This past Saturday the 12th I participated in “The Salon”, an informal evening presenting works in progress, hosted by LEVYdance at Studio Gracia. I performed in a piece by Malinda LaVelle, who also happens to be my roommate. Thus I might be a little biased. But I’m not planning on writing about how great Malinda’s piece was and how well it was received (even though these are truths). Instead, I want to discuss choreographic content. Malinda’s piece was about boobs. We danced to gun shots. I’m not kidding. Neither was she.
The piece generated a variety of reactions. One audience member thought it was about breast cancer. Another felt sure we should have performed topless. Many found it funny. A few thought it was ironic. One comment that struck me in particular said the choreography was daring, that it took risks. And I agree. It felt slightly risky dancing in it, standing there with all my ballet training, manhandling my breasts as if they were AK-47s. But I’ve been thinking, what good is art if there are no risks involved? It seems as though without risk, art is reduced to a craft, something to master and preserve. I think my latest definition to the age-old question, “What is art?” is that art has to be DOING something. It has to have some kind of intent, some kind of idea propelling it, something that wants to be shown, manifested, hidden, carried, mapped out. Art needs to arc. Art needs to say “I’m here, but what if I went there?” Did manhandling my boobs do that? Yes.
More absurd than a dance about boobs is the fact that it’s considered absurd. Every female has them. We’ve all noticed them, covered them, flaunted them. They’re there! It’s ironic that art is often about love, war, politics, religion; these nebulous abstract topics. Yet somehow it’s deemed risky to choreograph about flesh and blood, a body part half of the human population deals with.
So that was what Malinda LaVelle’s dance did: it addressed boobs. And she used four ballet dancers, because ballet isn’t limited to pirouettes and tendus. Ballet is a way of informing and moving the body. It isn’t stagnant. It isn’t archaic. It’s relevant and useful to all dances (especially boob dances) because dancers and choreographers continually draw upon training and background to further understand how to move the beautiful human body. It looks like boobs failed to be integrated into the dance syllabus in the past four hundred years (except for maybe Simone de la Getto). However, Malinda LaVelle doesn’t see why they shouldn’t be. Neither do I. So that’s something. That’s doing something. That’s making a statement, putting something out there, making a contribution to that ever elusive topic: art.