International Council for Traditional Music

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO


Report on the sub-study group on Dance Iconography held in Bamberg,

27-30 March. Compiled by Barbara Sparti

The meeting was wonderfully hosted by Marianne Bröcker in her home in 
the historic and lovely town of Bamberg. The meeting consisted of (1) 
presentations of works in progress followed by ample and in-depth 
discussions. (2) An afternoon was dedicated to database cataloguing of 
dance images, and (3) a session devoted to the volume or book of essays 
on dance images the sub-study group would like to produce. This last 
needs to be discussed further by our group and by the sub-study group 
meeting in Monghidoro (at which time we can present our notes on our 
discussion in Bamberg). It is still not clear what type of articles we 
wish to have, by whom and for whom.

I. Individual Presentations--Summaries by authors
(Please note that I, Barbara, decided that for our members it was 
important to have some real idea of what each person at Bamberg 
discussed--and thus to see parallels among them--rather than the usual 
report limited to name and title. This latter, succint version will 
appear in the ICTM Bulletin. Each presenter wrote her/his own summary 
stressing the points they felt were significant.)

Grazyna Dabrowska: "Some Polish dances--the polonaise and 
others--painted in different historical times".
The most ancient information about Polish dances may chiefly be found in 
musical and literary sources. The Death Dance is the oldest 
illustration dating back to 17th/18th century. It is a painting by an 
anonymous author that may be found at the Bernardins' church, Cracow. It 
is an allegoric representation of 9 women in a circle dance with 
skeletons and representatives of various social strata: emperor,king, 
magnate, noblemen, tradesman, farmer, soldier, Jew, child and jester, 
all performing the same dance at the end of their lives. The majority 
of iconographic material on Polish court and folk dances dates back to 
the 19th century. The material discussed is only a part of my more 
extensive work. I present here and discuss the painting representations 
of the polonaise, a Polish dance well-known throughout Europe. I pose a 
series of questions, the answers to which, from the points of view of 
aesthetics and others, and of historical context require a more 
extensive analysis than permitted by the time reserved in Bamberg.

Christine Glauser: "The use of old photographs in Greek village interviews".
Christine's paper on photographs of dance events of the 1950s to the 
1970s in the region of Siatista, northern Greece, focused on two subjects:
1) methodological aspects of using photographs during interviews about 
dance events of that period (use of photos in Oral History); 2) 
photographs as a source for socio-anthropological analysis of dance 
events and the practice of taking photographs during dance events of 
that period. This second part was based upon Pierre Bourdieu's concepts 
developed in his book Un art moyen. Another point which was important 
in the paper and was also mentioned by Laszlo in the discussion was: The 
study of the social use of (dance) photos in a rural context, which 
opens interesting perspectives upon the interrelationship of peasant 
culture and urban culture and especially upon the process of urban 
influence in the villages. Photography is one source for studying this 
process and at the same time is itself an urban technique.

Barbara Sparti: "Who are the dancers in Lorenzetti's 'Buon Governo'?"
Barbara's presentation on Lorenzetti's "dancers" in the "good city" of 
Siena (14th century) successfully broke down recent views that the 
dancers were men and public entertainers through the use of sources such 
as contemporary chronicles, paintings and literature, dress, and symbols 
within the fresco itself. Unfortunately there was no time to go into 
the "unreal" and symbolic quality of the dancers in comparison with the 
"real" serpentine "canzone a ballo" (the earliest and still most 
magnificent conception of a chain dance in painting). To be continued!

Tvrtko Zebec: "Stecci--reflections of culture and faith"
The background, knowledge and interests of the particular researchers 
have resulted in various approaches and interpretations, which is 
clearly shown in their particular interpretations of the symbols on the 
upright (standing) tombstones - stecci. [note by BS: These were 
reported on in Urbino and Szeged by Elsie Dunin.] Christian 
iconographers say that the visual art sources and models of Christian 
iconography belong primarily to Antique and Oriental compositions, whose 
mythological content is visually similar to Christian parabola and 
evangelical events. Thus, they were adopted by Christianity in their 
visual art form, but given a completely different content. I have tried 
to connect two different medias – tombstones on one side – with their 
"heavenly" or "celestial" kolo-dance engravings motif, and – on the 
other side, fresco depiction of the dance of death (Totentanz, danse 
macabre), as the same idea developed in two different ways. The 
techniques and manners of presentation may differ, but the symbols/ 
symbolism are the same – the link between the world of the living and 
the world of the dead – or, in other words, a transition, the crossing 
of a soul into eternal life.

