Introduction

If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Introduction to Dance

History of Dance

Dance is one of the oldest forms of art known to man. There are glyphs of people dancing that were painted over 11,000 years ago. Primitive dances still exist today, and are used for ceremonial, religious, and healing purposes. Many of these dances tell a story – myths, legends, and histories of a cultures. Dance is also an integral part of gymnastics and martial arts.

Kinds of Dance

Dances can be categorized by the number of dancers - solo, partner, or group – and by the style of dance:
 
Ballroom dance: Ballroom dance and balls come from the Italian word for dance, ‘ballare’. They originated from folk dance, but became more formal as entertainment in kings’ courts. Ballroom dance evolved with classical music. Typical dances during the renaissance were the basse dance, branle, pavane, and the galliarde. The minuet was introduced in the 17th century, and the waltz, polka, and mazurka started in the 19th. The waltz was innovative in that it wasn’t a “sequence dance”, meaning each couple could dance independently of the others. The waltz was controversial because the partners held each other so close.
            Ballroom dance transformed in the 20th century due to several factors. World Wars 1 & 2 ended many older social customs. Jazz music led to dance crazes that created new dances, made popular by films with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And, new dance schools led to competitive dancing.
 
Standard Ballroom Dances today include: Slow Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.
 
American “Nightclub Dances” include: Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Two Step, Hustle, Salsa, Merengue, Bolero, and Mambo.
 
Latin Ballroom Dances include: Samba, Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive.
 
Ballet: Ballet is a performance dance that tells a story. It’s a very technical dance with its own vocabulary, and it takes many years to master. It’s theatrical, with costumes, sets, and is closely related to opera. Many early operas contain ballet scenes. Ballet first developed in Italy and became very popular in Paris, as court entertainment for kings. The word comes from the Italian ‘balletto’ meaning a little dance. The Académie Royale de Danse, the first ballet academy, opened in Paris in 1661, and began the first ballet troupe – this is when ballet first separated from ballroom dance. In the 19th century, ballet became less popular in France, but Russians took it very seriously, and reintroduced it to France just before WWI, while fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution. Ballet has been very influential in the development of modern dance and music. Many famous ballet composers are Russian, like Tchaikovsky, who wrote the Nutcracker, and Modernist composers like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich. The most famous French composer of ballet is Maurice Ravel, and in America, Aaron Copland.
 
Folk dance: There are many kinds of folk dance, coming from different countries, villages, and cultures around the world. Many are hundreds of years old. Different kinds of folk dance include polkas, which vary from country to country, square dancing, barn dancing, step dancing, clogging, Greek and Turkish dances, sword dancing, etc.
 
Ritual dance: is any dance performed as part of a ritual, or religious ceremony. Many of these originate in Polynesia, on islands like Indonesia, Hawaii, and New Zealand. The Maori of New Zealand perform Haka warrior dances, meant to intimidate their enemies. Buddhist dance tells a story, with every movement and gesture telling a word. Hawaiian dance also tells stories.
 
Breakdancing: Also called B-boying, is a form of street dancing that began in NYC in the 1970’s. It’s now spread worldwide. Common elements of breakdancing include toprock, downrock, powermoves, and freezes.

Modern dance: is an expressive, formal dance similar to ballet, but breaking many of its rules. There are many styles.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Introduction to Popular Music

Folk Music (Roots Music): Folk music is music that was learned at home and taught from parents to children for generations. Record companies killed this. Gospel Music, African chants, Bluegrass, Cajun Zydeco, Jug Bands, and 'Old Time Music' are all folk genres. Country and The Blues also started as folk.

Country (Hillbilly) Music: Country today is really just like pop rock, where the singers have southern accents. But, it started as Folk Music, gradually taking on more and more influence from The Blues and other genres. Early on, Country added the African-American banjo, and, eventually (1956), the drums.



The Three Most Important Forms of roots music that developed into 20th Century pop are Ragtime, The Blues, and Boogie-Woogie, all being African-American music. From these three genres we get Jazz, Rock n’ Roll, Rhythm & Blues, and everything else.



Ragtime: was a form of popular/classical music that combined African rhythms with European concepts of melody and harmony. Ragtime songs were short and meant for dancing.

The Blues: Blues songs are very simple and sad, sung in minor keys. You can sing it alone, or in a small band. Feeling blue means feeling sad (how you feel when you have a bruise - modrina). In Blues, you sing a line, repeat it, and then sing a third line that responds to the first. It comes from Call and Response chants that African American slaves used to sing while working. Here’s an example:

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, babe, come snoopin’ round my door.
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, babe, come snoopin’ round my door.
You can wag your tail, but I ain’t gonna feed you no more.”

