However, it is a very popular prop, it's flash and impressive, balance feats involving swords have a frisson of danger about them and audiences love that. There is also the advantage, when not attempting to create an accurate representation of a cultural dance, that we have the freedom to play, experiment and express our art however we wish.
Some dancers use weapons to create martial arts based pieces, Morgana is a great example of a dancer who blends her martial arts background with dance on stage.
I have also heard people criticise dancers for not doing this, for not "wielding" the sword "correctly" in their dance for instance. I think this criticism comes from a lack of consideration of what the dancer is trying to say with their dance (or perhaps what the teacher they learned from was trying to say), and I wanted to write a little about how we use weapons in dance, not to represent violence, but to subvert it.
I have martial arts training. I fought competitive, full contact Tae Kwon Do and I've trained in Western swordplay. When I dance with a sword, I'm not a fighter, I am a dancer. I don't hold my sword like a weapon, firstly, because it's not balanced like one, it's balanced to sit on my head, but also because part of the purpose of my dance is to take the sword as a classic symbol of violence, death and brutality, and subvert it as something delicate, graceful, even sensual.
|Tech rehearsal for Juno's show in 2009|
It makes me intensely sad that anyone would connect a beautiful performance with such things and moreso to see another way that terrorism creeps into our everyday lives.
As a counter to this I would suggest that artistic expression, dance, music and particularly the freedom of women to openly participate in the same, are all anathema to these extremists' ideals. Perhaps we are reaching a point where a woman, dancing, in public and subverting the symbol of the scimitar is becoming an act of defiance and ridicule against the perpetrators of violence.