For my observation paper I will be writing about the Wendell Tyler Cooper performance Disembodied on February 11, 2011. What was interesting was that the entire performance he danced alone on stage and was still able to make the show dynamic and continuous. The performance incorporated dance, music and video; it also had a spiritual sense to it which reminded me of a passage in Black Dance From 1619 to Today by Lynne Emery (Chapter 1, page 2) referring to “religious dance forms”.
Wendell Cooper also included other aspects with video, music, and speaking; it seemed to me as if he was reading poetry or some type of spoken word. The movement was very grounded and earthy, there were no restrictions and he was barely upright without a curve in the spine. Some more characteristics that are similar to the movement mentioned before is the African characteristics by Magaretta Bobo Goins which include: bent knees, barefoot, generally movement begins in torso and travels outward, rhythms are syncopated, singing and dancing simultaneously.
Later I learned from danceblogger. com description of the performance Disembodied that Wendell Cooper “utilized his knowledge of energy-bodywork and meditation to create a synaesthetic installation/performance environment”, which now I understand why I kept getting a sense of spirituality or religion in some of his movement. The breathing and speaking or spoken word and repetitive movement was very reminiscent of a statement in a passage in To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans by Colin A.
Palmer, “Religious ideas determined the timing of important occasions…the nature of art and dance, and a thousand other aspects. ” Due to the nature of meditation that Wendell Cooper studied he was able to incorporate that ideal into his choreography and it can read as religious, spiritual, or simply complicated choreography and is very relatable to the audience. The music that Wendell Cooper chose was unique in that it was not too over powering of the choreography but it was strong enough to convey a message and to keep the audiences attention.
In Robert Ferris Thompson’s 10 Canons of Fine Form the ideal of the get down quality, looking smart, and coolness were portrayed in the work. The choreography stayed grounded and he had a lot of movement done on the floor that was reminiscent of “B-Boying” style of dance. Wendell Cooper’s costume with the white draped over him incorporated the looking smart idea because white gives a clean look and is also used in religious and spiritual ceremonies.
The coolness came about when he was dancing and he had on a suit and tie with a hat on; the choreography seemed to only move horizontally in space, his movement was very dynamic, and he had some repetition. This section of the work caught my attention the most and I would be best described by Brenda Dixon Gottschild who wrote Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts; she stated that the “Africanist aesthetic values repetition, or more precisely, repetition-as-intensification. (Page 8)
Wendell Cooper had a lot of repetition through out his choreography but each repetitive motion seemed different although it was the same choreography. Brenda Dixon Gottschild also stated that “Africanist dance idioms show a democratic equality of body parts. The spine is just one of many possible movement centers; it rarely remains static” (page 8) and this is reference to his choreography overall. The performance was a learning experience because I have not seen movement like Wendell Cooper’s so I was able to admire it for what it was and to be inspired.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 29 December 2016
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