File Name: popular culture and body politics.zip
Teen dance films often follow a close formula that includes interracial romance, hip-hop dance, racial utopias, and allegiance to American exceptionalism.
In the film, dance transformation from ballet to hip-hop makes racial transformation possible. It is these choreographed racial transformations that reinforce narratives of U. As the film demonstrates, however, racial transformation is restricted to non-black characters only.
Keywords: Save the Last Dance , hip-hop dance , ballet , multiracialism , antiblackness , immobility in dance. The lights in the club are dim. Sara, who is white and a newcomer to Chicago, falls in love with Derek, who is African American. These films are one of the most common channels of multiracial philosophy in American pop culture.
Always set to a hip-hop soundtrack, the narratives fetishize race as an embodied category and affix its signification in their portrayals of dance crews and interracial romance. Dance is p. Dance, then, is imagined as a vehicle through which bodies are no longer constrained by racial categories; a vehicle that operates on a system of equality and meritocracy.
One need only master the right moves and race disappears as an impediment. Here, dance becomes a mechanism that allows for an ideological shift toward a multiracial ethos through the representation of interracial coupling. Historically, mainstream dramas about cross-racial relationships have tended to draw on the familiar motifs of forbidden attraction, social tension, and doomed love, ultimately positioning the plot in the cautionary capacity Wartenberg, While dance—specifically, dances like the mambo, the cakewalk, the twist, and hip-hop—have long been at the center of conversations about race in popular culture, contemporary dance films seem to uniformly favor over-simplified multiracialism in their handling of racial relations and the multiplicity of its realities.
In addition to Save the Last Dance , films like Feel the Noise, Honey , and Step-Up , to name just a few, have rejected perhaps the most significant narrative convention of their well-documented predecessor storylines—the tragic end.
In these stories, interracial love does not corrupt under the weight of undefeatable racial tension. On the contrary, in testament to performative triumph, racially embodied love, articulated and narrativized through dance choreography, conquers all. It is this rigid adherence to the previously intractable narrative of transcendence that sets the contemporary dance films apart from their predecessors.
As a body of knowledge, these teen dance films are both legitimated by and reproductive of the contemporary historical moment, in which socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions conspire to validate a previously impossible narrative. Films like Save the Last Dance stand to reimagine to the extent that pop products work to constitute reality the histories of racism and Eurocentric notions of racial mobility by severing its actors, the storytellers, from their varied and conflicting trajectories of racial struggle in favor of multiracialism.
In narrating the nation as a utopia of racial harmony and easy social and racial mobility, the film deflects from the current realities plaguing interracial coupling, obscuring subtle but mainstream racist discourse and the sustained effort p. Furthermore, films like Save the Last Dance render the problems of race as individual ones, staging the conditions for an easy, equally individualized, solution in the finale.
Reading the teen dance film Save the Last Dance as exemplary of its cohort, this chapter explores why dance seems to be so conducive to utopian narratives of racial progress, to narratives that lay claim to racial transcendence in order to validate U.
An examination of choreographed racial transformation in Save the Last Dance must first address the question of dance: why dance is so attractive to the multiracial project and parade-style celebration of difference. In Save the Last Dance , dance is a learning ritual and corporeal meritocracy, and a flattening out of difference through embodiment seems to be the lesson. In dance, this type of universalizing mastery has a longer history yet.
As in Save the Last Dance , as well as other recent teen dance films, dance performance p. The choice of dance is a particularly interesting one because corporeal performance has the potential to be a site of more than just flattening difference, but also of transgression for the normative holds of race, gender, and sexuality.
Many dance scholars have argued for the subversive potential of dance as a performance that offers the possibility of inhabiting more fluid racial, sexual, and gendered subjectivities Adair, ; Boyd, ; Martin, ; Ward, ; Wolff, Dance can be seen as a space of latent radical possibility, with bodies gesturing toward an unscripted subjectivity. The very process implicit in the notion of performance suggests potential sites of intervention, a threat of becoming. In this formulation, identity is maintained through constant performance, suggesting that a rupture in the ordered continuation of this performance constitutes a likewise rupture in the normative modes of gender, sexuality, and race Butler, In the context of daily identity performances, dance is a literalization of performance—a kind of performance as performance—producing a spillover that can create the conditions of possibility for subversive movement and occupation of space.
Thanks to choreographers and dancers like Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphreys, modern dance specifically has traditionally been seen as a breakthrough for women, writing a new language of the body, allowing a shift in authorial perspective and the haunting masculine gaze that usually accompanies it Wolff, Figure Derek teaches Sara how to relax her body in hip-hop and how to sway with rhythm.