Boogie-Woogie: is a fast, upbeat dance music played on the piano that started around the same time as The Blues. It comes from Rag Time, and is very similar to Jazz. Boogie-Woogie is important because it’s really the first Rock n’ Roll. If you hear it, and imagine an electric guitar playing it – that’s Rock n’ Roll.

Jazz: is hard to define because it keeps evolving. Jazz started from Rag Time also. The three major innovations of Jazz were a singer, wind and brass instruments, and improvised, instrumental solos. Different kinds of Jazz include Swing, for dancing, and then more abstract forms like Bebop, Cool Jazz, and Free Jazz.



Boogie-Woogie, Jazz, and The Blues were all popular during Prohibition in America, when alcohol was illegal. Bands would play in illegal bars called “speakeasies”. This gave the music a bad reputation. Blues and Jazz bands eventually amplified their instruments to increase the volume, leading to the electric guitar.
 

 
Rhythm and Blues (R&B): R&B has meant different things at different times, but is mostly considered the combination of Blues and Gospel music, made famous by Ray Charles. Ray added backup singers and instruments such as piano, organ, and an orchestra to accompany the main vocalist.

Rock n’ Roll: The original Rock n’ Roll is different from the Rock we know today. It was fast dance music, similar to Boogie-Woogie, and played by black performers such as Chuck Berry. It also added snare drums. There are three important facts about Rock n’ Roll:

1. It used modern technology, including the new electric guitar, bass guitar, as well as new records, juke boxes, the radio, and television.

2. It was a product of capitalism, one of the first music genres to be dominated, almost invented, by record companies, starting a business approach to making music. Talent scouts traveled across the country, looking for new performers. Musicians were put together into bands, based on their looks and voice. Often times they would sing other people’s songs - they did what the company told them.

3. Most important, socially, it was one of the first times that black culture became accepted and copied by white people, bridging the gap and slowly helping to calm the hostility between these two races. Not only the music, but new forms of dance, like The Twist shocked the world, as society began to open and liberalize.

There are many kinds of Rock today: Blues Rock, Folk Rock, Pop Rock, Psychedelic, Glam, Progressive, Punk, Soft Rock, Experimental,  etc.

The British Invasion (1960’s): This refers almost exclusively to The Beatles who were a major hit in America, but it also includes many other bands, like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Who. These Rock n’ Roll bands influenced the music industry, shifting focus away from R&B, Surfer Rock, and Folk. It changed the face of radio and TV. A second generation of British bands in the 80’s was called New Wave.

Soul (1960’s-70’s): Singing with soul means singing with spirit – anything sung from the heart. While some Soul music is fast and loud, such as James Brown, most of it is slower and softer, with love songs by Al Green and Marvin Gaye.

Funk (1960’s-70’s): Another style that grew from R&B and Soul. Funk is a dance music that maintains the notes of one chord, instead of playing an actual melody. George Clinton is the most famous singer.

Reggae (1960’s – Present): A style of music coming from Jamaica. Reggae started as Ska, a quick, Jamaican form of Jazz, which slowed down it’s tempo to begin Rocksteady, and then Reggae.

Hard Rock (1970’s-80’s): Also called Classic Rock, this is a harder, louder kind of music, with distortion, feedback, and loud, aggressive singers, yet still having a strong Blues influence.

Disco (1970’s): Was a fun, upbeat dance music with singers, emphasizing  synthesizers and a syncopated bass line. Famous groups include ABBA, the Bee Gees, The Village People, and The Jackson Five.

Heavy Metal (1970’s – The Present): Is an extreme form of hard rock, but angrier and scarier, with fast guitar solos, no longer similar to The Blues. The singers often scream. Lyrics may be scary and/or satanic, as a way to upset and tease religious conservatives.

Alternative (1980’s – The Present): Also called Underground or Indie music, developing independently from major record labels. Alternative mixes Punk, Folk, and Hard Rock. Guitars are the main instrument. The lyrics often have social or political messages, similar to Punk. Alternative includes Grunge and Britpop.

Rap/Hip Hop (1980’s – The Present): is speaking in rhyme, to the rhythm of a beat. Rap songs often repeat “samples” – audio clips from other songs, films, or TV. Rap songs also often have DJ’s who scratch records to the beat, and beatboxing – when someone sings the part of a drum.

Industrial Music (1980’s): is a loud, aggressive fusion of rock and experimental, electronic music. It’s a bit like Electronic Heavy Metal. Examples are Nine Inch Nails, and White Zombie.

