Weekly Dance Break: Royal Family (#WODLA)

I get the same kind of feeling watching these women (and men!) dance that I imagine Serena Williams’ fans must get watching her win. This dancing is excellence that doesn’t worry about being sexy or beautiful or put-together, though it is all of those things. How powerful to watch these diverse women on stage, precise and strong and sexy, reveling in their bodies and their performance. How powerful to see their expressions of pure absorption, fierceness, and joy.

I’m really, really excited about this one, you guys. I could watch this an untold number of times (and have, to be honest). There’s something so invigorating, eye-popping, scream-worthy, so YES! about this crew’s performance, especially in WOD’s front-row presentation. It’s up close, in your face greatness. The energy is infectious. Continue reading “Weekly Dance Break: Royal Family (#WODLA)”


Weekly Dance Break: BBHMM (Rihanna)

To me, there was really one choice for weekly dance break this time around.

A warning, I suppose, for violence and nudity—though not more violence, I think, than your average CSI episode. This is also allegorical. It’s more than just a bloodbath. It’s a meditation on how intensely personal financial violence is (look for the knife Ri Ri labeled “ruined credit”), since money is always more than money—it’s power, independence, survival. It also contains a lot of food for thought re: the status of the white trophy wife. Finally, Black Girl Dangerous said it better than I could, with regard to the “torture porn” aspect of a black woman inflicting pain on a white woman.

Looking at “China”: Met Gala 2015

From the Met Museum’s website:

This exhibition, organized by The Costume Institute in collaboration with the Department of Asian Art, will explore the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion, and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. High fashion will be juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery.

From the earliest period of European contact with China in the sixteenth century, the West has been enchanted with enigmatic objects and imagery from the East, providing inspiration for fashion designers from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent, whose fashions are infused at every turn with romance, nostalgia, and make-believe. Through the looking glass of fashion, designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala, “China Through the Looking Glass” offers fashion’s big names an opportunity to spotlight Chinese designers, celebrities, and aesthetic influence. Unfortunately, “China Through the Looking Glass” uses a myopic lens more often than not. The bolded words above are, obviously, my emphasis. They highlight moments where, even in the official copy, the exhibit and the Gala’s theme treat many centuries of Chinese aesthetic development as a sort of treasure hoard lying in wait for Western designers to discover and pastiche at will.

The exhibit itself does boast undeniably beautiful highlights. Here, Fei Fei Sun is photographed for Vogue in a John Galliano gown from Spring 2009.
The exhibit itself does boast undeniably beautiful highlights. Here, Fei Fei Sun is photographed for Vogue in a John Galliano gown from Spring 2009. The inside of the skirt recalls the blue Chinese porcelain that fascinated Europe for centuries.

The root of the problem is the way in which this year’s Met Gala theme collapses all of China into a simple “theme.” The themes of past years have been pretty contained and more specific (“punk,” “superheroes,” “Schiaparelli and Prada,” etc.). Here, all of Chinese fashion history gets flattened into one image repository. This is the classic move of Orientalism (and various kinds of cultural Othering): to convert a vast, diverse culture into a string of marketable motifs. In China’s case, this has meant: dragons, phoenixes, and other visual markers that come to stand for an exotic, “timeless” China that is both outside of history’s flow and always available for Western use as aesthetic inspiration. The use of Chinese motifs as inspiration in European and American design is an interesting consideration, but hardly the whole story.

There were plenty of terribad looks from the Met Gala—Sarah Jessica Parker’s atrocious Philip Treacy headpiece comes to mind, in particular. So does Anna Wintour wearing fucking poppies, the symbol of Britain’s violent exploitation of China through the Opium Wars. Those looks don’t deserve more attention. Instead, below we highlight some of our favorite looks from the night, from those who either actually pulled it off, or wisely chose to eschew a theme that could so easily stray into appropriative territory.

Weekly Dance Break: American Oxygen (Rihanna)

This week’s dance break is a little bit different: less about relaxation and more about content. Rihanna’s “American Oxygen” can probably be read “straightforwardly” as a song praising the American Dream, but the imagery of its music video, spliced with footage of the KKK, Martin Luther King, and race riots, begs a more complicated question.


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