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SAT/ACT Pros: Help me understand this passage please!

RUSKATRUSKAT Posts: 3 Harvard Champion
What is the gist of the passage? What do the boldfaced phrases really mean? Thanks.
(The passage is by a choreographer who worked with the influential dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (1894-1991). It focuses on the use of space and gesture in dance.)

I am not an adept aesthetician, and I could not presume to analyze Martha’s sense of design or approach toward design. But I believe she dealt with the elements of line and direction with the instincts of a mathematician or physicist, adding to each their emotional relations. For example, a straight line rarely, if ever, occurs in nature, but it does occur in are, and it is used in art with various telling effects. Direction works similar magic. An approaching body produces one kind of emotional line, a receding or departing body another; the meeting of two forces produces visual, kinesthetic, and emotional effects, with a world of suggestibility around them like a penumbra that evokes many ideas and emotions whenever there forms are manipulated. Basic human gesture assume, therefore, and almost mystic power. The simple maneuver of turning the face away, for example, removes personality, relationship. Not only that, it seems to alter the relation of the individual to present time and present place, to make here-and-now other-where and other-time. It also shifts the particular personality to the general and the symbolic. This is the power of the human face and the human regard, and the meeting of the eyes is probably as magic a connection as can be made on this earth, equal to any amount of electrical shock or charge. It represents the heart of dynamism, life itself. The loss of that regard reduces all connections to nothingness and void.

“Turning one’s back” has become a common figure of speech. It means withholding approval, disclaiming, negating; and, in fact, in common conduct the physical turning of the back is equated with absolute negation and insult. No back is turned on a royal personage or a figure of high respect. This is linked with the loss of visual contact and regard. One cuts dead by not meeting the eyes.

We know much about emotional symbols. Those used by the medieval and Renaissance painters were understood by the scholars and artists of the time—but, more wonderful, they mean to us today spontaneously just what they meant them; they seem to be permanent. We dream, Jung (a Swiss psychologist) tells us, in terms and symbols of classic mythology. And since, according to Jung, all people share a “collective unconscious,” people from disparate traditions nonetheless dream in the same terms. Is it not also likely, them, that certain space relations, rhythms, and stresses have psychological significance, that some of these patterns are the universal key to emotional response, that their deviations and modifications can be meaningful to artists in terms of their own life experiences and that these overtones are grasped by spectators without conscious analysis?

These matters are basic to our well-being as land and air animals. As plants will turn to sunlight or rocks or moisture according to their nature, so we bend toward or escape from spatial arrangements according to our emotional needs. Look around any restaurant and see how people will sit at a center table unless the sides are filled up. Yet monarchs of old always dined dead center and many times in public.{what's the deal about seating arrangements??}

The individual as a personality, then, has a particular code in space and rhythm, evolved from his or her life history and from the history of human race. It is just the manipulation of these suggestions through time-space that is the material of choreograph.
Post edited by RUSKAT on

Replies to: SAT/ACT Pros: Help me understand this passage please!

  • RUSKATRUSKAT Posts: 3 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    Y nobody help me? :(
  • OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 Posts: 34 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    I guess because this is a tough passage...

    Main gist: Basically, the author is writing about how Martha Graham uses timing, spacing, facial expressions, and body language to influence thoughts and emotions in audience members.

    Boldfaced passages:

    But I believe she dealt with the elements of line and direction with the instincts of a mathematician or physicist - I'm guessing that the author feels that Martha Graham is logical and detail-orientated when she creates dance routines. She knows what the effects of her set-up on the audience will be as certainly as mathematicians and physicians know what the answers to math or science problems will be.

    like a penumbra - A penumbra is just the grey area between the black and white of shadow vs. illumination, so that refers to the idea that dance moves have a sense of "suggestibility" or potential to be interpreted many ways.

    make here-and-now other-where and other-time - I think that's just a weird way of saying that looking away from someone gives the impression that the person is not engaged in the present but is thinking about another place and another time.

    personality to the general and the symbolic - The author feels like if the dancer is disconnected from the moment, then there is no connection between the dancer and the audience. So suddenly, the dancer is no longer a person; she or he becomes a symbol instead...

    the heart of dynamism - Just another way of emphasizing that eye contact represents humanness and life.

    all people share a “collective unconscious,” people from disparate traditions nonetheless dream in the same terms - According to that psychologist, all people have the same subconscious, the same dreams, the same emotional reactions to things that we experience, no matter where we come from.

    stresses - Just, I guess, what movements or sounds are emphasized in the dance or song...

    their deviations and modifications - I think that's just a reference to the "spatial relations, rhythms, and stresses."

    {what's the deal about seating arrangements??} - The example is just to stress his point that humans will interact with an environment based on how they respond to it psychologically or emotionally. I guess regular people avoid sitting in the center of a room because they subconsciously feel insecure, while the king, who feels confident, will not hesitate to sit in the center of a room?

    The individual as a personality, then, has a particular code in space and rhythm[b/] - Every person has a specific way that they respond psychologically or emotionally to space and rhythm based on their experiences and culture.
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