Techno (1980’s - Present): is electronic dance music, starting in Detroit, Michigan. It’s repetitive, without singing.

Emo (1990’s): Short for Emotional, Emo is a form of rock that’s softer and more melodic, with confessional lyrics.

Dubstep (1990’s - Present): is electronic dance music, starting in South London. Dubstep has a syncopated rhythm, and uses “wobbly bass” or “wub” notes. It has some Reggae influence, and occasionally has a singer.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Popular Music Genres - Folk, Blues, Jazz, and Rock n' Roll

Note: All songs are owned by their respective copywright owners. I'm posting them for non-profit, educational purposes, and I will remove them if asked.

Alright - short and sweet!

Folk Music

Folk music (also called roots music) is any kind of music learned at home and taught from parents to children for generations. Remember, up until recently that's how people heard music - they played it themselves. They didn't have radios, MTV, CD's, or MP3's. There were no record companies. In America, outside the big towns, they didn't even have many local concerts. Music was whatever instruments you had in your house, and the songs you could play.

Gospel music, African chants, bluegrass, Cajun zydeco, jug bands, and 'old time music' are all folk genres. Even country and the blues started as folk.

The interesting thing about Folk music is how far back it goes. There are musicians in the Appalachian mountains singing songs from old Gaelic that they brought with them from England and Europe hundreds of years ago. Some folk songs are over 1,000 years old! Some folk songs were meant for dancing, but some were ballads, meant as a way of preserving a story for generations.


The most famous folk singer in America was Woodie Guthrie:


The Blues
Instruments: the guitar, cigarbox guitar, slide guitar, harmonica, bass, and piano. The idea of a small group of musicians, each playing a different instrument has carried over into rock n' roll, and almost every other pop genre.

Cigar Box Guitars

The Blues was a form of folk music that developed in the American south (not South America!) sometime after the Civil War - possibly the 1880's? The first published blues music was in 1908, and the first blues recording was by Bessie Smith in 1920. I couldn't find it on Youtube, but here's another early blues singer:


Singing the blues means singing a sad song (feeling blue means feeling sad - imagine how you feel when you have a bruise).

Blues songs are very simple. You sing a line, repeat it, and then sing a third line that responds to the first. Here's an example by Junior Wells:

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, babe, come snoopin’ round my door.
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, babe, come snoopin’ round my door.
You can wag your tail, but I ain’t gonna feed you no more.”

The Blues almost always use a minor key, and follow a similar pattern of chords, emphasizing syncopation, and "blue notes" - basically, notes with attitude.

Boogie-Woogie

This is blues meant for dancing. The most important instrument is the piano, and the most famous singer is Jerry Lee Lewis:


Electric Blues

This is just the blues played on amplified instruments. It grew in popularity, starting in Chicago in the 1950's, and is a major precursor to the Hard Rock we know today. Here's a great example by T Bone Walker - you can see where Jimi Hendrix got his inspiration:


Jazz
Instruments: Trumpets, Trombone, Saxaphone, Clarinet, Piano, Drums, Guitar, Bass

Jazz is hard to define because it keeps evolving. What is jazz? There are different kinds. Jazz grew around the same time as the blues, combining it with ragtime - a kind of classical/pop music that combined African sounds and rhythms with European concepts of melody and harmony. The most important defining aspect of Jazz is improvisation, when a musician invents an original solo on the spot. It's hard to say where ragtime ended and jazz began, but jazz really took off during the years of prohibition in America (1920-1933), when alcohol was illegal and thousands of "speakeasies", illegal bars, sprouted up, each with its own band.

One of the oldest jazz bands

As Jazz became more popular it developed into a dance music called swing, with jazz orchestras called 'big bands'.


Meanwhile, Jazz musicians who wanted to develop improvisation created new kinds, not meant for dancing, like bebop:


cool jazz:


and free jazz:
Country
Instruments: Guitar, Violin (fiddle), banjo, harmonica, mandolin, slide guitar, steel guitar

Country music (originally "hillbilly music") comes from old time folk music. One of the earliest country songs, you can hear, sounds just like folk music from before:


Here's America's first nationwide country hit:


Country music was more conservative than other genres. Drums weren't allowed on stage until after 1956. But, country also developed over time into different styles, such as  hillbilly boogie, honky tonk, rockabilly, outlaw country, country rock, and country pop which is popular today.

Rhythm & Blues (R&B)
Instruments: piano, organ, drums, bass, saxophone, trumpet, trombone,

R&B has also changed definitions over time. It used to just mean the blues. In the 60's R&B was a combination of blues and gospel, adding back up singers, popularized by Ray Charles.


