processes of
legitimation, intimidation and recruitment to bear a meaningful
relationship to either raves, or the
hully-gully/frug/twist/madison/bunny-hop (insert appropriate favourite
according to age and tastes), etc.

Two further observations, largely asides: I seem to sense a dovetailing b/w
this thread and the corresponding 'language/gesture/etc' discussion.
Bringing 'em even closer together, I see dance as having an affinity with
speech (a universal human phenomenon), and military drill as more like
writing (historically specific in selected societes, taught via manuals and
often by rote [AKA "grammar drills"], the standardisation of vernaculars).
Finally, I can't help noting the way that flame wars, personal attacks and
the general *ressentiment* that most listmembers take such pains to condemn
seem to dissolve once a sufficiently interesting thread is up and running.
With all due respect and for what its worth, to reduce vehemence levels and
maintain this list as a viable proposition, we don't need censorship,
banishment, Draconian protocols, moral reformism or a 'school monitor': All
that's *ever* needed is engagement in an engaging TOPIC...

Enough for now, more if requested -ti sero lo mano,