I’ve been working on my own post about Kaputt, but I couldn’t finish it until after Carl’s went up for logistical/thematic/mysterious reasons. In the meantime, here’s a fairly long review of Adrian Tomine’s new book, Scenes from an Impending Marriage – long for such a slender collection of comics, at least. That doesn’t make it a trifle. As I wrote: “The graphic vignettes documenting months of frazzled planning turn out to be his breeziest, most immediate work yet, inviting for romantics and formalists alike.”
In the first installment of TEACH ME HOW TO BOOGIE, I talked to my friend Amelia Ehrhardt about bounce music and the moves that go with it. She’s still studying dance at York University. Today’s very special edition of the series is about a single song, the nation-sweeping jerkin’ anthem “Teach Me How to Dougie,” and its titular dance craze (see above). Or at least that was the plan. My long Gchat conversation with Amelia wandered off on various tangents again – all about the same subject, this time. I condensed three hours of instant messages into this discussion. Welcome to Dougie 101.
Amelia: I just watched this:
Chris: I was going to ask if you wanted to know more about that track, or The Jerkin’ Movement in general, but it seems like you’ve already done the research!
Amelia: Background research
Amelia: It’s funny background research, via wikipedia youtube and urbandictionary
Chris: Personally I don’t really care if the group was created by an A&R guy in Burbank, because c’mon: “This beat was bubblegum/So I had to chew it.”
Chris: (Not sure if there are any A&R guys in Burbank)
Amelia: I’m sort of doing 3 Gchats at the same time right now, and I showed a couple of these videos to Jon and some of what we are now talking about is really relevant to this – just about how quickly this stuff develops
Amelia: Second time this has hit me – I was thinking about it last time I was talking to you about this.
Amelia: Things are codified so quickly; ballet took 100 years to develop 5 foot positions, now whole subcategories pop up in what – a year?
Amelia: Like, the system of academic dance I studied when I was young, if the syllabus needed to be changed it took a DECADE
Amelia: Not to be like wow it’s 2010 the future is now and boy it’s fast
Amelia: but shit
Chris: I think teenpop like “Teach Me How to Boogie” moves especially fast
Chris: Back when Soulja Boy first blew up someone presented an EMP paper suggesting that “microcareers” like his would become normal – though Souljerrrr is still hanging in there, possibly through sheer weirdness.
Chris: One of his mixtapes this year was named after an anime series
Amelia: Well they were right weren’t they? Microcareers are kind of normal now
Amelia: It’s funny – this video
at 2:37 there’s a section of arm stuff and Jon was like “is that contemporary dance” (joking) but what’s interesting is that yes, it is
Amelia: Most contemporary dance classes I’ve been to have wiggly arm stuff
Amelia: I think maybe that’s the technical term? Anyway it’s all hip hop, jerkin, tipping, etc.
Amelia: also how much of it gets appropriated by drag
Amelia: That’s the other thing – how quickly it develops means that it gets subverted really quickly too. It’s hard to tell where it starts/finishes
Chris: Is it? I’ve never seen a drag show
Amelia: God it’s amazing, I saw this weird piece a couple months ago, trying to find the choreographer’s names now
Amelia: All men, and half of it was pretty straight hip hop…hoods, jeans
Amelia: You know – they broke free! took off their hoods!
Amelia: Then they were all in heels and lingerie, doing all the feminized versions of the same dances.
Amelia: What’s the one form – is it rockin? – I can’t remember
Amelia: Anyway it has a whole other version that is the “women’s” style, which is so interesting, in all the development of western dance and trying to gender-neutralize everything, contact improvisation, women doing the lifts, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Amelia: and ultimately, people making dances still seem to want men and women to have different styles of dancing
Chris: Jerk kids can get pretty flamboyant themselves! Neon swag.
Amelia: “But all these ads are doing for me, a red-blooded American female, is solidifying my belief that that I never want someone in a relationship with me to feel like they have to ‘propose.'”
Chris: Maura writes really well about issues like that
Amelia: This is the second time I’ve started thinking a lot about gender while talking to you about these videos
Amelia: Maybe I just think about gender a lot, but I think it’s also pretty inescapable to have to think about gender in a form made on bodies
Amelia: Someone once said to me that you can’t make a dance on a man and a woman and not have it be about sex, a non-dancer/dance scholar – I was so irate
Amelia: Like, who are you to say what dance can and can’t be about? I still don’t agree, but I sort of see the logic behind it
Amelia: Because to an extent yes, if you are looking at work for representation, chances are you are going to try and have it represent something familiar to you…And I wouldn’t say that contemporary western theatrical dance is entirely trying to escape the fact or deny the fact that dance can be, tends to be, has a strong predisposition to be sexualized
Amelia: However I do think the form tries to work against that as much as possible – I mean, I don’t necessarily see sex when I see a man/woman pairing. But maybe I’ve been around bodies in that sense enough that I’m desensitized to it.