In the 70's it was synonymous with soul and funk. Nowadays, it mostly refers to Ray Charles and his contemporaries (thanks to a recent biographical film). Contemporary R&B is considered a separate style, with singers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys.

Rock n' Roll/Rockabilly
Instruments: Electric Guitar - lead and backup, Bass Guitar, Drums, Snare Drum, Piano

The first Rock n' Roll was very similar to the blues, often playing the same songs, only faster for dancing. While the Blues is mostly in minor keys, Rock n' Roll switched to the major, making songs upbeat and cheerful. Rock music has changed over time, like every other genre, and now Rock is a blanket term for many different styles. The first song to use the term was in 1934:


Here's one of the first songs described as Rock n' Roll, by Sister Rosetta. It starts out a lot like a blues song, and the melody feels like Jazz, with a Jazz orchestra:


Many people feel Rock n Roll first started when Chuck Berry started playing boogie-woogie, switching the piano part for an electric guitar.


Rock n' Roll is famous, not only as entertainment, but as a crosscurrent of racial culture, as music made by black people became popular for whites, who started copying the style. Here's Haley and the Comets

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Famous Playwrights/Authors










 
Georges Feydeau 1862-1921 famous for over 60 farces, absurdist


Eugene O’Neill 1888-1953

Oscar Hammerstein II 1895-1960 & Richard Rogers 1902-1979 wrote Oklahoma!

Thornton Wilder 1897-1975
Bertolt Brecht 1898-1956
Noel Coward 1899-1973
Graham Greene 1904-1991
Samuel Beckett 1906-1989 Theatre of the Absurd
Tennessee Williams 1911-1983
Arthur Miller 1915-2005

Arthur Laurents (1917-2011) and Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990 wrote West Side Story

Harold Pinter 1930-2008
Tom Stoppard 1937- originally Czech
Caryl Churchill 1938-
Jonathan Larson 1960-1996 wrote Rent

Kinds of Theatres/Venues

Amphitheatre in Epidauros, Greece, built in 350 BC

An Amphitheatre: This is an open-air theatre, or arena, used for plays, concerts, and sports. It was first designed by the ancient Greeks.


A Black Box/Experimental Theatre: a simple, modern theatre with no real stage or podium.

Community/Regional/Amateur theatre: a local theater with productions made by and for a community, or town. There was a Little Theatre Movement in America in the 20th century, promoting these productions.


Dinner Theatre: These are restaurants that provide a live theatre performance, often musical, while you eat. If you like singing, and don’t like small talk while you eat, you might like it.

A Repertory Theatre/Company: This is a company that has a repertoire, or list, of plays ready to perform any time. They rehearse and perform every week. They might change their repertoire over time, depending on what’s popular.

The Mischief Makers of Nottingham, England

Street Theatre: This is any outdoor production, where the audience doesn’t pay. It can be in a park, a car park, a shopping center, or a street corner. Since there are usually no speakers, performers focus more on dance, slapstick humour, and mime.

Summer Stock Theatre: These are theatres that only run shows in the summer.


A Theatrette: a small simple theatre in a larger theatre complex, or school, like one movie screen in a multiplex. They often have a movie screen, and can double as a lecture hall.

A Touring Company: is a traveling theatre company that tours different cities and countries.

FAMOUS THEATRES

In the UK:

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in Stratford-upon-Avon, seats 1040.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in Southwark, London, “seats” 3000 – many have to stand.

The Royal Albert Hall in London seats 5544. I think they only play concerts?

The Royal National Theatre in London seats 1160.


The Royal Opera House in London seats 2256.

The Edinburgh Festival Theatre seats 1915.

In the USA:

Lincoln Center in NYC consists of 29 different indoor and outdoor theatres, and two main buildings – the Metropolitan Opera House (seats 3900), and Avery Fisher Hall (seats 2738, and home to the New York Philharmonic).

Carnegie Hall in NYC has three auditoriums with 3671 seats total.

The JFK Center in Washington DC has a concert hall, opera house, and theatre with a total of 5,863 seats.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Upstate New York seats 5100.

The FOX Theatre in Detroit Michigan, originally a movie palace, seats 5048.

The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville Tennessee seats 4372.

Kinds of Plays

Drama: All theatre is a form of drama. Theatre and drama are synonymous. Drama is the art of playwriting – fiction meant to be performed live, with stage directions. The word ‘drama’ comes from the Greek word for ‘action’.Traditional forms of drama are comedy and tragedy. Today, drama refers to any serious story where a hero faces some test or obstacles, whether it’s a tragedy or has a happy ending.

