“A semiological analysis of dance necessarily regards the body as a location of human signifying practices; this removes the body from its status as a physical object and imbues it with the capacity for intelligence and passion.” (Foster 1986, 243)

The original jump-off for this post was to simply make reference to the above passage; but . . .

You know, sometimes you read something that simply blows your wig back. Well, when it comes to reading the works of the following three scholars, I run out of wigs. Admittedly, one reason is because they seem to have thunk the thoughts that I believed were all my own ingenious creation. Susan L. Foster manages to mellifluously finger paint theoretical musings on the page in the most fragrantly tasty way; Katrina Hazzard-Gordon’s investigations, without fail, lead us back to the core culture and the embodied ingenuity of the [Black]folk who form it (on the real to real, she keeps it gully) and; Alim’s thorough explorations via a hiphopographical approach give the language of the Hip Hop Nation more than a nominal scholarly shout out.

Although, Susan L. Foster’s, Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance (1986), primarily focuses on theater dance, I’m interested in looking at how the choreographic conventions explained in the second chapter can by applied to reading hood dances presented in cyber locations like YouTube. Mind you, Foster implicitly states that the rough sketch of strategies and techniques for “analysis pertains only to the Western concert dance tradition.” Nonetheless, I’m giving myself a “let’s see what happens” pass to play around with these strategies and techniques to analyze dance compositions connected to the Black vernacular dance tradition presented in a virtual context.

Foster, through a process of assimilation, synthesized various choreographic conventions into five broad categories:

(1) the frame--the way the dance sets itself apart as a unique event; 
(2) the mode of representation—the way the dance refers to the world; 
(3) the style—the way the dance achieves an individual identity in the world and in it’s genre; 
(4) the vocabulary—the basic units or “moves” from which the dance is made; and 
(5) the syntax—the rules governing the selection and combination of moves.

Given the social-political, real and virtual contexts that Black vernacular dance practices take place I began to contemplate integrating some of Katrina Hazzard-Gordon and H. Samy Alim’s input.

“For the Afro-American dancer, social dancing is a central and fundamental carrier of meaning. The dance is more than personal entertainment, fun and good exercise. The dance is imbued with individual, sociopsychological, cultural, and political meaning” (Gordon 1995, 441)

So, in addition to Foster’s categorical offerings I am including an examination of what Gordon claims to be the four meaning aspects of Black social dance practices—identity, cultural integrity, ingroup-outgroup, and political resistance. These meaning aspects compliment what Alim, drawing on the work of Geneva Smitherman, considers to be Hip Hop cultural modes of discourse and discursive practices. In Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture, Alim places these cultural modes in the following interrelated categories:

• call and response,
• multilayered totalizing expression,
• signifyin and bustin (bussin),
• tonal semantics and poetics,
• narrative sequencing and flow,
• entering the cipha and battlin

For those familiar with the dances and codes the conventional ideas familiar to ‘informal’ ‘round the way choreographic structures are plainly noticeable when watching Crank Dat Soulja Boy and culturally related video content on YouTube. These conventions “situate the dance in the world and among dances that have preceded it.” In Reading Dancing, Foster further asserts, “ By focusing on these conventions in a particular dance, the viewer comes to understand not only what that dance means but also how it creates its meaning”(Foster 1986, 59). The intention behind this scholastic mash-up is to thoroughly map out a schema to actively interpret, analyze and/or read Black vernacular dance compositions like the Soulja Boy, Crank Dat Yank, The K-Wang Wit It, The Go Hard or Go Home, and an extensive list of others. With that being said, I’m excited to see what happens.