Amelia: Not in the same way that “all western people are now desensitized towards overt sexual imagery,” because I don’t think that changes our relationship to sex, but I do think that having to look at bodies abstractly – like, okay, what if my leg is an extended line and not the the part of my body that is attached to my crotch – leads to a certain disambiguation between bodies <-> sex.
Chris: I was going to say, why would a dance necessarily be about sex at a certain level of abstraction?
Amelia: I don’t think it would be, but I think there is a certain amount that people will take from it.
[Chris’ router stops working yet again]
Chris: If my internet connection was always about sex it would be bad, unsatisfying sex
Chris: or who couldn’t find a date at all because their male peers are interested in secretaries and nurses
Chris: though given our respective careers I doubt either of us will run into that dilemma! ha ha ha
Amelia: Have you heard of He’s Just Not That Into You?
Chris: yeah, I’ve heard of it
Amelia: It breaks women down into several categories of Women Who Don’t Get Second Dates Because Of The Following Female Problems
Amelia: one of them is a woman who is too into her career and too successful
Amelia: it suggests you tame it down if you want to get a guy to like you
Chris: “whenever a woman offers to pay for drinks my mind flashes to a primal castration scene”
Amelia: What’s that from?
Chris: a chris randle original joke, 2010
Amelia: ha ha ha
Chris: Detouring back to matters dougie-related – when you study dance in university, do they talk about how dance crazes like that can suddenly emerge from jerkin’ or another scene?
Amelia: No – “social” dance isn’t really studied in the university on that level, at least not in Toronto/Canada to my knowledge. I mean, I guess there’s some variety; this semester I had to take a course called The Canadian Dance Mosaic
Amelia: Lemme pull up the description
Amelia: “Examines dance as a human phenomenon that both reflects and shapes culture. Through readings, films, lectures, discussions and guest artists, students are introduced to a variety of dance forms from different traditions represented in Canadian society. The course examines the place of dance in its own cultural setting as well as approaching issues facing dance in Canada as a multi-ethnic society. ”
Amelia: It did that fairly successfully
Chris: That seems like a big oversight! But the emergence of new youth memes probably isn’t studied enough in general.
Amelia: It isn’t
Amelia: But what this course kind of tried to do was “level the playing field” and look at all dance forms as equal not ballet > everything else “world dance” etc.
Amelia: It makes the argument that calling other forms “folk” or “social” (vs like, formal/art dance) degrades them.
Amelia: Anyway the course kind of sucked, but I do think that kind of dialogue needs to happen, ideally before third-year university. Especially if we want to make dance relevant
Amelia: HELLO! Here it is, dance is relevant and happening in people’s lives
Amelia: Why aren’t we talking about it? Here is dance! The people are dancing, it is happening in front of you and we won’t put it in a university
Amelia: Hip hop and other arguably ACTUAL contemporary dance forms don’t go to university
Amelia: There’s a variety of reasons behind all of this, but why not start studying, at least on a theoretical level, the fact that people seem to be dancing and dancing with each other again?
Amelia: You can learn how to do this on Youtube for chrissakes, I don’t know if dance has ever BEEN more accessible.
Chris: I love that the California Swag District music video shows this diverse multitude of all races, assembled to learn the Way of the Dougie
Chris: I even love the NAME “California Swag District” – it sounds like a faction in some post-apocalyptic dystopia, or a separatist enclave. That’s a good look.
Amelia: fashion blog
Amelia: So where the hell does the name dougie come from
Amelia: and also until I watched the video I kind of assumed for some reason it was pronounced “doogie” maybe because of “teach me how to BOOgie”
Chris: I have no idea where the name originally came from
Chris: Would it be too much to dream that the Dougie is also a person?
Chris: a Swag Elemental
Amelia: Father of Swag
Chris: This appeared in Google Reader the other day:
Chris: Maybe that’s the best way to measure when a teen dance craze has reached mass awareness: middle-aged TV anchors awkwardly doing the moves.
Amelia: Ha, hilariously I’m being made to sit through a 15-second Diane von Furstenberg sunglasses ad using knockoff SATC background music featuring a real Carrie Bradshaw type getting into a Manhattan cab
Amelia: It’s like the twist
Amelia: THIS IS THE BEST
Amelia: I think York Dance wants me to say something about the equalizing qualities of dance, universal language etc., but whatever that’s kind of not worth talking about, I mean, I can’t describe it any better than that video shows it
Amelia: Dance, it’s like so beautiful or something
Chris: I’ve never liked Wolf Blitzer more than I did watching that clip