Melodrama: Originally, any play that has some musical accompaniment to the action. The idea has become a cliché – imagine a villain in black with a thin moustache and a cape. Now, melodrama is considered as fake and kitsch. It doesn’t make you think, it makes you roll your eyes.

Tragedy: coming from classical Greece, a tragedy is a sad story about a hero who sacrifices himself for some noble reason.

Comedy: Comedy has a modern and an ancient meaning, coming from classical Greece. The word 'comedy' comes from the words 'komos' and 'ode', meaning celebratory song. Greek comedy revolved around conflict, either between two societies, or one character against society. Typically, a young hero with hopes and dreams, but powerless to do anything, would make fun of society, pointing out examples of irony. In modern English, comedy is anything that’s funny. Today there are many kinds of theatrical comedies, including satire, parody, screwball, romantic, black, and comedy of manners.

Satire and Parody both make fun of people and society, but satire is meant to bring about social change, it has an argument. Parody doesn’t. Screwball Comedy is bizarre and surprising. Farce is similar –it’s full of impossible situations and plot twists. Black Comedy makes fun of the evil nature of some people. Comedy of Manners is a special kind of parody, mocking the manners of a social class, either rich or poor.

Opera: is a combination of music and drama. The entire story is sung. Anoperetta is a short opera. Opera began in the renaissance. Mozart and Verde are two famous opera composers. Light opera is comical and silly, and was popular in the 19th century, especially works by Gilbert & Sullivan.

Musicals: are similar to opera, but most of the drama is simply spoken, with musical numbers in between. Actors pause the action to sing and dance. The choreography is usually very elaborate. Musicals are modern, many are shown on Broadway, and many are adapted for film. Examples include Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserable, Grease, and Rent.

Broadway: a main avenue in New York City (if continues out of the city all the way to Sleep Hollow), It’s also home to a theatre district with over 40 venues. Comparable to London’s West End theatres, these houses produce the most expensive and technical theatre in the world. Broadway attracts about 12 million theatergoers a year, earning just over a billion dollars. These theatre houses run plays and (very often) musicals. How long each play runs is determined by ticket sales. Broadway shows run from Tuesday to Saturday night, with three matinée performances (2PM), for a total of eight performances a week.

Off Broadway: Refers to the many smaller theatre productions in and around New York City that are not part of the theatre district. These shows are smaller and cheaper to produce, but still often contain excellent actors. Because they’re cheaper, producers take more risks, performing more avant-garde plays.

Ballet: Ballet is a form of dance that often tells a story. Famous examples include The Nutcracker and SwanLake, both by Tchaikovsky. We’ll go more in depth when we talk about dance.

Improvisation: This is a form of drama that’s best for training actors. They are given a situation and are asked to act out a part, without any script. This is also great for comedians to come up with jokes.

Pantomime: is when the actors have no line and act out a story with body language.

Alternative/Avant-Garde/Fringe Theatre: This is a term used to describe small scale theatre productions, mostly in the UK and often above pubs, centering around the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In fringe festivals, plays are chosen by random lottery instead of a jury, so you never know what you’ll see. Actors may be professional or amateur. Different troupes share the same space, so sets are simple. Fringe plays are typically one act, and an hour long, and they’re cheaper. In America these kinds of productions are referred to as Off-Broadway.

Vaudeville: Popular in Americafrom 1880-1930, it was a nightly show consisting of many short, unrelated performances. Anyone with any skill or talent could perform, so long as they were popular. If you bought a ticket for a vaudeville performance, you might see actors one minute, and acrobats the next. Other typical acts included singers, jugglers, musicians, comedians, magicians, trained animals, athletes, etc. It was like a circus act in a theatre.

Puppetry: is theatre involving puppets. The puppets are the actors, controlled by puppeteers, who bring them to life. Kabuki is traditional Japanese puppetry.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Theatre Vocabulary

THEATRE BASICS

a theatre/theater/playhouse: a building where plays are performed. There are different kinds.

the stage: a raised platform or podium where actors perform, and musicians give concerts. Not every theatre has a raised stage. Anyone standing on the stage where they can be seen is “on stage”. When actors hide behind the curtains, they are “off stage”.

the audience: the people who watch a performance, either a play or concert. They are sometimes called spectators, but spectators are typically louder, and part of a sporting event.


balcony: A raised level of seats from which the audience can look down on the stage. They’re usually farther away, so the seats are less expensive. There are different kinds of balconies, the grand circle, loge, upper circle, and mezzanine.


a set: consists of all the decorations on a stage. They can be simple or big and expensive. Usually made of wood and painted, with doors and windows, sets often change during a play. Each scene may have a different set. Some sets are on platforms that rotate.

