GATHERING THE WEB
AFRICAN DIASPORA and AFRICANA DANCE COMMON AESTHETIC THREADS AND FUNCTIONS
In the exploration of African Diaspora Authentic Aesthetics, a tapestry of interconnected threads and defining elements emerges, weaving together a rich and diverse cultural fabric that spans continents and generations. Before delving deeper into the intricate nuances of this aesthetic realm, it is prudent to take a moment to acknowledge and summarize the commonalities that bind these diverse expressions into a cohesive whole. The following compilation serves as a compass to navigate through the variegated landscapes of African Diaspora aesthetics and Africana Dance. While not all the terminologies herein may have been fully elucidated yet, this list offers a valuable tool for students, teachers, and enthusiasts alike, enabling them to analyze performances and styles within this complex and profound realm. As we unravel the tapestry of African Diaspora Authentic Aesthetics, these shared elements will guide our exploration, revealing the core essence that transcends geographical boundaries and chronicles the profound cultural journey of African descendants across the globe.
Unapologetic And Is Itself Nuff:
African Diaspora Dance is unapologetic in its existence and expression. It embraces and celebrates its own unique qualities without hesitation or apology. It affirms itself and vibrates into reality, asserting its presence and cultural significance.
Social and Political Engagement:
African Diaspora Aesthetics often serves as a platform for social and political change. It carries the spirit of resistance, protest, and cultural affirmation, addressing issues of inequality, oppression, and the pursuit of liberation within the diaspora community. Art is seen as a vehicle for social and political change, with a primary role in developing Black identity.
Pwen- The Power To Affect Change:
Pwen is a concept from Voudun. A cultivated ancestral power that grows through knowledge and action. PerformancePwen is the power that is harnessed and brought into fruition through performance. The power to manifest change onto the world. To render your reality and alter it. It is the potential realized to change circumstance through performance. Like how song through the civil rights movement rendered dangerous and hostile situations into peaceful demonstrations. Or how Carnival in London made the police, who usually were engaged in stop and search activities against Black bodies, have to redirect traffic and become security guards at a city wide predominantly Black party, making government redirect traffic, provide security and transport, a complete flip of roles where the Black Body defines city wide activity.
POLYCENTRICITY – in creation, governance, performance, and cognosomatic approach:
Polycentricity is a fundamental aspect of African Diaspora Dance. It refers to the distribution of power, movement, and creative agency across multiple centers. Other than just in the dance and the relation to the body, polycentric orientation is also present in the collaborative creation process, the inclusive governance of dance communities, the diverse roles and interactions during performances, and the embodied cognosomatic approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind and body.
In the context of African Diaspora Dance, it embodies a polycentric approach, where multiple body parts move independently yet harmoniously. It combines grounded movements, rooted in the earth, with fluidity, grace, and strength. The torso is broken down into its component parts, allowing for articulated movements of the shoulders, chest, quadrants, abdominals/waist, pelvis, hip quadrants, and spine.
Abundance – Pregnant/Fertile Possibility:
African Diaspora Dance is characterized by abundance, representing a wealth of potential movement, rhythm, and meaning. It holds a sense of fertile possibility, where numerous interpretations, expressions, and creative choices are available. It signifies the vastness of artistic exploration and the richness of cultural heritage.
RhythmoKinetic movement orientation:
Central to African Diaspora Aesthetics is the vibrant and dynamic use of rhythm and movement. It incorporates polyrhythms, syncopation, and complex rhythmic patterns, which are expressed through dance, music, and other forms of artistic creation. It is the rhythmic structure that provides the technique for the dance and it is rhythm that propels the movement. It is also the movement that creates the rhythms which are amplified by the divine microphone; the drum. *RhythmoKinetic is a term coined by Thomas Talawa Prestø (Rhythmic Movement Kinetics which deals with the forces that play in and on the body through rhythmic movement and how rhythm affects biomechanics).
