Transgressive is the word that really caught my attention while reading Danielle Goldman’s book “I Want to be Ready”. It is defined as anything that involves the “violation of moral or social values”. This term tends to change with different cultures, religions and parts of the world so it is very possible that if some act is regarded as transgressive in one culture, it is completely normal in the other.
Goldman used this term in relationship to improvised dance and how it is viewed in different parts of the world. He picks up strong examples from Anthony Shay’s book “Choreophobia: Solo Improvised Dance in the Iranian World” and shares the perspective of Iranian society towards people of different gender, age, personality and social status with respect to the way they dance or move in that very social circle. He points out that there are three categories this certain society uses to pinpoint a certain improvised movement—normative, transgressive and “out of control”(8)— normative being the only acceptable form. To explain how this kind of categorization works, he gives examples of an old woman who dances provocatively at a party and is regarded as “mildly transgressive”(8) whereas if a young woman performs something similar, he will be categorized “out of control”(8). This highlights how the difference is age simply restricts a kind of dance. These categories become what he refers to as “tight places”(6) in the world of improvised dance. He plays around with these different ideas particularly focusing on dance in the Islamic World which already has many restrictions on dance and movement.
After reading this text, I realized that this word has been revolving somewhere in my subconscious, but I was unable to give it a name. Ever since I began performing in the daily rehearsals with Aakash, I have been wondering if I will be able to perform alone in my own community. I was able to recognize all the examples from Shay’s book that Goldman brought up in his text. I grew up with the idea of dancing being a sinful and shameful act from an Islamic perspective and I believe that if I am asked to perform what I have been learning in class in front of a certain class of people in Pakistan, it is very likely that this kind of act gets labelled as transgressive. This made me wonder if the Syrian Refugees in Greece might have an approach towards dance and movement that is similar to that of very religious communities within Pakistan. If so, how do we identify the restrictions that they have put on movement and how do we deal with it?
English Oxford Living Dictionaries "Transgressive." Accessed 7 Jan 2018. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/transgressive. Goldman, Danielle. 2010. I Want To Be Ready: Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom. United States of America: The University of Michigan Press,
Like most other posts, I will first address some of the mechanics of your writing and then the ideas communicated by the post. A few pointers. When you mention the title of a book in an essay, the title should be in italics. A journal article or book chapter should be referred to in quotes. Check before you assume gender pronouns. In this case, the author, Danielle Goldman is a “she” not a “he.”
Now I turn to the ideas in your writing. First of all, I really appreciate how you explained how Goldman used the idea of a “tight place.” She doesn’t use it in an normative sense and you noted how she references it as a restriction that has disciplinary and sometimes shunning effects. What is interesting in the example you cite is that you accept the normative logic of the cultural situation. WHY is only mild disapproval extended to the older woman? Most likely because she is not an intense object of sexual interest to the society and her value is already diminished because of that. The younger woman’s body is more highly regulated because of her sexual value — the reactions to the “same” dance performed by different bodies tells us of that value system. And when the cultural values become visible through dance’s provocation, we see which bodies are highly regulated. I understand why you would not want to perform solo in front of a “certain class” of people in Pakistan — but does not performing in front of them mean that you also agree with their values or that you don’t want to challenge their system of value all by yourself?
I am very interested in your final question about whether the dance we exchange or transmit to people living in refugee camps is going to be appropriate or offend. I think part of the answer lies in not attributing the same value system across the board to everyone who lives in the camps, but to start with thinking of the people we meet as individuals with a history and culture we have to acknowledge. What happens if we first ask or describe what we have prepared and ask permission to show? How does that change the situation? How might we improvise if one kind of dance is ill suited, how can we make something better by carefully negotiating an exchange? What parts of dance have we learned that could be better substitutes in this case and how will we know to use those tools except by negotiating with others we encounter? So much of what we are learning comes from other cultures – maybe we use our words first and ask permission before we just “go in” and begin teaching what we learned. First we need to ask ourselves, as Danielle Goldman puts it, “how do we become ready?”