Judy Van Zile:"Images related to Korean dance--a summary"
Judy spoke about issues in interpreting the myriad kinds of visual 
representations of dance in Korea, and commented on broad issues she 
considered potentially important in other geographic areas as well. 
Beginning with ancient tomb paintings of dance and progressing through 
various kinds of court documents, she contextualized images in relation 
to artistic conventions of the time and the reasons for which images 
were created, and related selected details represented to contemporary 
practices. She pointed out that dance has been considered sufficiently 
significant to be the subject matter of a vast array of images, but 
raised questions regarding assessing their documentary veracity.

Irene Loutzaki: "A visual play between myth and history. The folk 
painter Theophilos Chatzimichael ( 1873-1934)".
This study was guided by the words of the poet Odysseus Elytis 
(1911-1996), who said that "the new Hellenism must finally attempt to 
discover its true identity, since that which it has so far considered to 
be Greek, is actually distorted according to the way that the west 
perceives Greekness". Therefore, in my presentation the use of folk 
painting as a medium to study dance was not about painting per se but 
about its potential to question, tell in different voices or see through 
different eyes what is depicted. Painting is capable of articulating its 
own particular cultural voice within the discipline, as a document of 
culture whose legitimacy is drawn from the fact that its creator--in my 
case Theophilos Chatzimichael--is attempting to communicate values and 
negotiated realities which are integral to human experience and 
consciousness. As an example, in my paper I dealt with two famous 
"naïf" compositions--"The dance of Zalongo" and "the Dance of 
Megara"--made by the folk painter Chatzimichael. As an artist, the 
public identified Theophilos with the concept of "Greekness" as it was 
experienced and promoted, in ideological terms, during the first 
post-War decades (after 1940), an attempt to return to the roots of 
Hellenism. Observing his images as a formal symbol in a new alphabet, I 
tried to depict, thanks to the explanatory accompaniment of words, the 
tradition of mythological narrative which must assume the form of 
historical fact.

Mohd Anis Md Nor: "Iconographic perspectives of Islamic culture and 
their dances".
Anis spoke on the elements of the artistic expression of tawhid in 
Islamic art, which also included culturally structured movement systems. 
An overview of dances in the Islamic communities were presented to 
illustrate the categories of dances (unfavored, indifferent, recommended 
and commendable forms) similar to the categories of music and singing as 
cited by Al-Faruqi in the categories of handasah al-sawt. After 
positioning the categorical hierarchies of permissible dances, he went 
on to elaborate the notion of Islamic aesthetics that are depersonalized 
through the abstractions of the arabesque. The iconic structures as 
embodied in the arabesque were highlighted in the dances of Islamic 
societies. The essence of tawhid as the guiding structure in the Islamic 
arabesque was applied to outline Islamic dance iconography.

László Felföldi: "Stereotype elements in iconographic representations"
Laszlo's presentation proposed such questions as the motives for using 
stereotypes in images, which included: lack of invention, impressing the 
public, propagandistic aims, political purposes; and how to evaluate 
stereotypes? Negatively? Positively? Neutrally? Stereotypes, patterns, 
motives, clichés, emblems are artistic expressive elements in the 
framework of an artistic creation which are used to help in the 
effective representation of the artistic message, by their metaphoric 
features. Their meaning and their formal and functional characteristic 
features were discussed, with particular references to repetitive 
elements in dance images of the 18th-19th centuries in Hungary and 
bottle dances in recent 20th century folklore. Several conclusions were 
presented as well as guidelines for future work. Our sources for dance 
research are more inclined to be fiction rather than reality. This is 
not negative or positive in itself. It is our metaphoric way of 
thinking, a kind of incapability to verbalise things, which are 
expressed in a more proper way in other languages (sound, movement, 
colours, forms, and behaviour. We have to admit that there is no one 
reality that we are trying to grasp. There are different realities, 
which may be valid at the same time, and we are also part of the reality 
that we are examining, regardless of whether it came into being some 
hundred years ago.

