Dancing or Representing ?

danza circolare
 The national dance of Balochistan, Asian Russia (from W. Hutchinson, Customs of the World, 1915).  About thirty men form a circle holding hands. At first the movement is slow and heavy. The dancers come close and away from the others, tightening and enlarging the circle. As the dance proceeds, the movement speeds up and it becomes from regular to riotous. At the end it turns into a whirling dance, which requires the participants to use all their energy, to the point that during its performance the exhausted dancers may be substituted with fresh ones.

A dance is a formalized act, regulated by unchangeable rules and inserted in a broader context, usually consisting of one or more of the following elements: a rhythmical base produced by hand clapping or by other resonant objects used by the audience, a choral song, a musical accompaniment performed by professional musicians. All this takes place in a “given” space, oriented and often compared to the centre of the Universe, which is bestowed a sacred value. In the dance every movement, every gestural pattern must be clearly recognizable because, as faithful imitation of the gesture made “ab origine” by a god or a spirit, it has the onerous duty to reactivate the dulled cosmological functions, following the community’s expectations. As we have already seen, archaic societies gave dance the twofold function of reinforcing the sense of belonging to the group and to interact with the Cosmic forces. So what was the reason that moved our prehistoric ancestors, while in the full consciousness that rhythm, sound, movement can be reproduced only in reality, to turn it into an image? The answer to this question can apply not only to dance scenes, but also to all figurative subjects present in the Prehistoric Iconography inventory. What difference is there, then, between a sexual coupling made on the ploughed field, a fight between two warriors which simulates the fight between good and evil, a funeral ceremony that accompanies the deceased to the afterworld, a propitiatory act for the good outcome of a hunt, a fertility dance made during a wedding ceremony, and their representation through an image? At first sight the passage from the dimension of the real to the figurative one seems to imply a remarkable lowering of the capacity to convey. In reality, as we will see, in that passage a higher level of formalization is worked out and a higher degree of sacredness is achieved. The insuperable limit of a danced dance is therefore the fact that it cannot last forever; so, the positive effects on the world awarded by popular belief are doomed to exhaust themselves over time. But can a dance last forever?


Autore: Gaudenzio Ragazzi

(English). My name is Gaudenzio Ragazzi, a long time ago I graduated in Philosophy with a master in History of Theater. To realize my thesis on the "origins of dance", a theme that still today boasts only two or three specialized researchers in the world, I became a scholar of Prehistoric Iconography. In the last thirty years I have not been able to escape the responsibilities of life. So, after the death of my father, I led the family artisan company that produces tailored shirts. A few years ago I decided that it was time to resume my studies and complete the research I had started as a young man (that nobody else had yet completed). Good luck Gaudenzio! Mi chiamo Gaudenzio Ragazzi, molto tempo fa ho conseguito la laurea in Filosofia con specializzazione in Storia del Teatro. Sono diventato uno studioso di Iconografia Preistorica per realizzare la mia tesi di laurea sulle "origini della danza", argomento che ancora oggi vanta nel mondo solo due o tre studiosi di una certa levatura. Negli ultimi trent'anni non ho potuto sottrarmi alle responsabilità della vita. Così, dopo la morte di mio padre, ho guidato l'azienda artigiana di famiglia che produce camicie su misura. Alcuni anni fa ho deciso che era arrivato il momento di riprendere i miei studi e di fare da vecchio quello che non ho potuto fare da giovane (e che nessun altro nel frattempo aveva completato). Buon lavoro Gaudenzio !


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