scenes and acts: Plays are divided into scenes and acts. Acts are like chapters in a book. Most plays have two or three. Acts are divided into smaller scenes that often happen in different places, requiring a change in the set.

a dressing room: This is where actors put on costumes and makeup before and during a play.

a prompter’s box: This is a little box or booth where a prompter sits. He has a copy of the script and he can help any actor who forgets his/her lines, prompting them with the words.

a prop: This is anything an actor uses during a play. It can be a decoration or something hand held – usually fake.

proscenium: is the big arch with columns on either side of the stage. Not every theatre has one.

scenography: The art of producing a play, concerned with stagecraft, choreography, and the total experience of the play.

Scenography is the seamless synthesis of space, text, research, art, actors, directors and spectators that contributes to an original creation.”Pamela Howard

Scenography is not simply concerned with creating and presenting images to an audience; it is concerned with audience reception and engagement. It is a sensory as well as an intellectual experience, emotional as well as rational.” – Joslin McKinney & Philip Butterworth

stagecraft: the technical side of theatre, it’s concerned with engineering aspects of building sets that are safe and strong, lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, and making props. In a small production, all aspects of stagecraft are handled by a stage manager.

choreography: Is the art of movement. Most important in dance, choreography is also important in theatre, dictating where actors stand, when they stand or sit, and various actions, like fighting. Actors are often directed to jump off the stage and into the audience. This is all dictated by a choreographer.

a rehearsal: This is practice that actors do, to prepare for a show.

a dress rehearsal: This is a special practice before a show, where actors all wear their costumes, and use their props, to make sure everything works fine.

stage fright: (tréma) is when you get scared on stage. You’re not used to having so many people look at you, and you don’t want to make a mistake. Stage fright can make you forget your lines. 

THEATRE JOBS

A carpenter
the cast
a choreographer
designers: set, lighting, costume, sound, technical
a director
a dramaturg
a fight director
a playwright
a production manager
a stage hand/technical crew
a stage manager
a stock character
an understudy

THEATRE AWARDS

HISTORY OF THEATRE

Classical Greece
European Theatre
Commedia dell’arte & melodrama
Cromwell’s Interregnum
19th C Romanticism, Victorian burlesque
Problem plays

 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Art in Sports

Many people think art and sport are polar opposites, but they actually share many qualities. Both art and sport focus on training and perfection. They require dedication, patience, and humility. But, beyond this, every sport is the result of creative thinking. Imagine if there were no sports in the world, and you and your friend wanted something fun to do - you could be stranded on a deserted island. What do you do? How do you make a game? It's a question that makes you look at the world differently. A coconut can become a ball. A couple rocks can be a goal post. A few trees can mark the size of your playing field. Many people don't realize this. They think of sports like football, basketball, and hockey as if they've always existed. We forget they were once invented, and that inventing games is half the fun.

The main difference between art and sport is that art results in the creation of something new, whereas sport results in the setting of a new number, or record - a final score, a final time. However, some sports, like figure skating and gymnastics, blur these definitions. These sports incorporate dance, jumps, and tricks where creativity is just as important as physical ability.
 
Sports that Incorporate Dance
These include figure skating, gymnastics, acrobatics, aerobatics, and synchronized swimming. Fun to watch, hard to judge, these sports mix physical qualities like strength and endurance with dance elements, such as choreography, expression, interpretation, and grace. A common saying in skating is, "Your feet can learn the steps, but only your heart can skate them." The idea is central to all these sports.

Figure Skating – is an Olympic sport. There are four events, men's singles, women's singles, pair skating, and ice dancing. Ice dance has more to do with footwork, and you're not allowed to lift your partner above your shoulders. Tricks in figure skating include spins, turns, jumps, lifts, throw jumps, and death spirals. Jumps include loops, toe loops, salchows, flips, lutzes, and axels. If you can do the trick twice in the air, it's a double. Some skaters can do a triple or quadruple jump.

Gymnastics – is another Olympic sport. There are a number of different events including floor exercises, the vault, balance beam, pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars, uneven bars, and the high bar. One of the most important skills is landing. At the end of each exercise, the gymnast jumps high in the air, does a number of spins, twists, and flips, and must land gracefully on his/her feet.

Acrobatics – is similar to gymnastics, but is not really a sport. It's a form of entertainment, usually seen at circuses, mixing dance, gymnastics, contortion (bending the body in extreme positions), and spectacle (wow factor). Acrobats, also called contortionists, can jump and flex in all kinds of crazy positions.

