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Ghost Dances Essay

Describe in detail the themes of this dance ‐ Christopher Bruce’s choreography around this time ‐ how the themes link together.  How does the movement support these themes (2 parts) and how has Christopher Bruce used costume to enhance the communication of the themes. Christopher Bruce created ghost Dances in 1981 with the Dance Company Rambert dance company. Christopher’s first inspiration for the dance was when he was given some records by a chillian group into‐Illimani. He met Joan Jara‐ Victor Jara (famous folk singer, actor, performer) who was a widow, he was murdered in 1973 coup, it was the story he heard about the stories in chillie, wanted to make a dance piece which suggested the suffering and the innocent people that got caught up in the violence and the persecution.

The defiance, ‘doesn’t matter how many times your knock people down, if they have a strong core they will get up again” no one matter how much there lives are effected by tragedy they still have dignity. One of the two main themes that are seen throughout the dance are suffering, persecution of the innocent and defiance and fighting for justice “No matter the trauma & suffering people will stand up for what is right” Although the music and costumes are based on a Chilean background. It has a universal story and you can link it with worldwide issues that also deal with suffering and persecution. Although the social message is important It is not emphasized at the expense of theatricality and the presentation is varied with contrasting sections in which the Dead are seen reenacting moments of happiness in their lives.

Also another huge theme is Freedom/democracy. Bruce, typically maintains the universality of his subject and it has much wider resonance. The dead could represent Asian or European communities as well as American. As hr said in an interview in the Houston Post (22nd may 1988) ‘Although it has a south American

setting, it universal story. You could parallel it with Poland or Afghanistan: cruelty, lack of human rights, people who suffer. So in a sense, its indirectly political, but it very much about humanity and just about how people get caught up, suffer and die. Movement

The movement of Ghost Dances is based on folk dance combined with Christopher Bruce’s own training in classical ballet and Martha Graham based modern dance. Most of Ghost dances have motifs that recur through out that dance that would stand out as a key movement phrase. One of the main movement phrases that we see, is the Ghost dancers’ line dances. The dancers all form a chain; they all link together by their arms. With there legs apart and feet firmly on the ground. The dancers change direction to look stage left. The Ghost Dancers move forward breaking away from the link, which soon reforms. This time they perform a series of steps to the side with one legs crossing behind the other and with the foot of the extended leg always flexed. The movements are dynamically strong and powerful, acrobatic and alert with sudden movements of stillness giving the impression of listening.

Another key movement phrase which is strong and defiant proud phrase performed by various dancers. When first seen, performed by the men in Huajira, it is a weightily, squatting movement followed by steps to the side. With their feet parallel and apart and their arms starched out ahead of their bodies, palms facing inwards as though surrounding a space, the dancers perform a sharp plie as an arresting movement , their weight clearly dropping purposefully, with a downward thrust of energy. In the Sicuriadis this movement phrase begins with the woman in red dancing the defiant signature phrase, followed by an heroic step which suggests defiance, both which become the basic motifs of the dance. In this brisk movement the right leg is lifted in an attitude devant but with flexed foot while raised, the right over the head, the left in front of the body. This together with the heroic defiant gestures of the dancers, particularly at the outset of the number, gives it a more positive and hopeful  mood than the other dances. This step in most clearly seen performed by the women at the start of Dolencias.

The Ghost dancers costumes, represented as figures of death, are dehumanized skeletal creatures in skull‐masks with matted hair, their near naked bodies painted with water based make up to outline the muscle groups and emphasize bone structure. Apart from their masks and body paint, the ghost dancers’ costumes consist of black bands of loose rags and feather round their waists, upper arms, wrists and just below their knees. The skull masks cover their full face, they were inspired by photographers of Bolivian masks with hair and feather attached. The ghost dancers’ masks are modeled, pained and textured to suggest the last shred of flesh might still be attached. They have large dark eyeholes. This places an emphasis on the empty sockets while enabling the dancers to see clearly through their masks.

The dead; The disheveled appearance of the Dead suggests ordinary people who have been through trauma. The idea behind their costumes was that they should embody a sense of transition, hence they are half complete and half in a state of disintegration‐ ragged and torn. They give the impression of being everyday clothes but are cleverly constructed to allow the freedom of movement a dancer requires. The clothes that they wear suggest that they are from a south American background. The three woman wear dresses, the most mature in red, the youngest in white and the third is usually in a turquoise and brown dress. These dresses are subtly textured, with appliqué layers around the areas of transitions between solid and transparent to enhance their ragged beauty.

Ghost Dances is a one‐act work in which three skeletal Ghost dancers await a group of dead who will re‐enact moments of their lives before passing on. Created By Christopher Bruce who wanted to show the story of the lives of the South Americans but also show a universal theme of suffering, persecution and freedom/democracy

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