Friday, July 10, 2009

A Small, Quick Treatise

Patti Piniccia at Rockpiles 1973 Guy Terrell

Surfing offers a peculiarly efficacious context within which to examine questions of gender stereotyping and cultural assumptions. As an athletic endeavor, the act of surfing and the mechanical considerations of performance follow the traditional masculine associations. Power, strength and speed within the context of human exertion . The stuff of sports. As an aesthetic endeavor, the nuances of movement, positioning, and line more often drift toward the feminine sensibility. The stuff of dance. It is at the nexus of the two where greatness often lies. It is also where the confusion starts. The naked male aggression of brute physicality can create moments sublime. Gary Elkerton ripping things apart at the seams for example. A subtler, perhaps feminine, understanding in critical moments with no need for such muscle, can create the equally sublime. Rell Sunn's luxurious lines for example. And what would be without Tom Curren's mysterious blending of the two (for example)? The question cycles and recycles in the wider cultural movement, a way of life, where the bounds are blurred incurably.
It is always a question of context, motivation and purpose. In another world, it was not until Baryshnikov (and before, Nijinsky & Nureyev) did the male ballet dancer enter the wider cultural imagination as intrinsically masculine and anything other than power props for the female line. Here we see a case of the flip side of the coin. Even still, the Balanchine estimation of the balletic line is far more heralded in the ballerina than the danseur noble, perhaps a prime suspect in the cultural decline of an estimation of an art.
The heart of the question is often whether the feminine aspect can be incorporated by the masculine and vice versa. To contend that the man, with generally more physical power, can learn to incorporate the feminine line while the woman, with architecturally less physical force at her disposal, cannot sufficiently incorporate masculine power, is so obtuse as to miss the point entirely. What line is being drawn? Is it consistent? Pleasurable? Exciting in its own context? Simply look at what each is doing on the wave regardless of gender, then because of it. See the differences in natural, personal inclination at critical moments and appreciate and criticize them as such. The waves of the ocean are inherently democratic. It feels awkward to treat it any other way.

This was all brought on by the weird coordination of Rebecca Olive's review of the movie Women and the Waves and the previous post on this site, something of a coincidence of topic.

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