Session/Séance 7d: IASPM Panel 1 Embodying Identity: Transnational Perspectives on the “Popular” in Music and Dance

Session/Séance 7d: IASPM Panel 1 Saturday/samedi 27 May 2017. 9:00AM - 10:30AM, EJB 217.
Embodying Identity: Transnational Perspectives on the “Popular” in Music and Dance
     Moderator: KELLI FORMAN (UC Santa Barbara; National Program Director, Everybody Dance Now!)


1. Crafting Embodied Identity: Europe, Russian, and Africa, Plus American and Canadian Citizenship,Equals Ballet-and-Social Dance DNA
     Jennifer Fisher, University of California, Irvine

This paper takes an autoethnographic look at the ways identity is constructed across borders in overlapping layers of nationality, cultural associations, and dance DNA (which results when music and dance “imprint” the moving body through practice, reading, and viewing in particular cultural contexts). Geertz would call it a “thick description” method; Bourdieu would note various “cultural competences,” Kondo calls it “crafting selves.” What kind of unconscious hyphenations and fusions occur to affect identity through the moving body, then shift and adhere through labels and selective histories? Underpinned by rhetorical hermeneutics, two incidents that challenge identity are explored: the first literal border crossing in my own journey took place from the USA to Canada, which entailed minimal but significant cultural adjustment, with popular music and ballet providing a common language (mirrored in the case of American dancers performing in Russia during the Cold War). An earlier border-crossing of sorts occurred as I grew up unconscious of it, learning to embody both Europe and Africa through ballet and through popular dance. Both of these events relate to the way American ballet was born, but not labelled correctly, when the Russian George Balanchine added Africanist aesthetics to Euro-Russian training. Historians “invisibalized” the African contributions, as they tend to do still, when hip-hop influence is rarely recognized in contemporary ballet. It all points to the multi-edged sword of identity, often wielded as if it is a fixed entity that cannot be fluid (or it would not be a weapon). As a liminal borderland with only some fixed landmarks, identity benefits from an understanding of flexible choreography and improvisation, not just in a dancerly way.


2. “I’m a Pure ‘Popular’ Kid Who Listens to ‘Popular’ Music”: Embodiments of the “Popular” and Popular Music in Greek Night Clubbing
     Natalia Koutsougera, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences

The notion of the “popular” takes on different cultural meanings and connotations in different cultural contexts and spaces. This paper aims to portray the multiple discourses, authenticities and permutations of the “popular” (laiki) subjectivity in Greece, through textual analysis, performance and embodiments of popular music in Greek evening entertainment. The landscape of popular music in Greece is divided in two subfields: international music and indigenous music (Elafros 2013). In this particular ethnographic exploration, the locus of popular music performance is the kind of club called ellinadiko (Greek-like club) where commercial, international and Greek chart music is mixed (Koutsougera 2012, 2013). The ellinadiko night entertainment scene is related to bouzoukia night culture, which is influenced by eastern entertainment structures and modalities and thrived during the 1990s and early 2000s. Social dances, such as Greek belly dance (tsifteteli) and male-identified zeibekiko, are performed in these clubbing environments. Along with the audiences, atmospheres and socio-aesthetics of different genres of ellinadiko and popular music – which generate different taste cultures, inclusions and exclusions – this paper explores the subjectivities driven by a Greek “popular” (laiko) element, which refers to the adoption of bouzoukia culture and encapsulates notions of mainstream, folk and working class. At the same time, it unveils the transhistorical emotional structures of the “popular” Greek night out and the transcultural qualities of mainstream night clubbing that circulate through musical and dance performance, erotic and affective language, intense flirting, playful rituals and material cultures. More specifically, this paper focuses on the therapeutic effect of popular music on Greek audiences, for the resolution of trauma, distress, social suffering, contemporary crisis and precarity, as well as emotionalities, affectivities and performativities reflecting diachronically and synchronically on Greek gendered structures and discourses. Accordingly, an ethnography of popular music and night clubbing unfolds, revealing the realities of an individualistic, class culture in constant pursuit of an expressive, playful authenticity.

Keywords: popular music, entertainment, youth culture, night clubbing, social dance

Discussant: Danielle Robinson, York University



Saturday Schedule | Programme - samedi
(Session 7 | Séance 7)

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