Synchronized Swimming – is a form of water dance, requiring excellent timing, sense of space, and breath control. For some reason, the Olympics only allows groups of women to compete. I guess men don't typically want to dance with each other in the water? Imagine that.

Aerobatics – This is the sport of flying stunt planes. The many tricks and stunts put a great deal of stress on the plane and the pilot. Aerobatics started as a way of training pilots for war, and progressed to flying circuses, airshows, and sport competitions. Tricks include barrel rolls, half rolls, loops, spins, spirals, the lazy eight, the chandelle, the side slip, and the hammer-head stall turn.

The Art of Jumping
Sports that revolve around creative jumping include diving, surfing, freestyle ski jumping, snowboarding, skateboarding, freestyle bicycling, parkour, and dirt bike jumping. Athletes constantly try to invent new moves and jumps, while hoping to land safely.

Diving/High Diving – is the sport of jumping from a high springboard. Depending on the tricks you want to do, there are four starting positions: straight, pike, tuck, and free. Tricks include somersaults and twists.
 
Surfing – is a water sport where the surfer stands on a board, riding on the forward face of an ocean wave. Surfing requires balance. The three main kinds of surfing are long board, short board, and paddle surfing. Maneuvers include sharp turns and cut backs, carving, aerials, the floater, off the lip, and tube riding. Hanging Ten is exclusive to long boarding and is considered the hardest stunt in surfing. It’s when the surfer stands forward on the board with all ten toes off the edge.
 
Freestyle Skiing/Freeskiing/Newschool Skiing – Freestyle skiing is an Olympic sport and consists of aerial skiing, moguls, ski cross, and half-pipe. Aerial skiing is like diving on skis. You ski off a 2-4m jump and do twists and somersaults before landing. Mogul skiing is going down a hill with uneven snow. It’s arranged into a grid pattern which is harder to ski down. Ski cross is a race with obstacles and jumps. Freeskiing is like skateboarding on skis. Skiers do similar tricks in special parks designed for it.
 
Snow Boarding – combines the ideas of skateboarding and skiing. Jibbing is when you do tricks on things like boxes, benches, and rocks. Competitions include slope style, big air, half pipe, boardercross, big mountain, and rail jam.
 
Skateboarding – is riding on a skateboard. Tricks include: the ollie - a jump starting with the front wheels, the aerial – a jump where you do a handstand with your board in the air, flip tricks, slides and grinds which use railings, and lip tricks – using the edge, or lip, of a ramp.
 
Freestyle BMX biking/Dirt Jumping – These are high jumps for bicyclists. There are too many tricks to list. A couple include the tire grab, tabletop, Euro table, ET, Cannonball, Suicide No Hander, the Superman, and the Nothing – where nothing touches the bike.
 
Freestyle Motorcross & Big Air – These are motorcycle competitions where riders do tricks similar to the bicycles above. One of the most dangerous tricks is the back flip, considered the “holy grail” of Motorcross.
 
Parkour – is like street gymnastics, involving running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, and using your hands as well as your feet.

Sport & Design
All sport requires some degree of design, to find the best shoes, the best uniforms, the best skate design, materials, etc. Some sports rely more heavily on design and technology, such as racing cars, boats, and planes. Teams carefully design their cars and keep their plans secret. But these designs aren't merely the most practical and efficient. An element of aesthetics goes into them as well. Car designers don't just want the fastest car. They want something that looks good on a poster. And athletes want to look good when they win the race. So, art is a big part of sport design.

Sport Illustration
Illustration is a big part of sports, but today it’s dominated by photographers. Photos are fast, they can capture live action, they show great detail, and it’s all readers really want these days. But, before photography was big, there were some great artists who focused on sport.
 
One was Bob Peak (1927-1992). After working in advertising illustration, he designed posters for the film West Side Story, and such sci-fi posters as Rollerball, Star Trek, Superman, Excalibur, Apocalypse Now, and James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me. He designed 30 stamps for the 1980-1984 Olympics.
 
Another was Bernie Fuchs (1939-2009). Bernie originally wanted to be a trumpet player, but lost three fingers in a work accident the year after finishing highschool. He started drawing, went to University for it, and began a career in advertising and magazine illustration, working for Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, and Sports Illustrated. Gaining fame, he became portrait artist for John F Kennedy.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kitsch, Camp, & Cliché

The last lesson spoke about Bad taste. bad taste was defined as anything:

1. Of poor quality, and/or cheap materials. Imagine using plastic forks and knives at your wedding reception.

2. Stupid, or silly ideas - poorly thought out nonsense.

I was once asked to draw character concept designs for a film in which a young penguin and his animal friends were able to stop the Chinese army from invading America. The idea was brought to people at Disney, who of course, rejected it.

