Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ritual and Performance (Unit Fifteen)

Ritual and Performance (Unit Fifteen)
Chinese New Year - Fire Dragon Dance
Ritual consists of ceremonial actions that are given importance or meaning through formality, symbolism, and performativity. Rituals are often spiritual or sacred in nature, but can also be political, social, or even athletic.
Ritual performance dates back to the earliest days of human evolution and helped in the creation of culture and of human social bonding.
Rituals are both traditional and formal in that they often use a restricted code.

As theorized by linguist Basil Bernstein, this is a form of communication that is available to those who are members of a social in-group, such as that used in certain religious rituals, cocktail party etiquette, and story-telling traditions.

Elaborated code is used in larger groups with open membership and less shared knowledge or cultural tradiitons, such as students and teacher in a college course.
Elaborated and Restricted Codes
Rituals make use of choreography and rules, by using sequences of action that are familiar to both the performers and audience, even if it involves some aspects of improvisation.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter - Latin Mass
Symbols are an important aspect of ritual performance, and serve to provide meaning or context to the actions. They include religious symbols, such as the host, and chalice of wine, sacramental objects which represent the body and blood of Christ in the Catholic Mass, and political symbols, such as the flag, which represents freedom and national tradition, and is handled with reverence at ceremonies.

  • Rites of Passage - Rituals that mark changes of social or life status.
  • Festivals - Communal cultural rituals connected to the calendar cycles.
  • Spiritual - Rituals that involve sacrifice, offering, or devotion to a deity or sacred belief.
  • Political - Symbolic actions that serve to enact and reinforce political power.

  Rites of Passage
Rituals that mark rites of passage include birth, adulthood, marriage, death, and other changes of social status. Cultural anthropologist Victor Turner elaborated on ethnographer Arnold Van Gennep's three phases in rites of passage: separation, transition, and re-incorporation.

  Studies on Victor Turner and Rites of Passage
Ritual, Performance, and Rites of Passage
Amy Secada is a contemporary dance artist in the Kinetic Junglist Movement, who explores ritual and rites of passage through her performances. As her website says, she "combines her skills as a dancer, songwriter, couture costume designer, vocalist, and choreographer to produce breathtaking audiovisual works and live performances."

Amy Secada - Birth of Cicada
Coming of Age Traditions from Around the World
Festival based rituals are generally connected to specific dates or times within the solar or lunar calendar cycles, and are often communal in their celebrations.

Fire Dragon Dance - Hong Kong
The Chinese New Year (known as Tết in Vietnam) celebrated on the lunar calendar, include festivities such as the Fire Dragon Dance, in which performers collaborate to make an enormous dragon made of sticks of incense come to life and dance to drum beats. The dragon represents good luck and auspicious qualities such as power, wisdom, and authority.
Mardi Gras preparations - New Orleans (1878)
New Orleans has become associated with Mardi Gras, a festive pageant of costumes and parades occurring on the city streets in the days just before Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent in Catholic practice.
Mardi Gras Costumes - Captain (Krewe of Proteus) c. 1980 (left)
and Queen (Zulu Social Club) 1993 (right)

"While masquerade balls have been popular in New Orleans since at least the end of the 18th century, full-fledged parades evolved later. The first parades consisted of nothing more than impromptu processions formed by maskers already out on the streets. New Orleans' parade tradition began in earnest in the late 1830s, when groups of young Creole men organized informal processions." - The Presbytère Museum, New Orleans

Mardi Gras Indians - African-American performers, New Orleans
Rituals of worship involve some combination of sacrifice, offering, or devotion to a deity or sacred belief. They vary greatly according to culture and time period.
Puja Offering to Lord Hanuman
Hindu worship, or puja, consists of the making of offerings and devotion to a deity. It may be offered by an individual, or led by a Brahman, or member of the priestly caste.
Puja can encompass a wide range of activities, including darshan, or meditation in the presence of a deity, offerings of incense and food, and bhakti, active praise and worship, which may include mantra, or the chanting of sacred phrases.
Calcutta Art Studio - Bhakti, or devotional Kirtan
performed by Chaitanya and Nityanand

Kirtan is the call-and-response form of chanting in Hindu worship, and makes use of such traditional instruments as the harmonium, tablas, and hand cymbals.

  Krishna Das - Radhe Govinda
Ceremonies that have a political purpose use dramaturgy to enact and reinforce political power by honoring political actors, such as presidents or kings, and symbols of national power, such as the flag or historical events. These symbols are also used by artists for their performative qualities.
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA photo shoot
Ritual, Politics, and Power (review) - David Kertzer
The Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, and revised many times over the last 125 years, is an example of political ritual. It has an interesting history that reflects the political beliefs in various eras.
The Strange History Behind the Pledge of Allegiance
The funeral of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 made use of rituals such as the 21-gun salute and Taps played on the bugle, to symbolize and direct the nation's mourning.
Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA is a complex song and performance that serves as both an anti-war anthem and praise to the working class values that built the country. It makes use of political imagery such as the flag, soldiers, and cemetery tombstones.

 Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA

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