Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I would like to see some straight modern dance movies

I'm reading Film Art (Brodwell & Thompson, 2008) right now, and I just read about the genre of the musical.

First off I'd like to say that I don't like characterizing "musical" as a genre, for the same reason Brad Bird doesn't like "animation" classified as a genre: you an have any genre done as a musical or an animation or both. It's almost like saying "film" is a genre. It's not. It's a medium, an art form.

That rant aside, the book introduced some terms I like. The "backstage musical" is about performers, who in the course of the film perform for audiences in the film (e.g. That Thing You Do!). Typically this means a film about actors or musicians. In contrast the "straight musical" involves non-actors whose singing and dancing are a part of their everyday life (e.g. The Wizard of Oz, Little Shop of Horrors.) Some movies seem to be halfway between, like and The Producers and Moulin Rouge, in which there are actors performing for audiences, but they also sing and dance other times too.

I love modern dance. For a couple of years now I've longed for a dance movie. To borrow the terminology of musicals, I'd like to see a "straight" dance movie. Though I liked the film The Company, it was, you might say, a "backstage" dance movie, because it's about dancers, not normal people who are just dancing in the movie.

What I'd like to see is a film in which people just dance. Kind of like going to a modern dance performance, except on film. Or, more like a traditional musical, people dancing at certain times during the story. I don't know any film that really does this, without also being a musical.

And why not? Film is a great medium for dance: You can have elaborate, beautiful sets, and longer, more difficult dances because you can have take after take until it's exactly right, and you're done. You don't have to worry about dancers tiring. You can also see better. In fact, I suggest that film is a better medium for dance than the stage, for the same reasons that martial arts stories are better for the film than for stage.

I'd love to see films like this. But I'm not a choreographer nor a filmmaker (yet) so I can't do it. How about it, Hollywood?


Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2008). Film Art. Eighth Edition. McGraw-Hill: Boston.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Solution to the Canadian Identity Problem

I'm an American who moved to Canada about three and a half years
ago. One thing I find is very important to Canadians is this sense of
identity and culture. In fact, identity seems to be a powerful theme
in Canadian art.

I hear a lot of Canadians lament the fact that they have so little
culture, and that they struggle to have an identity. In particular,
Canadians spend a lot of time thinking about how they distinguish
themselves from the United States.

There is an enormous overlap in culture between the United States and
Canada. I am very comfortable here because of this. I don't feel like
a foreigner walking around here, and I basically never did. Many
people are surprised to hear that I'm American. America and Canada are
each other's biggest trading partners. Canadians hold on to the bits
of difference between these countries. And compared to most pairs of
countries, the differences really are minimal.

The problem is not that Canadians have no culture. They have as much
culture as everyone else. The problem is that they don't take credit
for cultural things that they share with other countries, particularly

I explained this to someone last night, and asked "you eat eggs for
breakfast. Don't you consider that a part of your culture?" Her reply
was telling: "Don't you eat eggs for breakfast?"

Note that Americans don't spend any time worrying about what makes
American culture different from Canadian. American cultural and
economic influence is so enormous that we aren't insecure. Sure, we
eat eggs for breakfast, just like Canadians, just like the English,
but we also accept that it's a part of our culture. It's something we
can miss when we travel abroad.

But these things common to the US and Canada don't come to mind when
Canadians think about their culture. How they speak, the fact that
they ask what someone does for a living upon meeting them, how their
houses look, the fact that they drive on the right side of the road,
the social mores, the humour, the music, etc. All of these things are
a part of Canadian culture, but they don't take credit for
it. Canadians even invented basketball, but since it was adopted by
the Americans, Canadians don't wave it around like the huge cultural
success that it is.

I was talking with a bunch of people about the effects of global
warming, and someone suggested that if the worst predictions came
about, there would be a flood of Americans trying to come to
Canada. One person at the table said "I think it would be the right
thing to do, but it would mean the end of Canadian culture."

If Mexicans flooded America, that would have profound effects on
American culture. Why? Because Mexican culture has some striking
differences with American. Speaking Spanish, for one.* If Americans
flooded Canada, most of Canadian culture would remain intact because
American culture is much the same.

It's sad, Canada's inferiority complex, with respect to the United
States. They should take more credit for what they are.

* I am not dismissing the large and growing Latino part of American
culture. However, speaking English is still considered dominant in
America, even though the US has no official language.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Doing Improv Again: Insensitivity Training

I love theatrical and comedy improvisation. I started doing it in college and I've been doing it, off and on, since then. When I moved to Ottawa there were no performing improv groups, but now I've found "Insensitivity Training," and I'm performing again!

I'm a happier person when I'm performing.

It's at the Bytown Tavern (292 Elgin St., downstairs) Sunday nights at 9pm. Our first show this year is on January 13. If you're in Ottawa, check it out. Show's free.

Improv is so much fun. If you're interested, look to see if there are classes taught in your area. If you already do improv and have not read Keith Johnstone's "Impro For Storytellers," do so immediately!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year's Resolution: No soda/pop

This year my man Lou and I celebrate our 20th anniversary of our ridiculous New Year's Resolutions. We started in 1988 with no soda ("pop" for you Canadians) and we decided to resolve to not have soda this year either, as a tribute. It's the best resolution since "No Sliced Bread!"

In 1988 we defined "soda" as any carbonated drink. This time we define it as any sweetened, non-alcoholic carbonated drink (I think Lou wanted to be able to drink sparkling water.) So it looks like I'm in for a lot of iced tea and kool aid this year.

I will very much miss Coke or Pepsi with pizza.

For a list of my past resolutions see The Jim Davies FAQ.

Pictured is me on New Year's Day, dumping out the last of the Cherry Coke in the house.