giovedì 4 settembre 2008

time is money

Skeleton crews in speed-up shifts
clang their iron deaths
and spin a wealth of misery.

Sol Funaroff

Capitalism exploitation. Dancer’s clenched fists. Spoken poem.
Jane Dudleys’ Time is Money is a solo piece she created and performed in 1934. It is danced without music. The title comes from Sol Funaroff’s poem which is uttered during the piece by somebody in the wings. It is about the exploitation of workers. Movements sometimes reflect the images suggested by the poem and, in other cases, as Mark Franko has observed, “the gesture seems to call forth the word.” It is a political piece and the combination of dance and spoken words are particularly effective. Funaroff’s poem is characterised by the onomatopoeic expression “tick-tock” on clock ticking. Its oppressive reiteration recalls the mechanical and monotonous rhythms of assembly lines. The dancer’s pace does not entirely follow that of the poem, for example, towards the end she directly addresses the audience with her body and, in this way, according to Franko, she “appropriates time as essential to the performative economy”.

In 1993 Dudley reconstructed the piece and decided to have Tom Warfield, a male dancer, to interpret the role. She found that it worked better this way. Words fed the piece but this does not mean that there was a kind of hierarchical relationship between dance and words. They interacted with each other, it was like a montage, as Franko has noted. Dudley was a dancer, a choreographer and an activist, as Ellen Graff has highlighted, she worked to put “dance practice to revolutionary use" and Time is Money represents one of her most interesting works. It has been recently reconstructed and presented in a lecture demonstration held at the Society of Dance History Scholars Conference at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, on June 14th, 2008. It was a collaborative project between Henrietta Bannerman, Claire Rousier, Martin Lofnes, Victoria Phillips Geduld, and Tom Hurwitz.

Reference texts:

Mark Franko, The Work of Dance – Labor, Movement, and Identity in the 1930s (Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2002).
Ellen Graff, Stepping Left – Dance and Politics in New York City, 1928-1942 (Durham: Duke UP, 1997).

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