This post is the fulfillment of my newfound lifelong interest in choreographed dance. It’s also a weekend open thread.
Spanish singer Paloma San Basilio performs in this video for “Luna de Miel.” I think this is from 1979. Castilian-lisp Spanish is the best kind of Spanish. You’ll notice it in her pronunciation of “s” and “z” sounds as “th.”
The other thing that caught my attention in the video is what you can call the default in pop-culture choreographed dance, before Eighties’ era emphasis on technical perfection, along with the drift away from traditional sexual polarity. Through the recent decades the dancers and their dance have become more androgynous, the art directors jettisoning any remaining connection to the dance being what it’s always been, which is stylized courtship between man and woman. For that long-forgotten sensuality, take a look at this video:
Pretty smooth, isn’t it, when she twice hands off her mic over to a male dancer when she needs her hands to be free. Also, tell me you wouldn’t love for her to run her hand along your back like she does with one of the male dancers. From another composition that’s in the same spirit:
L’amour est enfant de bohème
Il n’a jamais jamais connu de loi
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime
Et si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
Only a few years later… Madonna’s “Material Girl” has a similar choreographed dance, the female fantasy of being a lady attended-on by adoring gentlemen. I have literally not seen this video since 1984. Just opened that time capsule now.
There are two perspectives. One, is from the point of view of the year when the video came out and its contrast against that which the audiences were comfortable with at the time. Madonna’s video is less civilized than what you see in “Luna de Miel.” There is no feminine warmth in “Material Girl.” She has no reciprcal grace for her gentlemen-in-attendance the way San Basilio does. Madonna’s act is also more technically disciplined.
The second perspective is that of forty years later, or now. The video retrograde from our perspective. No Diversity, and there is even an on-the-house Game lesson for the viewers: chicks dig plucked wildflowers and an old pickup truck more than diamonds and supplication.
Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” is another early-eighties transitional video. The story is about a young woman who for an unexplained reason is thrown out of her house by her father. What could she have done then… had an abortion? Her parents throw her out with a heavy heart and she ends up on the seedy streets of 1983 Manhattan and gets into prostitution. She and the other girls of the night join forces in empowerment against their pimp, shown as choreographed dance. It’s not sensual like San Basilios’s, it’s also not mechanical like Madonna’s. It’s rag dolls who are still vulnerable under their bravado.
The choreographed dance in Eighties’ music videos evolved over the decade. Michael Jackson’s virtuosity, Janet Jackson’s militaristic formations. Black sensibilities. Madonna’s increasingly queer male dancers. The sensual woman… who’s she?
By 2009 there was Lady Gaga with “Bad Romance” and its creepy antiseptic rooms. Definitely re-watch the Spanish video to detox after your voyage to the underworld.
A subject for another time and for the comments: choreographed folk dances.