So the last part of this paper got posted about a year and a half ago. The whole thing has actually been done for almost four years now, but in posting it here on this blog, the plan was for me to revise it as I went along because I actually don’t agree with some of the original conclusions. However, as time goes on, it is becoming apparent that I’m just not going to have the time to do a full scale revision. I’m also not close to finishing any other posts anytime soon, so in the interest of completion and just to post something this is the thrilling finale of Artistry in Rhythm.
Astute readers will note that some elements from the previous parts are included here because I was taking the paper apart and reassembling it as part of the revisions. I kept some of those things in this post since it just makes the whole thing easier to read. And let’s face it, it’s been a year and a half, you probably don’t remember those parts anyway. However, I will admit that I have cannibalized quite a bit of this paper for other posts so the likelihood of deja vu is very high.
Note that since this was originally written in 2007, all time references count back from that year.
Previous posts can be found by searching my blog for the category “Artistry In Rhythm”
Thank you for your patience.
Fred Astaire was known for his light and effortless looking dancing. During his epic nine picture run with RKO Pictures with Ginger Rogers in the 1930’s, Astaire demanded a rigorous rehearsal period of several months just for the dance sequences before the filming of each movie. His reasoning was that the better they knew the routine, the more relaxed and spontaneous they would appear when they filmed the definitive take for the movie. He attributed his spontaneous look to those extensive rehearsals “You know it sort of well that it just becomes part of you.” It’s by becoming a part of the routine by becoming intimately familiar with the choreography that Astaire and Rogers were able to be more relaxed when they performed and make their performances as lively as the last for each take a director needed to film. There is a fine line to be tread though. Bruce Lee provides a warning as to what happens when one mistakes constant repetition and perceived perfection as the end result.
“One cannot “express” fully-the important word here is fully-when one is imposed by a partial structure or style. For how can one be truly aware when there is a screen of one’s set pattern as opposed to “what is.” What is total (including what is and what is not), without boundaries, etc., etc. From drilling on such organized “land swimming” pattern, the practitioner’s margin of freedom or expression grows narrower and narrower. He becomes paralyzed with the framework of the pattern and accepts the pattern as the real thing. He no longer “listens” to circumstances; he “recites” his circumstances. He is merely performing his methodic routine as [a] response rather than responding to what is. He is an insensitized pattern: Zen robot, listening to his own screams and yells. He is those classical blocks; he is those organized forms; in short he is the result of thousands of years of conditioning.”
Branford Marsalis put it another way in commenting on what made basketball players like Erving “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan so great in an NBA anniversary show when he said, “They say ‘practice makes perfect.’ Well, there’s no such thing as perfect. You practice not to be perfect, but to have the mental awareness to be able to recover when you do make a mistake.” Artie Shaw elaborated: “Well, what you’re aiming at is to come across as a person in charge of what you’re doing. And you only approximate it, you can never really hit it. You try, you gotta, it’s like looking for perfection, there is no such thing.” Read the rest of this entry »