how does one begin to examine the act of appropriation within contemporary culture? with Beyonce of course!

as part of Zac Whittenburg’s engaging article discussing Lucky Plush Production’s recent revival of Punk Yankees, i get to converse with him surrounding the subject matter of appropriation…and Beyonce. below is an excerpt from his blog article Luck Plush Productions: Punk Yankee/conversation  & the dialogue… 

{Julia}Rhoads  and her collaborators set boundaries for this work of investigainment. In a joking exchange toward the beginning, Goldman and Meghann Wilkinson discuss whether or not to broach the subject of appropriation by whites of movement that originated in non-white cultural contexts. Black choreographers Pearl Primus and Alvin Ailey are mentioned but it’s explicitly decided, onstage, that Punk Yankees won’t go any further into all that. This despite the fact that Beyoncé’s appropriation of choreography by Bob Fosse and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker — both white — is the most centrally positioned pop-culture reference in the work, as well as its point of entry.

It’s a discomfiting moment in a well-crafted, funny and smart work of dance-theater. That Lucky Plush began this conversation in 2009, continued it in subsequent works and revisited it with this revival of Punk Yankees shows dedication to the subject. Declination of its more political and racially charged proposals might not annul the piece’s viability. But that probably depends on your point of view.

To help me hash all this out, I enlisted artist Baraka de Soleil. The founder of D UNDERBELLY, a fluid network of independent artists of color, recently returned to his native Chicago following more than two decades developing movement, music and performance in Brooklyn and Minneapolis. We attended Punk Yankees together and debriefed afterward on Google Chat; what follows is a partial transcript of our conversation.


Zachary Whittenburg: So, about the show: We talked afterward about how one creates a performance that includes some sort of survey of, or reference to, history. And where the “lines are drawn” — how far one decides to take the inquiry. How do you feel Punk Yankees approached this challenge?
Baraka de Soleil:  Challenge: I think that is the key word. I feel that, in some ways, the “history” that was chosen to be represented was not challenging. Understandably, this chosen history was subjective, was a creative exploration and a personal take, in some regards.

Right. It’s not, in the end, a textbook or a history lesson — it’s a piece of choreography, the work of artists. Does that, in your opinion, let them “off the hook”? Why or why not?
I don’t think it lets one off the hook, because the creative choice was to address history — the history of appropriation. Punk Yankees is a representation to its witnesses of what may be considered valid, affirmed; which histories we should uphold…



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Author: Barak adé Soleil

creative practitioner, independent consultant and curator. making dance, performance art and theatre. working within community.

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