Yesterday we watched Margret Mead's Balinese trance dancers and the class ( which was a theory class)was asked to react.
The distress of trance dancers in the context of words provided by Margaret Mead is out in relation to the fact that this is a performance, and complicated further by the reality that it is a commissioned performance. It is a ritual "play" and it took one of the students some work to realize that her assumptions about reality or unreality of Performance vs Ritual were actually western constructs she was applying to something she viewed to sort out her feelings about the film.
Here is a thing - she immediately discounted her initial reaction as "not useful" and I was thrilled that the prof gently led the discussion back to not discounting the "usefulness" of your own reactions and process.
Things don't automatically hit binaries of useful/useless.
My own reaction was this - Here is a merging of states and play interaction - the men have western appearing haircuts and facial hair for this dance. It is in 1939 The Dutch have been there since 1908 - it makes me wonder about the interplay of local/cultural at that time.
There is that word "inter-play"
This is an article on the Mead's use of visual anthropology and some of the questions that arise from it http://coolstudios.com/576/pdf/jacknis_mead_bateson13pp.pdf
But here is the thing I am thinking - the form of "ritual" or dance being filmed was actually created within two years of it being filmed. The presence of female dancers was recent and new - treating it as a current-to-itself performance within its own cultural context is not out of the question- it had to be developed, practiced, given meaning, and ultimately performed.
There is the work of it - but the words performance/calling it a "play" move some western viewers into a space where they have to think of it as equivalent to "fake" or "unreal" or "inauthentic"
The modern viewer associates though acculturation the idea ( made stronger through style, technology and time displacement) that they are watching an "inauthentic" (whatever that means) version of an older cultural artifact when I think what they might be watching is a HIGHLY "authentic" cultural product of experimentation and exploration of ritual space and cultural relation with the anthropologists.
No one calls an opera "inauthentic" because it happens to be an opera. But operas are not considered "plays" and no one uses "play language" when discussing them. So unreality gets handled differently with opera
what about hyper-reality - could opera and video games have more in common than video games and "play" ?
Also I'm going to come back to this http://www.pccy.org/initiatives/school-play/
and a conversation about block printing vs cursive and concepts of "being an adult"