Placida Staro: "Dance as Metaphor--a report on a work in progress"
In the civilizations which use written languages, the symbolic 
connections are mediated in an idiomatic form. Therefore, the use of a 
representation of movements that crosses words and is connected with the 
symbolic universe, is always predominated both by the author and the 
interpretor of the work. This differs from those communities which do 
not have a written language, and where movement assumes, or can assume, 
in its iconographic form, a linguistic meaning, a direct rapport with 
the universe of ideas, as in the case of hieroglyphics. But precisely 
because its approach is univocal, the gesture assumes an emblematic 
value. The gesture is therefore represented not in virtue of its own 
dynamic capacity but in virtue of the system of connections which 
renders it explicit through the visual representation. Now, the 
questions posed are: has the dance within western culture ever assumed 
an emblematic value "for itself", that is, not mediated by the idiomatic 
link with language? And if the answer is positive, in what period, in 
what works, for which motivations? And in which works can we see this 
represented? On the other hand, what shared stereotypes allow the 
members of a culture to distinguish a portrayal of a dance from a 
representation of relations between or subjects represented? When are 
these stereotypes formed and transmitted? What is the mechanism that 
distinguishes these three levels? The answer to this question can help 
us to clarify the separation between the ideal and the real dance which 
exist in our western culture.

Questions raised by Judy Van Zile concerning "dance iconography": We 
might consider adding these questions to our Guidelines for Reading 
Dance Images.

-- How do we interpret images of the past in the present? Do images 
reveal or conceal?
We are involved with describing and evaluating, which lead to interpreting.

-- How do our interpretations of the past contribute to our practices of 
the present, and perhaps the future? Are images used to reconstruct the 
past? Validate the present? Suggest reality? Document reality?

-- Apart from obvious issues of translating from one medium to another, 
are there universal issues in interpreting dance images? Issues that 
suggest methodologies?

-- Did the artist intend his work as a dance image, or is it a dance 
image only because we label it as such--because that's our interest.

-- Can art historians and dance researchers contribute to each others' 
methodologies and foster the fullest understanding of dances images?

Future meeting I have taken Judy's last question and been working on 
setting up a meeting in Rome next winter at the American Academy 
(proposal has been accepted) in which we would meet with art historians 
(and painters, archeologists, and interested others including 
specialists from appropriate museums and cultural institutes) to listen 
to each other's presentations, to question, and to learn from one another.

Epilogue (Adrienne,of course!)
Then Laszlo appeared once again
Seen handing to Dina a pin
While holding a spider
He sat down beside her
And gave it to her with a grin.

Our man from Szeged with a spa
Happily shouted a final hurrah
Sea level with fountains
will transform into mountains
Where we all will appear once again.

Database report in Part II.

Part II: Report on dance iconography and "database" session at Bamberg: 
Elsie Dunin.

Adrienne Kaeppler reviewed the early purpose of the iconography 
sub-study group that focused upon developing a universal index and 
cataloging system for a dance image database.
Elsie Dunin noted that in ensuing years (only a decade of time) there 
has been a rapid advancement of computer technology available to the 
personal user, including massive gigabyte memory in home computers, but 
also read and write CDs. In addition for the general user, there are 
more cataloging and indexing programs for text or images. These 
programs can be customized to personal or small project archiving needs 
that were not available at the initiation of this sub-study group.

At the iconography Urbino meeting, August 2001, musicologist Mariagrazia 
Carlone demonstrated a computer program, "Musico," developed for music 
iconography, but not yet used for dance images. Elsie Dunin volunteered 
to do a "dance iconography pilot" using personally photographed 
fieldwork images of dance events. Elsie briefly reported her 
difficulties with setting up the Musico program (which is not compatible 
with the Macintosh platform) on a PC with the latest Windows XP platform 
(year 2001). Therefore Elsie was not able to pursue the "dance pilot" as 
planned. However, the Musico program was applied to a European-based 
project "Images of Music" to document and catalogue images with musical 
subject matter. The project produced three "exhibitions" on the 
internet (www.imagesof, and made available three CD-ROMs. 
One of the interactive CDs features "Rhythm in Music and Dance" and was 
available to view at our meeting. There was not enough time at the 
meeting to evaluate the CD fully, but in general the information and 
sound examples were considered to be superficial. On the other hand, 
the collection of historical images was considered valuable. Another 
controversial issue was brought up: whether or not some of the 
historical images actually portrayed dancing. The 14th century image 
that Sparti discussed in her presentation happened to be also included 
on this CD.

