Shawn sends along an article about the Cuban dance troupe Danza Voluminosa, a group of obese dancers who dance (in part) about obesity.
Mr. Mas, a 300-pound choreographer and dancer who moves like a pampered cat, admits that he often uses the stereotypical humor of his dancers’ proportions to bring in audiences… But Mr. Mas and his troupe are deadly serious about dance, and once the laughter dies down, they are capable of performing moving pieces that drill into the universal themes of love, death and erotic longing. The audience forgets the joke and begins to feel the dance, he said.
“We use humor to get the public in,” he said. “Then we can hit them with something stronger.”
Mr. Mas, 41, also choreographs pieces on themes like the tragedy of gluttony, love between obese couples, the prejudice that fat people face and the psychic toll of obesity. One of the troupe’s recent successes, “Sweet Death,” tells the story of a woman who, after being rejected by her family, tries to commit suicide by eating huge quantities of candy.
The article really makes me want to see this dance troupe in action. (I checked You Tube; nothing yet.) I was also interested in the caveat that, although the dancers are fat-positive, they aren’t that fat-positive.
Mr. Mas said it would be a mistake to think that his work was intended to glorify or sanctify obesity, or even to deliver a moralistic message that one should not discriminate against the overweight. Rather, he said, the troupe’s art tries to face the reality of obesity while giving larger people a chance to express themselves through dance, a chance they are denied from childhood in most dance classes.
“Although we are obese and dance, we are against obesity,” Mr. Mas explained, saying parenthetically that he admires New York City for banning artificial trans fats from restaurants. “We are always trying to lose weight.”
There have been some very interesting responses to this article. Wheelchair Dancer critiques both the writing of the article and the intent of the artists, and the whole entry is well worth a read:
The company adopts this approach because it figures it can control how people laugh at its dancers; it can then spin those laughs into acceptance. To a certain extent, they are probably right. I would ask, however, about the cost of such a strategy. Even though the company controls the derisive humour (to some extent), they still have to expose themselves to the pain and the degradation of those stereotypes (in order to win the audience over). It’s kind of like an act of recuperation, but it is a painful act of recuperation. It requires an act of what W.E.B. DuBois would call “double consciousness,” and it requires the company to take on and absorb the hostility — to internalize societal repulsion.
You have to give props to a blogger who can bring DuBois into the conversation, don’t you think? In the meantime, Taking Off is empowered and Big Fat Blog is disappointed. So what do you think of Danza Voluminosa?
Posted by mo pie