Adaptability and resolution, through co-existence (beauty through conflict):
African Diaspora Dance embodies adaptability and resolution by embracing co-existence and finding beauty through conflict. It navigates diverse perspectives, influences, and cultural intersections, bringing them together in harmonious or contrasting ways. It acknowledges and reconciles differences, creating a cohesive and dynamic artistic expression.
CIRCLING THE MEDIAN (AESTHETIC OF THE COOL):
The “Aesthetic of the Cool” in African Diaspora Dance involves circling the median. It encompasses a sense of balance, poise, and restraint while maintaining a captivating and engaging presence. It is about being in control of one’s energy and movement, exuding confidence and grace even in the midst of dynamic and complex choreography. This is also an aspect of rhythmoenvironmental acclimation (to be unpacked in this paper).
Embodied Cultural Identity and Spiritual Themes:
African Diaspora Aesthetics reflects a profound connection to cultural heritage and identity. It embraces spirituality, ritual, and ceremonial practices as integral parts of artistic expression, blurring the boundaries between sacred and secular realms. Aesthetic concerns arise from ritual, ceremony, religion, and spirituality, showcasing a propensity for joy and a propensity to ritualize even the cypher is a ritual element.
Cultural Amalgamation, Innovation, and Style Juxtaposition:
African Diaspora Aesthetics embraces the amalgamation of African and diasporic cultures with other influences. It incorporates elements from African American vernacular traditions, popular idioms, and fine art compositions, resulting in a unique and diverse artistic language. Nonhierarchical intermingling of the African Diasporan Aesthetic vernacular structure, popular idioms, and techniques of “fine” art composition createintellectual and physical democracy as a resistance to hierarchy imposed by colonial ideology.
Storytelling, Verbal/Visual Play, and Trickster:
African Diaspora Dance serves as a powerful storytelling medium, preserving cultural narratives, history, and traditions. It also encompasses verbal/visual play, utilizing rhetorical devices such as signifying, metaphor, satire, and innuendo. The trickster figure, embodying extraordinary gifts of ingenuity, plays a role in both physical and verbal acts, teaching spiritual lessons or providing humor even in the context of a dance battle or Ballroom culture for example.
Symbolic Communication and Signifying:
Symbolism plays a significant role in African Diaspora Aesthetics. It encompasses the use of symbols, gestures, metaphors, and wordplay to convey cultural messages, social commentary, and personal narratives, fostering a sense of collective identity and communication. Symbolic expressions, such as Kente cloth, dance, music, drum forms, and movement, store, express, and transmit heritage, knowledge, values, spirituality, emotions, and abstract truisms.
Community and Collective Participation:
African Diaspora Dance celebrates community and collective participation. It often involves call-and-response, improvisation, and communal engagement, creating a sense of unity, celebration, and shared cultural experience. The audience and the performer become different aspects of a whole.
RHYTMOKINETIC ACUMEN – CHOICE – through navigation of the 4 rhythmic modules:
Rhythmicokinetic acumen in African Diaspora Dance refers to the deep understanding and skillful utilization of rhythm and movement choices. Acument is the ability to make good choices quickly. It involves the navigation of the four rhythmic modules: Sonic Rhythm, Optic Rhythm, Tactile Rhythm, and Ethero Rhythm. Dancers possess a keen awareness of these rhythmic elements and make deliberate choices to enhance their performances, allowing for nuanced and expressive movement.
The African Diaspora Body acts like a supercomputer with enormous processing power, weaving complex rhythms, an almost inexhaustible array of movement possibilities, active audience engagement, lightning speed curation of movement with communicative significance, and the creation of in the moment communal storytelling all coming together on and through the body, without hesitation or delay.
Each of these points highlights essential aspects of African Diaspora Dance, capturing its unapologetic nature, abundance of possibilities, adaptability, balance, polycentricity, rhythmic acumen, transformative moments, and community-building qualities. They reflect the depth and complexity of this art form, inviting further exploration, discussion, and appreciation.