Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sam Brown Bailando Bomba

I watched a show on the travel channel a few weeks ago in which the American host, Samantha Brown, visits Puerto Rico. One segment (which is portrayed in the youtube video above) shows Sam experiencing Bomba, a dance which the video explains is unique to Puerto Rico but is heavily influenced by African dance. I didn't really think much about this dance when I originally watched the episode, but our discussions today about Celia Cruz and the way female dancers are often portrayed really made me think about this dance in a new light.

One unique thing about Bomba is that it is a highly interactive dance. It's not just about dancers following a set beat that the musicians are playing. Rather, one of the drummers must watch the dancers and actually play the drum in concert with the dancer's movements. Since Bomba dancers are often female, this gives them quite a bit of control over the dance, which I find interesting. Also, I think that the outfits the women wear are empowering rather than objectifying. The women use their skirts to establish the fierce beat of the Bomba and make almost punching motions with their hands moving the skirt while they engage with the drummer. They also have very serious, kind of angry facial expressions during this point in the dance. I was just wondering what people would think about this dance and how women play a part in it in light of some of the videos we watched in class today (especially "La Negra Tiene Tumbao").

1 comment:

  1. This is so incredibly interesting! This is my first exposure to the Bomba. It's interactive nature, gender dynamics and stylistic expressions are super fascinating. Thanks Kelsey!

    While watching this video, I was struck by the female-male dynamics that this dance seeks to bring out. The woman is clearly placed in a dominant position that is compounded by an attitude of ferocity as opposed to a 'traditional' female representation of passivity. The man on the other hand, is expected to follow the woman's gestures by providing a consistent drum beat. The woman articulates her power through body gestures! This is a competition and even seems like a war between the sexes. The heteronormativity of this dance is definitely a key factor. It focuses on the relationship between the drummers and the dancers (women and men) rather than same sex interaction. I also noticed that the roles women and men fulfill are immutable (women are always dancers and men, always drummers) precisely because that is the way the dance is culturally positioned.

    This video specifically, had many different points of view which influenced my own interpretation of the Bomba. The upper middle class white woman narrating, gaze of male drummers following the female dancers, attention of the dancers on their own movements as well as on the drummers, and finally, the responses of the on-lookers. These various gazes mapped on to the physical bodies produced a discourse on the ways that language and material bridge the gap between speech and movement.