Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dancing Returns to Fairhope

May 25

Title's a bit dramatic, I realize. There has always been quite a lot of dancing, of all kinds, in Fairhope. It's only that lately there hasn't been much of it at the Marietta Johnson School.

With partial funding from the Alabama Council on the Arts, the school has a new project called Creative Movement, which will be seen in public for the first time this afternoon at the end-of-the-year sendoff ceremonies for eighth graders. Ballet expert Sherrylea Bloodworth, who has extensive experience teaching and dancing with such companies as the San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey in New York, has translated her ballet and choreography skills to the school in a way that boys and girls alike are dancing joyously and learning movement and rhythm without thinking of it as ballet.For one who attended the school when Folk Dancing was a daily class and a source of pride for the school, it is heartening to see it return in this way. The grant will continue until the end of September, which means that there will be more dancing next year, and will become a staple in Fairhope through our school once again.

There is something unique about the Fairhope approach to dance, particularly as it is practiced at the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education. Mrs. Johnson felt that dance and music were natural to all children and should not be the province of a selected few (in fact, her whole theory of education was that nothing should be offered to a select few -- that in childhood all children should be exposed to everything a school could offer. Specialization would come later, out of natural interest.) This approach to folk dancing through ballet is a contemporary way to present a difficult art to an unsuspecting student body. And they are loving it.


John Sweden said...

Once again we have the condescending gift of a lecture from the great Benedict, the former weapons designer, sometimes painter, sometimes actor, and sometimes director and alltimes self-anointed possessor of the truth and value of everything.

In this new pontification on “what "art" really is” from somewhere in the hills of Appalachia he proceeds to lecture, John Sweden, who, as it happens to be, is a dedicated artist for over fifty years, who’s work has appeared and been sold in galleries in New York, Aix en Provence, and Göteborg. Who after fifteen years as an Art Director, having won several awards for his creativity and expertise received, after he left the field, the ultimate compliment from his former boss, as conveyed him by “ff “, that based on his work in advertising, he as an artist who belonged and would end up in a garret in Paris. Instead he ended up on the streets and in the shelters of New York, using art as process for engaging the city’s hardcore homeless populations. His Art Therapy and Arts/Facilitations programs gained him the titled of “Artman” from New York’s homeless gay, lesbian, teenage, transsexual prostitutes and his work the mentally ill homeless was cited as essential part of a National Model by the National Institute of Mental Health. Through his commitment to art he was the first to place the art of the homeless in the galleries of New York and one of his unknown emerging artist has piece in the permanent collection of the Colgate/Palmolive Corp. A painter and sculptor who has generated thousands of personal artworks and for the past fifteen years been wrapping his life around the complex dynamics of his social artworks and the deeper meanings of the challenges presented by the German artist Joseph Beuys. A social artist who’s “Portrait of a City” was a featured part of Göteborg’s Millennium Celebration and generated over 2000 self-portraits and continuing the artwork for another 4 years he was able to stimulate the creation of another 7000 works of art. 6000 of which were framed, returned to artists and hung in their own homes as the world’s first community based art collection. A man who has won first prize in an International Agenda 21 competition, for designing the school of the future, with a vision and mental sculpture of an Arts/Facilitated education. In this lifelong engagement with the processes, philosophy and practice of art he has read the entire writings of Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Cezanne, Picasso, Da Vinci, and Duchamp amongst many many other artists. That just covers the visual arts.

In terms of the performing arts he is a man who, in successfully practicing the art of stand up-comedy for over ten years in entertainment capital of the world New York and recently in Göteborg, has singularly, directly and intimately engaged thousands of audiences ranging in size from two to over three thousand, with comedic performances of works of his own writing, his own directing and his own acting.

Sorry Benedict, but you know "jack sh*t" about art, its deeper meanings, its complex challenges, what is worthy or not beyond your very personal limited experience and opinion. If you really want to get handle “on what art is” I suggest that you stop wasting time with Spinoza and that crowd and try wrapping your mind around the words and works of artists. I suggest that you begin by reading “Art as Art” the selected writings of Ad Reinhardt.

By the way ff I am in total agreement with Marietta Johnson’s approach, only I took it further and placed the arts at the center of the total educational process from which all subjects can be taught and personalized as learning experiences. Let the dancing continue.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Damn, John. With your background and way with words, you should have your own blog! Feel free to use this one for your ventilation needs any time.

John Sweden said...

I’ve only known two southern women. I loved them both and consider myself lucky to have enjoyed their charm, wit, intelligence, grace and style. I will quote the other one, “He burned my grits! It made me so mad I could spit.” She was Joyous.

My blog will have to wait for when I retire. Until then I thank you for the opportunity to meet and engage the good folks who “Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree” located at the center of Finding a Fairhope.

Benedict S. said...

John, you are obviously right. How could I possibly know more than you about art. I still think art's a "happening" but then, I'm only me and you have been acclaimed an "artist." Forgive my insolence.

Over on my blog I confused you with the mathematician John Knowles. (No, he did't write A Separate Peace.) I said there that I was reluctant to apologize since to do so (to him) might offend you. I repeat the gesture here. Both you and "the other John" have much to say that ought to be heard by wider audiences.

John Sweden said...

Hej Benedict, no apologies necessary. The issue was not what you said about the quality of your experiences as an artist, as painter or in the theatrical world, but rather that arrogant superior assumption, which always seems to find it way into your writing, that I or anyone else needs you to teach us, “what art is” or anything else is. We can and do enjoy your intelligent input and challenges. I would enjoy them much better without the elitist, Strausian, superior man, lecturing the presumed unlearned masses approach. I mean even in your apology you feel the need to get in the “forgive my insolence” dig. I do sincerely hope that you can get over this as it takes away from all that you really have to say.
Until then, Let’s keep dancing.