“The role of culture is that it’s the form through which we as a society reflect on who we are, where we’ve been, where we hope to be.“
“~ Wendell Pierce“
What are your cultural reference points? Is there a touchstone from your past that you carry with you to this day? How does the generation gap look from where you are now?
There is something special about the music, books, movies, and TV shows that we love in our formative years. The impression that culture makes on us while we are still taking shape as people is enormous.
That’s why waves of nostalgia seem to come in predictable cycles. Your eyes are wide open between the ages of around nine to nineteen, and every new experience is evidence that “This is the way the world is!”
Then, as predictably as the sun rising tomorrow, about 20 to 30 years later the styles and fashion and cultural touchstones from a bygone era will come roaring back in a retro revival. Relived again as grownups, these reference points seem all the more valid when seen through the rearview mirror. No matter the era, we all had it better “back in the day.”
What seems to have changed over the years is the sharpness in the demarcations between generations. In the 60s and 70s the “generation gap” was palpable. It was very much an “us versus them” mentality. The phrase “Never trust anyone over 30” coined by Jack Weinberg , a leader in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in 1964, went viral and became the rallying cry for Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman, psychedelic evangelist Timothy Leary , The Beatles, and many others.
Somehow, modern technology and our massively mediated world have altered the equation somewhat and blurred the lines. Case in point: ABBA. My ABBA story begins back in the early 70s when I was in elementary school. Enterprising youth that I was, I made the most of my school library’s policy of checking out small, portable cassette tape recorders.
Armed with the tape recorder, I repaired to a friend’s basement family room where she had a record player and some 7” singles, including the all-important ABBA hit “Waterloo.” With this as the highlight of my grade school mix-tape, I then temporarily enjoyed my status as outlaw schoolyard DJ by finding an electric outlet in the playground and blasting “Waterloo” to my classmates during recess.
In 1999, ABBA nostalgia went through the looking glass of popular culture and transcended the 70s revival and disco renaissance that was taking place at the time. The high-concept kitsch-classic film “Mamma Mia!” was released and started a new wave of ABBA mania for the next generation.
For those who haven’t seen it, the idea turns the usual musical production concept on its head. Rather than a story having music written to support it, Mamma Mia! built a story out of ABBA’s greatest hits. Irrepressibly cute and cheesy, the film became a must-watch rite-of-passage for youth of a certain age, my 11-year-old daughter included.
Fast-forward to last week on the 4th of July, and “ABBA – The Concert” was performing live at the Marin County Fair. This tribute band is a faithful recreation of ABBA in their glory years, historically accurate down to the feathered hair and the platform shoes. My daughter had this on our calendar as a must-see event for months in advance. She wasn’t the only one!
The audience was an interesting mash-up of folks who were closer to my age who were fans the first time around, and mobs of kids who were obviously indoctrinated via Momma Mia!, knowing virtually every word by heart.
What began with the single “Ring Ring” released by the Swedish pop group “Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid ” in 1973 became a multi-generational cultural phenomenon spanning the decades. About a year ago my daughter decided that the current top-40 pop music on the radio was boring and she started digging into my older records for some perspective, discovering Blondie, Journey, and of course ABBA.
To this day I doubt that anything has exceeded the ‘earworm-factor’ of ABBA’s music. As hard to get out of your head as bubblegum is to remove from your shoe, their buoyant beats and catchy lyrics live on, happily oblivious to the changing tastes of our time.
You probably have different touchstones in your evolution, some that stay in the past and others that live on, defying the tide of nostalgia to stay relevant as the years go by. When something old becomes new again it’s tempting to turn up our nose, but that’s the way our culture dances, you never know what’s going to strike a lasting chord!
Much love and lively listening till next week!
Dance First Member Spotlight: Earthdance Presents – Moving Arts Lab 2019!
This week’s Dance First Members Spotlight shines on Earthdance, “an artist-run workshop, residency, and retreat center located in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts ” and their upcomingMoving Arts Lab 2019, “a festival meeting ground for interdisciplinary exploration” happening from Thursday, August 22 to Sunday the 25th.
Curated and facilitated by Peter Sciscioli, this festival invites participants from around the world to create an embodied dialogue at the intersection of modalities — voice, improvisation, site-specific performance, physical theater, and more.
Peter Sciscioli is a renowned Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary performer, creator, educator and producer whose work encompasses dance, music, theater and film. As founder of the International Interdisciplinary Artists Consortium, (IIAC) a network of artists and producers working across disciplines and culture, he’s uniquely suited to facilitate this groundbreaking gathering.
With an impressive roster of teaching artists from the IIAC , this gathering is an incredible opportunity to experience the ways that movement, sound, image, and performance can inform human culture. Supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the GPS/Global Practice Sharing program of Movement Research with funding from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the program includes offerings from Esther Baker-Tarpaga, Deborah Black, Dan Bear Davis, Krista DeNio, Debra Disbrow, Federico Hewson, Ivana Ivković, Martín Lanz Landázuri, Arely Landeros, LEIMAY (Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya), Thea Little, Agnieszka Mendel, Deirdre Morris, Odeya Nini, Iskra Sukarova, Larissa Velez-Jackson, and Edisa Weeks.
Earthdance offers a range of services and accommodation that cater to all tastes and budgets. From full room and board to camping or commuting, Earthdance is committed to remaining accessible with comprehensive scholarship opportunities and a subsidized sliding-scale program.
On Saturday, August 24th there will be a Faculty Performance at 8pm with dinner available. This is your opportunity to participate in a dynamic somatic dialog with many pioneers in the field!
Learn more and read detailed workshop descriptions and presenter bios at www.earthdance.net/