Friday, June 8, 2012

Gymnastics Performance Art

I was just at my local coffee + pastry joint, speaking to the barista about--what else--gymnastics. Since I'm frequently in and out, he asked me what I was working on and I told him about my recently published piece in Deadspin about artistry and the misguided notions that gymnastics fans, coaches, and judges have about it. (Who doesn't talk about this sort of thing with the person who prepares your cafe au lait?)

This barista added that he had recently watched a very good experimental dance performance. Don't get me wrong--I appreciate all kinds of art and movement, but my personal preference is highly traditional, boring, vanilla, reactionary even. I like movement to be inspired my music. Experimental dance can toe the line between dance and performance art in ways that I don't always enjoy.

And that's when it hit me--maybe that's what the gymnasts are doing. They are doing experimental dance. They purposely aren't performing with the music--they're challenging our notions of dance. Dance is about more than matching expression to music, to paying heed to the audience and completely turns and leaps with seeming ease. And most of today's gymnasts have chosen to toss out the rules of the dance bourgeoisie, of the establishment, of the fuddy duddies like me and perform in a way that challenge the audience.

They are geniuses! Visionaries! I am simply a Philistine!

Much in the same way that A.J. in Empire Records is. (Go to 1:15)

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