3. Anything extreme.
4. Anything vulgar or obscene - toilet humour, sexual jokes, etc.
5. Anything that is insensitive or offensive - racist jokes are in extremely bad taste.

The following joke is in bad taste, even though it makes a valid point:


It's in bad taste because it turns a photo of human suffering into the punchline of a joke. Whether it's justified is up to you.

6. Showing off. The following video is a good example of this. This girl is very talented, but seems more interested in showing off her talent than in playing a good, meaningful song. She could also wear some longer shorts:
 
 
Kitsch (or schlock, fluff, adj. tacky) is another form of bad taste. It includes many of the qualities listed above, but what really defines Kitsch is the quality of being overly sentimental - cutesy, cheesy, corny, like kittens in a basket, flowers in a basket, kittens and flowers in a basket, etc.

A Bold Bluff, by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, an example of kitsch

Pink flamingo lawn ornaments are kitsch

Think of kitsch as "heightened cheese content", like a tortilla chip. Imagine some office where businessmen are discussing making more money on their chips.
     "What if we add even more cheese? We can advertise it!"
Repeat this over time, and the cheese flavour becomes so strong it hurts your tongue. Meanwhile, it's not even real cheese - it's some orange powder that looks toxic and stains your fingers.

The original Doritos tortilla chip

 
Doritos now. Notice how the color of the chip has changed - it's supersaturated with spicy cheese flavour.
 
Does it really taste better? No.
Does it earn more money? Probably.
 
The same idea can be applied to other things, including art. Illustrator Norman Rockwell once said:
 
"If a picture wasn't going very well I'd put a puppy dog in it, always a mongrel, you know, never one of the full bred puppies. And then I'd put a bandage on its foot... I liked it when I did it, but now I'm sick of it."
 
Sick as a Dog, by Norman Rockwell
 
What things are Kitsch?

Kitsch mostly refers to decoration - furniture, souvenirs - things that are cheap, mass produced, and made to sell. Kitsch looks tackiest (worst) when many cheap things are placed together, with no thought for color, style, or taste:

Amy Sedaris, posing for House & Garden Magazine

Kitcsh is a form of Cliché - words and phrases often repeated in films, for example:

"All in a day's work."
"You ain't seen nothin' yet."
"It's my way or the highway."

Kitsch is a cliché in the form of an object - a repeated icon, sold and resold. Kitsch reduces religion to a gift shop:


Kitsch is the business approach to aesthetics. It makes no distinction between Mary, the mother of God, and Mickey Mouse.

"Whatever sells, baby!"

Kitsch is often a form of lying - it's an obvious fake. It's a historical, wooden, African mask that isn't really wooden, historical, nor made in Africa. It's a cheap ceramic knick-knack that's been painted up to look like porcelain, or a cheap plastic souvenir, made to seem ceramic. It's a tin candlestick, gilded to look like gold, a plaster copy of David meant to look like marble, but with skewed proportions, and none of the handmade feel of the original.

Kitsch is rarely handmade. It's produced in a factory - meant for mass production and consumption.

Despite all its faults, kitsch can be appealing for its charm:

"Charm is the one quality that will redeem a painting bearing any other fault." - Stapleton Kearns

Many people enjoy kitsch. It's the Mona Lisa made out of legos.


It's Big Bird made out of breakfast cereal.

Big Bird, by Jason Mecier (do-it-yourself kitsch)

It replaces beauty with a juvenile sense of humour. 90% of pop music uses this same idea, mixing comedy with melody. Love it or hate it, it's a large part of today's post-modern world.

CAMP (also called cult classics)

Normally, when you hear the word camp, you think of tents, scouts and camping:

This is a camp.
 
But, camp can be used as an adjective for films and TV shows that are, well, kitsch. Most camp TV took place in the 50's and 60's - shows like:
 
The Munsters
 
 The Adams Family
 
Batman and Robin
 
Wonder Woman
 
and The Brady Bunch.
 
Many old horror films are also considered campy, like Nightmare on Elm St., Friday the 13th, Halloween, and The Blob:
 
 
Camp has often been used to describe exxagerated acting, that is overly theatrical, and effeminate (girlish). The stories to these films and shows are one dimensional - they show a version of reality that's naive, superficial, black and white.
 
Some people still enjoy watching these shows. The idea is they're so bad, they're good. Camp TV and film is like popcorn, or gummy bears. They taste good, but they're not good for you. When these stories are remade into new films, a lot of the humour comes from how times have changed.