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Sorry for not posting for a few weeks. Mr. P and I are currently on vacation, enjoying some time in Italy with family. I haven’t had the internet access I thought I would, so posting will be intermittent-nonexistent until the end of August.

I haven’t devoted the same attention to this blog that I did in the first months. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to write about– I will always have good material as long as I’m dancing– but keeping balance in my life has required me to sacrifice something. The thing has often been this blog. As much as I love you all, dear readers, my personal relationships, and of course, my dancing, take precedence.

As a result, many of my posts lately have been “lazy posts”– quick observations about TV and pop culture. Not that I don’t love pop culture (cause I sure do), but I haven’t taken the time or energy to delve into the more personal aspects of dancing. Sometimes I forget that my balancing act between dance and life is why I started blogging to begin with.

A recent conversation with a friend who reads the blog made me realize that others are interested in my process. To others in similar situations, the things I write can resonate sometime. As a result, I am going to be writing more about my own projects and process. I’m involved in an exciting new project that I’ll be blogging about soon.

The title of this post is an age-old philosophical question, but I think it’s good to ask ourselves this question from time to time. Particularly as dance becomes a more common element in mass media, it’s important to think about what we value in dance and in art. Some might argue with even the practice of putting labels on things, but this is a blog about dance, I am passionate about dance, and given that, there are obviously some boundaries in my mind as to what constitutes dance and what does not.

I also ask, is all dance art? And if all dance is art, then how do we classify movement that is not art? What is art?

The source of all this soul-searching was this video that Loren sent me:

Without question, this is an incredible video. According to YouTube, these are the 100 dancers and acrobats of the Great Chinese State Circus; I believe the title for the work would be “Swan Lake on LSD.”

The ballet in this is not bad at all. Very technically proficient, and beautiful lines. I can’t fathom the amount of center and control it takes to dance en pointe on that guys’s head and shoulders while he is walking around. The frogs were very frog-like and very entertaining. But I ask, if all the acrobatics and head pointe dancing were taken out, would this video have had over 3.3 million hits on youtube? More importantly, would it be seen as anything special by dance and art lovers, other than another nice execution of swan lake?

Are acrobatics dance? Are acrobatics art? The following video of the Pilobolus “Dance Company” (I’ve added the quotation marks, more on that later) made me ask those two questions when I first saw it on Ariel’s blog:

For me, this is definitely art– a fantastically creative and sculptural treatment of the human body. But I’m not so sure that it’s dance. To me it falls more into the categories of acrobatics and contortionism.  Yes Pilobolus calls itself a dance company. Is that because it holds that movement + art = dance? Yet take some of the mindless pap you see on shows like Dancing With the Stars…it’s definitely dance, but it sure ain’t art. At least not in my book. Even on the shows I enjoy, such as So You Think You Can Dance, acrobatics are often thrown in the mix in order to pander to attention-deficient viewers who need explosive movements and crazy physical feats to hold their attention. The line between dance and acrobatics is often blurred, as is the line between what I consider art and what I would not consider art, but nonetheless find fun and entertaining.

I’ve been hoping to get a little more insight on his work, so I was thrilled when Helanius Wilkins, Founder and Artistic Director of Edgeworks Dance Theater, the DC-based all male dance company, agreed to answer a few of my questions. He’s been busy preparing for this weekend’s performance at the American Dance Institute, so he took my questions via email.

Maria: Let’s get the cliched question out of the way: influences. In past conversation you’ve mentioned Horton, Ailey, Bill T Jones, and martial arts as either influences or training grounds. Have you been dancing all your life? What motivates and inspires you?

Helanius J. Wilkins: While I have not been dancing all of my life, dance has always been a part of me. I do not feel that I chose dance, it chose me. It is a calling – and my career is the result of something far deeper than simply making the choice to dance. Life motivates me to dance. What I do is about life experiences, observations, and a quest to know and understand more in order to contribute to the shaping of a more socially just world.

M: In Cold Case, you faced head-on some of the brutal realities of race and racism in America. Can we expect the same frank treatment of sexuality and spirituality in [your newest work,] the determining factor? Where does this honesty come from?

HJW: Absolutely, I have no issues with addressing some of today’s most difficult issues. I believe that we are in a national crisis on so many fronts. Unless we become proactive about confronting these issues, things will never change. … The honesty comes from not being afraid to take risks – not being afraid to ask questions.

M: Community involvement was part of the foundation for the determining factor. How did that part of the process go and did it take you in any unexpected places?

HJW: Yes, the determining factor is in part the result of community collaboration. This collaboration was very enlightening, humbling, and exciting all at the same time. I have walked away with so much…And the journey is just beginning. Yes, unexpected places were a constant in the process. This made for a truly moving and wisdom filled experience.

M: In addition to the acclaim you have received for your work as an artist, it seems that you have attracted recognition from funders as well (your website has a long list of funding, recognition, and honors), including your recent feature of the Catalog of Philanthropy. Nonprofit management skills are key to making the jump from artistic genius to recognition and success. How have you balanced your choreography, teaching, and management responsibilities? What advice would you give to nascent dance companies looking build themselves as an organization?

HJW: Keeping my art first, staying connected to my passion for what I do, and being strategic about everything has been/is the key to the balancing of my responsibilities. These very things are the things I would also share with an emerging organization/artist.

M: You’re about to make your NYC debut (as a headliner) and have already had success touring domestically and internationally. What do you feel sets EDT apart to garner the attention it has, and what do you want the world to know about your work and your dancing? What are your plans for the future?

HJW: There are many things that I believe sets EDT apart from other companies. From being DC’s 1st all male contemporary dance company of predominately Black men to being the second in the nation of its kind to being a company focused on the often misunderstood voice of the african-american male. As much as our work is serious and honest it is entertaining and it reflects the stories and feelings of real people – real lives. Plans for the future: One step at a time.

***

You can see Helanius Wilkins and Edgeworks Dance Theater in a preview performance of the determining factor this weekend, May 2-3 @ 8pm at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD.

For tickets, go to www.americandance.org

Buon anniversario, amore della mia vita. Sei il mio compango piu` bello, la mia mezza mela. Ti amo tanto.

May 2008 be full of love, happiness, family and friends.

May you accomplish all your resolutions, or at least all the achievable ones.

May it be a year for peace in this world.

I’ve added a new page to the sidebar about my thinking behind this blog’s name.

Also, I just discovered that WordPress is giving us the option of having snow on our blogs until January 2. I’m a little late to the game, but it’s just in time to make my ice skating post look even prettier!

Basically I wanted to make this post because I am proud of my totally witty acronym: D.A.M.N., Dancers Against Metro Nightmares.

What is it with public transportation these days? There were two mentions in the dance blogosphere of the MTA issues caused by all the rain in NY:  It took Danciti 5 hours and 14 minutes to get from South Brooklyn to Midtown, and Tonya, AKA Swan Lake Samba Girl 3 hours to get to her destination. Myself, I missed my Thursday night modern class for the umteenth time due to a combination of having to work late and the stupid red line. I have had to miss this class on multiple occasions no thanks to metro.

For those of you who use LiveJournal, my wonderful sister has set up a syndication for me. If you are a LiveJournal user, add “timetodanceblog” to your friends list.

…one of the most influential people in my life was born. When I spoke to her on the phone today she reminded me that when she was about my age, she was tearing up the dance floors with her jitterbug and ballroom dancing talents. Happy birthday Grandma A, and thank you for your grace, elegance, wit, intelligence, talent, and most of all, love.dsc02416.jpg

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