Hip-hop dance, which dominates the landscape of teen dance films and serves as the soundtrack to Save the Last Dance , wields exactly that potential for transgression. Instead of the rond de jambe attitude she showcases in this scene, he teaches her to slouch, to relax the strict convention of bodily comportment Fig.
By virtue of aggressively breaking with the refined, restrained movements attributed to properly disciplined ballet bodies, and especially female bodies, hip-hop can offer dancing transgression.
With the drop of every beat, the body stakes out a language of transgression, rendering a moment of productive spectacle, of the carnivalesque body, set loose on possibility. For Martin, mobilization refers to the articulations that bodies manage to stake out through movement and is therefore contingent on some kind of transformation.
The works of some dance scholars have been unpacked here in order to highlight that transgression and political possibility in dance lie in the concurrent movements of body and subjectivity—movement and transformation of the subject through the movement of the body. Bodies move in order to render fluid subjectivities, in order to carve out subversive presences.
Significantly, stillness and fixity, in this configuration, amount to both material and symbolic dispossession. Sara practices her dance routine in the mirror as Derek stands by, instructing but not participating. In the third lesson sequence of the film, Sara practices with a ballet class while Derek sits in the corner of the studio, watching.
She is practicing a crossover with kicks in the mirror as Derek stands by, watching Fig. Sara struggles, trying to smooth out the transitions between the crossovers, heel-toe digs, crossbacks, and arm waves that the routine calls for.
Frustrated, she slides back and forth across the screen, attempting to synchronize her traveling slides to her arm waves, as Derek observes, a still dictator in the back of the room. This scene, in fact, captures the choreographic trajectory of the film, which, as the plot progresses, immobilizes Derek. That is, his dancing skills are on display in the first two private lessons of the film, modeling hip-hop dance moves and attitude to the traditional ballet dancer.
In the first lesson, he is the central focus as he teaches her to bounce right to left, to bend her rigid knees and make her arms elastic. By the third lesson, Sara takes over: she practices basic pirouettes and arabesques with a ballet class as Derek watches, seated in a corner of the studio, mesmerized by her skill Fig.
In fact, by the time Sara accuses Derek of being a dictator in their fourth lesson, he has been largely phased out as a dancer. He is, as she suggests, a dictator, an immobile one, whose presence is only necessary as a reminder of what her choreographic and racial transformations are meant to resemble. Go Sara! The contradictory, still presence that Derek comes to embody is brought to the fore in the fifth lesson, where Sara practices alone, unable to nail her moves without p.
Derek is useful, this last lesson seems to suggest, but only as a mechanism of immobilized support. She is now the dancer. In the first debut of her newfound dance skills, at the Stepps Nightclub, they begin as a couple, but as the crowd forms around them, Derek quickly fades to the background.
Derek, still visible in the shot, barely sways nearby, mostly watching. Her mobility, narrativized through choreography, has rendered him still. However, as the representational and ideological codes of the film are so closely wedded to reifying a multiracial reality that traffics in racial transcendence and renders structural racism obsolete, the corporeal transformation that makes dance an inherently political project is doled out in rather conservative ways.
While Sara passes both racially and literally, as she gains a sort of mobility, moving into club spaces previously foreclosed to her because of racial divisions, Derek, her black partner, remains in no more than a pedagogical capacity. For Sara, this transformation into an essentialized and commodified blackness is achieved through dance and the romantic love for which dance becomes a proxy, with a successful relationship as the official inauguration into hip-hopdom.
This p. As is customary in multiracial narratives that fetishize difference and commodify race, hip-hop dance, music, dress, and in some cases, swagger are all unmistakable signs of commodified, MTV blackness Fig. As Sara auditions for Julliard, Derek stands off-stage. The scene moves between shots of her performance and shots of him watching.
His immobile presence is necessary to her success and transformation. This scene is undoubtedly the climax of the film, the choreographed product of numerous dance lessons and lived, racial transformations. Derek, who co-authored this choreography and the identity Sara now confidently inhabits, watches from behind a curtain, emerging only for a moment to reassure her Fig. Her mastery, however, requires that he is denied mobility, unable to engage in the dance performance that he helped engineer.
