Art or Entertainment?

So I’m taking dance classes this year, for the first time since high school, ’cause:

1. I decided to stop kidding myself that I would exercise on my own time.
2. I love it, and I’ve missed it. A lot.
3. It’s free!
4. Apparently I wanted to find out how much flexibility I’ve lost. DDDDD:

One of the classes I’m taking is Jazz-Funk with DeAnna Pellecchia, who is excellent, and for the last several classes we haven’t moved as much as usual, because, as she puts it, “Everyone comes in looking like zombies.” (It’s first-round-of-midterms season out there in the rest of BU.)

Today, we watched the end of Singin’ in the Rain, which we started on Tuesday (and I had never seen before), and then selections from Fosse (which I’ve actually seen live, but I was too young to appreciate it then). Then we were going to dance for the last half-hour, but we ended up just talking – first about Fosse and classical jazz; then about other forms, and how styles of dance, and all art, evolve over time and then are commercialized or bastardized or mixed up…and eventually rebelled against to make the next form. It was really fascinating. For all that we kid here about how pretentious/isolated/insulated/frankly strange our environment is, this place where we Make Art and Talk About Art and Cry Together and Share Our Feelings…and for all I gripe that everything we do is wicked depressing in the name of Art… I rarely appreciate us more than when I go out into my “normal” world and encounter the uninitiated. And it’s not just, oh, wow, you’ve…never heard of Bob Fosse and kind of offensively think this is traditional Indian dance. It’s – remember the Manifestival? I forget sometimes that, in more of the world around us than I’d think, people go their whole lives without asking or being asked: “What is art?”

When I say I’m in theatre, I usually get the assumption that I’m an actress. When you say you’re an actor, do you get the assumption that you want to star in blockbusters? DeAnna likes to joke (but not really, because it’s true) that when she says she’s a dancer, she used to get asked, most often, if she worked at [strip club] or [other strip club]. Or if she was with the ballet or on Broadway. Now, most recently, she gets asked if it’s “…like So You Think You Can Dance.” And kids sign up for her class expecting to learn what she calls “video dance” (read: dances from music videos). And she’s an artist, and that bugs her. But what’s really struck me about how it bugs her is what she said this afternoon:

“There’s nothing wrong with it. But it’s not art. It’s entertainment.”

Big question. I felt like I was home with you guys all of a sudden.

Singin’ in the Rain is iconic and seems like it might be DeAnna’s favorite movie of all time. And there’s enormous artistry to it. But it’s also entertaining. Can it be both? “Savion Glover,” DeAnna said, when I asked her if there could be overlap – apparently he’s both art and entertainment. And us? I saw a really funny, lovely production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee recently. It was entertainment. Probably not art. But I had two friends in it, actors who would consider themselves artists, I’m sure. And Sayjay Mullins was in it – a 2006 graduate of this world. Where is the line? What are the rules?

How do you relate to art vs. entertainment? Do you know you prefer one over the other? To what extent do you believe something or someone can be both? I’m interested in a lot of people who seem to be artists who mostly work in entertainment. What if I never work in art or entertainment again? …Okay, increasingly unlikely, but go with me for a sec – I don’t think I’d ever stop considering myself an artist. But you might stop considering me an artist. Certainly no one would consider me an entertainer… Thoughts, anyone?

One Comment

sbmeyers posted on October 23, 2011 at 9:09 pm

This is a difficult question to answer, Kat, and there are a lot of responses, none of which are necessarily “right.” My feeling is that in actuality, everything has the potential to be signified by the word “Art.” Literally anything with an audience and a frame of viewing can be considered as such. Therefore, art can be entertaining and entertainment can be artistic. But what is the artist’s, or business man/woman’s, intent? Is it to say something about the world or is it to rake in a fortune? I think the “Entertainment” Industry tries to be artistic, but will not sacrifice monetary gains for voices on the fringe. As a result, I feel that integrity is often replaced with marketability, which is how a divide between art and entertainment manifests. I feel as though it’s easier to separate who’s in it for money versus who has something to say.

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