Within the context of sharing experiences with cataloging projects using 
available programs, Judy Van Zile discussed the Endnote software, which 
is basically designed for bibliographic cataloging. It was customized 
for an iconography database project for Korean dance images. A model 
was created for inputting "records" of iconographic images, which could 
then be outputted in a variety of formats. Ultimately a notebook with 
images and printout of data about the images was produced. Elsie 
pointed out that although Endnote was selected for the Korean project, 
there are other bibliographic database programs, such as ProCite that 
have the same capability of customization and can be outputted into a 
variety of biblographic formats. ProCite is used for the Study Group’s 
Dance Research publication that is now produced in Zagreb. Using the 
text based bibliographic programs offers a challenge of linking 
thumbnail images with the text information, and enables one to search 
and sort on either the text or image. There are photographic database 
programs that can be adequately sorted into groups, but the text fields 
are very limited. Elsie mentioned FotoStation, a photographic database 
program (designed in Norway) as being useful as a cataloging program, 
and one which is compatible with both Macintosh and PC systems. 
Unfortunately there is a limitation to the customization of text fields.

Dunin’s point is that many ethnochoreologists have amassed personal 
collections of fieldwork images that only they can identify, but which 
are invaluable for the tracking of continuities and changes in the dance 
events that are being studied. The tangible image of these studies is a 
treasure chest of information, and must be catalogued and indexed by the 
collector, and not by a third party. Technology developed for the 
consumer is useful: within the last two years, for example, scanning 
equipment to digitize slides and photographs has become relatively 
standard and reasonably priced for the fieldworker. For this reason, it 
is useful to identify computer programs that are basic, useful and that 
will not become obsolete in a matter of a few years. Therefore, a 
continuing discussion and sharing of information about technological 
advances to catalog and index images should continue at future meetings 
of this Sub-Study Group.

Report by Placida Staro:

Dina reported about the latest feature in cataloging images, sound, and 
historical data in different kind of projects. The "architecture" of 
the different programs now used in national archives (U.S.A. and Europe) 
is constantly updated because of the changes in media development. The 
discussions she had with the heads of these projects brought her to the 
conclusion that it is not now necessary to have a shared protocol in the 
software used, but first of all to use programs with a high degree of 
compatibility with the most common protocols for data-base. The future 
is in the virtual projects and the scholar's problem has to be the 
consistent way of classifying his/her own material (in our case "dance") 
and not the technical media.

Report by László Felföldi:

In order to promote cross-cultural research in ethnochoreology, we would 
need to create MULTIMEDIA DATABASES being accessible on internet or on 
CD-ROM. It may be especially useful in smaller regions, where the dance 
iconographic materials (together with the historical texts and musical 
documents) have easily comparable genres, techniques, topics. Another 
important issue is the comparison of historical dance material with the 
documents of recent dance folklore. That is why I urge intenational 
cooperation in this field. As a preparation for this project we (members 
of the sub-study group on dance iconography) could compile a collective 
database with some examples interpreted and described in their regional 
and historical framework.

Comment by Barbara Sparti

Many of the past years of the Ethnochoreology's sub-study group on dance 
iconography have been dedicated exclusively to cataloging. At the 
Urbino meeting in 2002, except for Elsie Dunin, there was almost no 
interest in pursuing this further, in some cases because of the 
elusivenss and special problems of world-wide dance. The Bamberg 
meeting showed instead that a few members are very dedicated to this 
aspect of dance images, and some are curious about it, while some are 
not interested at all. It clearly is worth keeping this aspect alive 
for those who are interested in it as one part of the projects 
undertaken by the sub-study group (if not as a separate sub-study 
group). As Laszlo put it, "We have to keep this topic alive with those 
who are interested in it. We may write a pilot on it in order to decide 
the main issues (softwear, content, ways of processing). To start as a 
snowball in a smaller circle and then widen it as it is needed."

Report compiled by Barbara Sparti in July 2003
for the Dance Iconography Sub-Study Group
following the March 2003 Bamberg meetin

Barbara Sparti