Steve Kotansky on “Authenticity”

In 2002 Steve Kotansky was recorded speaking about the subject of “authenticity” in folk dances. Is a dance “authentic” if it is observed being performed by villagers at a dance festival? If it is performed for a researcher in the dance’s ‘home’ village? If people are doing different versions in the same line at the same time? What happens to a dance when it is isolated from its context – a choreography stripped from its occasion? The excellent German website Tanzrichtung published the recording on May 27, 2016. A Google translation of that recording is reproduced below.

“There are so many reasons why you dance, purely physical, emotional, emotional, artistic, social – so many reasons. Various psychological processes are linked to these motifs. 1972 was a festival in Serbia in Leskovac, where they danced “izvorni tanci”, dances from the source, “pure” folklore. The stupid thing was, you could win something at this festival. It was a competition. And that changed things very quickly: “Yes, how can we win? Our folklore may be too simple … Wait, the thing, doesn’t he have an uncle in Belgrade? He probably knows a choreographer. We bring in a choreographer who looks at our things and does something. We’ll definitely win. ”Then you can see how“ our dance ”,“ naško Kolo ”, ends up being something completely different from how we know it. And the neighbors in the village two kilometers away hear about it and fetch someone, and this competition continues to build up.

It has often been like this. We saw a group of eight men and eight women from an East Serbian village, from Aleksinac. They danced for us, my friend and me, very simple, simple dances. You performed a dance, then the second and third … no choreography. We asked them if we could visit them in their camp, five kilometers outside where they slept. We came there in the afternoon, right after lunch, we had our rakija together and we told them we wanted to film. The eight men got up and started dancing. One on the left danced quite differently. He danced the same steps, but different in style, and one said, “What are you doing? You’re dancing stupidly, they want to film us! “And we said” Leave him, leave him, we want to see how everyone just dances for himself. “” No, no, that’s not possible! These are our dances! ”A month later we were with him at his daughter’s wedding. He was allowed to lead and dance and everyone imitated him. It was so funny! It was interesting – they already had an idea of ​​how to “properly” dance. We saw it purely folkloric, but as soon as our camera was there, they wanted it exactly as they wanted it.

I was then in the village whose group won. You won a color television. There was only one place in the village where there was electricity. I was there for a week, in southern Serbia, near Gnjilane. It was very interesting. We didn’t see what they showed when dancing in the village. We wanted to do a dance, but they were very reserved. “You don’t just dance to dance! You dance when there is an occasion, a wedding or a holiday. ”It took a long time, but as soon as we brought in good musicians, everyone started to dance. Then a shepherd came: “What’s going on here? Why don’t I know about anything? “

I do everything from the simplest village dance to highly choreographed dances. But I’m honest, I always say what that’s what I’m doing.”

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