Event Date
Jan 26, 2012
Naomi Elizabeth Bragin, UC Berkeley
SanSan Kwan, UC Berkeley

Naomi Elizabeth Bragin and SanSan Kwan


CRG Thursday Forum Series


Techniques for Black (Male) Re/Dress
Naomi Elizabeth Bragin, 
Performance Studies

Waacking/punkin’ is a street dance sometimes confused with vogue but claiming West Coast roots in gay black and Latino club culture of 1970’s Los Angeles. The style was rebirthed into the global mainstream through mass media appearances on last season’s So You Think You Can Dance. Today it is generally straight-identified hip-hop and street dance communities who take charge of training and innovating waacking style and culture. Considering waacking/punkin’s historical context, this presentation analyzes how identity, subjectivity and history are negotiated through the sensory, kinesthetic and affective modes of dance training and performance.

I consider how waacking/punkin’ trains the body, through the performance of two interrelated concepts: corporeal drag, a fabricated kinesthetics of identity, and realness, a psycho-kinetic mode of inhabiting the body, in which the dancer hyperextends self-expressivity and pushes performativity to the extreme. Did the centering of black masculine identity within 1970s black political and aesthetic movements influence how dance technique addressed black sociopolitical concerns? How did dance train changing understandings of race, gender and sexuality? How did dance technique redress the hegemonic demands of an authentic masculinity? When does the training of new street dance communities result in efficacious or failed performances and to what extent does the political gain or lose meaning in translation? The mainstream commercial dance world markets dance training as an a-political phenomenon that, through pedagogy, transcends cultural boundaries. I argue that dance technique arises through the sociopolitical tensions and entwinement of individuals and communities, experienced at sensory, kinesthetic and affective registers.

My theoretical engagement is with performance studies, anthropology, race/gender/sexuality studies, hip-hop, dance and cultural studies. My materials include face-to-face interviews and participant-observation in studios, clubs, community events and social media sites. I draw from fifteen years in the street dance community, as observer, dancer, student, teacher, and choreographer.

Ethics and Interculturalism in Contemporary Dance: Jérôme Bel’s Pichet Klunchun and Myself
Prof. SanSan Kwan, Performance Studies

In this globalized era, how do we engage the site of difference ethically?  How do we face the Other in a way that is both optimistically open and simultaneously unpresumptuous?  Emmanuel Levinas argues that our subjectivity is determined by our encounter with others, while at the same time we will never fully grasp that which faces us.  If we must necessarily face – even as we miscomprehend – the Other, how do we do so responsibly?

In the world of contemporary dance recent examples of cross-cultural exchanges between artists from Asia and the West promise an exciting dismantling of colonial taxonomies – a new “worlding” of dance.  Do these examples, however, uncritically fall back on Orientalist representations and ways of encountering of the East?  This paper examines choreographer Jérôme Bel’s interview-cum-performance piece Pichet Klunchun and Myself, in which he and the eponymous artist, a classical Thai dancer, talk to each other on stage about their respective work.  I explore questions regarding the ethics of intersubjectivity through this example of a live, performed face-to-face exchange across cultural difference.