It is this arrangement that the Juilliard audition scene demonstrates. Here, her choreography, a fusion, as previously described, of hip-hop and ballet, signals what she has become through her tutelage: an enlightened, hybrid subject, who moves easily in and out of cultures and racialized subject positions. Derek, on the other hand, has seen no such transformation. This unofficial definition validated the lynching of black men during the period of Reconstruction, solidified white male status as both owner and protector, and paradoxically rendered violence against black women impossible and unimportant Smith, To abstract away from Save the Last Dance specifically for a moment, one of the racial standards for coupling in recent teen dance films is that the male lead must be readable as black.
While the female leads are sometimes white, as in the case of Save the Last Dance , sometimes Latina, the male figure is always fixed in an essentializing rendering of cinematic blackness. In these Romeo-and-Juliet plots, which all the films adhere to, the romance drama necessitates that the lovers be rendered opposites, leading various articulations of Latina identity to align with whiteness always in opposition to blackness. To mitigate that fear, in these utopic spaces, blackness is always rendered as an immobile signifier, laboring on behalf of white mobile becoming as well as its own vilification.
Sexton proposes that this is not simply the traditional boundary between blackness and whiteness. It is blackness that is narrated as the impediment to a neoliberal teleology of progress.
Whiteness, on the other hand, emerges as devoted to racial transcendence. Not only does neither one of them oppose the relationship, each one has already gained entry into a version of commodified blackness by the time the audience is introduced to them.
In her conversation with Chenille, Sara is bewildered about the role of racial construction in interracial relationships. As such, Save the Last Dance is a clear articulation of a rather specific multiracial ideology that ultimately uses bodies that signify blackness in order to secure the privileges of what is rendered innocent whiteness. Sara stands in perfect testament to the innocence that whiteness claims with regard to racial tensions. What is the big damn deal?
Additionally, the innocence that Sara performs as proxy of progressive whiteness speaks to the ways in which the discourses of multiracial progress treat race as a project of the individual alone. This notion that the topic of race is an individual one is a central trope both in multiracial discourse in general Dean, ; Hong, ; Sexton, as well as Save the Last Dance in particular.
In the scene mentioned above, where Sara is baffled as to why interracial coupling might ignite discourses of violence and privilege, her point is a telling one. After all, for her, their relationship and their struggles are theirs alone—personal and individual—to be resolved through affect, expression, and of course dancing.
Dance crews exist only in the background, with uncertain and uninterrogated fates. Despite the traditional and contemporary prevalence of dance crews in hip-hop, Save the Last Dance eschews this issue altogether. Again, dance narrativizes this hinted plot point. As the scene moves into a slow-motion shot, focusing on her nearly horizontal, suspended split, the scene is cut with the image of two trains, approximating the same horizontal motion, high above the ground, poignantly moving in opposite directions.
As the closest image of coalition politics, of collective mobilization and group identity enactment, dance crews approximate the very threat of black nationalism that multiracial discourse imagines.
Sheldon H. Modern Language Quarterly 1 March ; 69 1 : — This essay is a study of a group of women writers who emerged on the Chinese literary scene in the late s and the turn of the twenty-first century. Their writings are characterized by an unabashed, unprecedented foregrounding of female sexuality. While their novels were censored by the state now and then, they circulate on the Internet and contribute to the formation of China's booming Internet literature. The initial core group of beauty writers has made a large impact on other aspiring female writers eager to explore and expose their sensuality and sexuality. The parading and pandering of female subjectivity via a body politics have become a major literary fad in contemporary mainland China.
Body Politics in the Twentieth Century. Edited by Emily S. The essays in this volume all examine body political in a global perspective and are a valuable contribution to the field. The pieces span the 20th century but are arranged chronologically and fit into the the interrelated and overlapping categories: population migration and mixing, national security discourse, and mass-mediated cultural circulations. Body and Nation is a valuable contribution to the
Popular culture is widely understood to intersect with and shape our understanding of world politics. Numerous studies have highlighted the way language and.
Teen dance films often follow a close formula that includes interracial romance, hip-hop dance, racial utopias, and allegiance to American exceptionalism. In the film, dance transformation from ballet to hip-hop makes racial transformation possible. It is these choreographed racial transformations that reinforce narratives of U.
Teen dance films often follow a close formula that includes interracial romance, hip-hop dance, racial utopias, and allegiance to American exceptionalism. In the film, dance transformation from ballet to hip-hop makes racial transformation possible. It is these choreographed racial transformations that reinforce narratives of U. As the film demonstrates, however, racial transformation is restricted to non-black characters only. Keywords: Save the Last Dance , hip-hop dance , ballet , multiracialism , antiblackness , immobility in dance.
Body Politics in the Twentieth Century.Newscarwhicoun1985 26.05.2021 at 17:53
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