Discussions, Interviews & Lectures Detail
:: Description :: Alan Lomax's notes on the African dance project, part of a request for funding from the NEH; critique of a projected educational project African folktale performace traditions and suggestions .
:: Project :: Cantometrics, Choreometrics, The Urban Strain
:: Date Range :: 12-19-1985 to 01-07-1986
:: Particpants ::
Lomax, Alan
:: Subjects ::
African folktale performance - Alan Lomax's suggestions for video library of
High energy and changefulness in African dance
Dance style, African - movement initiating from central body in
Dance style, Pygmy and Bushman - main characteristics of
Song style regions, African
Break-dancing - African American cultural innovations and continuity
:: Cultures ::
African American
:: Holdings ::
Media not yet available
:: Notes :: Distinctive characteristics of African dance include high energy, change (in every respect), e.g.: change of level, in use of limbs, in application of energy. These are the soul of the African style. First inhabitants of Africa were the pygmies and Bushmen (now living in secluded areas). Their movement style has all the principal characteristics that still animate African dance. Movement's core feature is its initiation from the central body. This is a request for funding from the NEH to make available the methods and findings of Choreometrics. Two films already exist. "Dance and Human History" portrays the dance in terms of the characteristics of the known regions of human dance, with measures for use of space and body attitude. "Step Style" shows why dance steps vary cross culturally. "The Longest Trail" uses the Choreometric method to establish the varied types of American Indian dances. Film shows their probable Siberian origin and the effect of long experience of the Arctic. I find to my dismay that the grant will not cover the modest fees for rights that are due the contributors of the film footage. Dance styles from the main divisions of African culture: agriculturalists of Central and West Africa and the cattle herding people of East Africa are clearly African but form distinct families. In South Africa, the two traditions met and co-mingled, the resulting urbanized examples clearly foreshadow that of contemporary African Americans. People everywhere are fascinated by African traditions. Cantometrics and Choreometrics are techniques for establishing the continuities of non-verbal and non-literate traditions of mankind and giving them historical status. Contemporary black cultural manifestations (such break dancing) have ancient roots and have always been a part of one of the most successful systems of adaptation. Our hope is that Cantometrics teaching will be useful to educators, humanists, and choreographers. "The Longest Trail" will be finished this month. Draft for film on African movement needs further work. Alan Lomax's critique of a project for documentation of African folktale performances. They are frequently small operas, with dancers, and many voices. Advent of video tape which can record a ten hour session has made extensive documentation of African folktale performance economically possible. Creation of a bibliography and collection of African folktales would require more time than allowed in the proposal. There is a need for experienced video tapers familiar with filming at night. Participation and advice of old Africa hands and scholars such as Rouget could make the project should be sought. Folktale typological method needs further explanation. A number of other approaches ought to be considered. Not mentioned is how performances are going to be compared cross culturally. It might be wiser to begin with a sub-pilot program to record three or four contrastive traditions to build a comparative method. Study could bring a rich harvest. A network of sophisticated folklore scholars could generate a cultural revolution; however, no mention is made of feedback to the source. Folklorists should learn the usefulness of their studies to the population studied.



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