A stimulating article by Judith Mackrell in the Guardian about gymnastics and dance. I’m delighted that a dance critic is writing about gymnastics. The older I get, the more all these things just merge into one, and the louder I can hear the protests of those who want to maintain that they are fundamentally different.
I have been more moved by what I’ve seen in the Olympics recently than by many ‘artistic’ performances I’ve been to. What moved me in both was the sight of a human over-achieving. I am more surprised by how much gymanastics there seems to be in ballet, than ballet in gymnastics. It may only be a matter of words, but Dalcroze originally called his classes ‘rhythmic gymnastics’. It is a later development to think of Dalcroze classes as a way to respond appropriately to Bach.
Comments on the article reveal how fiercely (and rudely) some people want to believe and promote the belief that there are irreconcilable differences between gymnastics and dance. It reminds me of two things – firstly, Kofi Agawu’s article ‘Contesting difference’ in the 2nd edition of The Cultural Study of Music, and secondly of Andrée Grau’s discussion of figure skating. Agawu argues for a musicology that searches for sameness, not difference, and Grau fulfils this in relation to sport and art, and in particular dance and figure skating, while giving a critical prod at those who want to maintain their difference. It’s a point of view, but a much more interesting one than mindless insistence on difference.