Friday, September 24, 2010

Dance as Steampunk

To Quote, or at least praphrase some steampunk friends of ours from Brazil:  We believe there is music of special interest to many in the Steampunk Culture which often embodies their culture, attitudes, and wishes, fantasy or otherswise, so we believ this music can be reasonably called Steampunk Music.  As specialized adaptations of various forms of dance have been made and blended specifically for the purpose of dancing to this music, it follows that there is such a thing as "Steampunk Dance" as well...

Here's the link, but I warn you that it's all in Portuguese, and my paraphrase may be less than perfect as my abilities in that tongue are still limited.  They also posted video links of dancing adaptations at a Brazilian event they were specifically referring to as examples.

We also have Steampunk Dance here in Texas.  It tends to be varoius adaptations of bellydance, especially sinuous and serpent like belly rolls and similar moves, blended with trance dancing (the truly self-hypnotic and/or "Drawing Down" trancing at Pagan Revel fires, more than the Rave style), and various other styles such as Latin, Swing, or other Ballroom into a beautiful androgynous blend that is best suited to middle Eastern or African drums blended with modern instruments.  We, and as many of our Flagship's crew as can make it, dance this way every Friday Night in Steampunk attire.  We wear whatever is the least restrictive or cumbersome, and is the most Cool (both meanings) along with various Steampunk Jewelry, accents, watches, skeleton keys, goggles etc, but try to wear a little different combination every night.  This tends to be a cross between sexy and post apocalyptic, mostly because we can't dance weel in heavy clothing or with too many layers in a hot crowded club in Texas.  Wearing our full regalia, is simply not an option, but no one mistakes us for anything other than Steampunks!

  Our Confederation of Steampunks, the Covenant of the Kraken, is specifically intended to encourage and support all of the arts as they relate to Steampunk, as opposed to simply a social or networking group like the many others we are involved with.  As such, we encourge those that do not at least enjoy writing fiction, acting it out, costuming, or directly involving themselves in making Steampunk music, dance, video etc in some way to join their local networking group instead.  We do; however, strongly encourage all our members to join those same networking groups in addition to Covenant of the Kraken rehearsals and performances.

I would like to repost a tongue in cheek ad we posted regarding crew qulifications for our flagship, the Kali's Hourglass.  It actually does relate well to all those already on that crew, expecially in light of the fact that Steampunk Dancing is our most frequent group activity, and we use it in performance art at local events as well.

Qualifications Desired for Crew Members for Kali's Hourglass

While our primary role is as Time Traveling Privateers who look for opportunities to upset the balance of power in various centuries and thereby give the common man and woman a chance to bargain for better conditions in a harsh world, we also just love to dance! That certainly is not a requirement for a crew member on board the other vessels in our Covenant of the Kraken collective, (although it helps), but on board the Kali's Hourglass, crew should be ready and willing to dance at a moments notice! Granted this does not work well in the middle of a naval engagement as, we are not only rather busy at that moment reloading all the cannons and trying to edge more speed out of the sails, but all the cannon fire tends to make it hard to hear the dance music well enough to keep on the beat! As such, ongoing naval battles are one time that crew members are not required to drop what their doing, and grab their instruments or kick off their shoes for a rousing dance on the deck! This exception for naval battles does not count simple chase engagements with poorly armed vessels where only a few gun crews are busy trying to take out their sails as we rather like to dance during such long and otherwise mostly uneventful chases.

Now you may think this is a waste of time on board a ship of war, but I assure you it is not! It not only keeps our crew fit, well connected, and fearless, but as we learned during our time living among the Aztecs, a warrior that can dance for 4 hours (some would go for 6 to 8) straight in the blazing sun has enormous strength, endurance, and wind capacity. They have used this as a primary means of strength and endurance training for millennia in that part of the world. After seeing them run races and testing strength with weaponry against them, I must say I was incredibly impressed! One of their warriors can cleave through the enemy (or more often block blows while trying to knock others unconscious as they like to take them alive, just like us, but for very different reasons that we won't go into) for almost a solid hour without hardly working up a good sweat. With that kind of endurance, our boarding parties can wear out the crews of even the largest Man of War/Ship of the Line and then go on to the next. Of course we wear specially designed, floating (in case you get knocked overboard or slip on the boarding planks) armor, shields, and helmets, so we don't go down under swords as easily as most, but if we tire too fast, it won't really matter much will it?.

Yes indeed, our time spent living among the Aztecs was very educational. Of course we reciprocated by sharing what medical knowledge we had (mostly Indian Ayurvedic medicine in trade for their own vast knowledge of herbs etc, and most importantly, taught them the signs of and how to contain and stop the spread of contagious European diseases such as the smallpox and dysentery, the real conquerors of the Aztec realm. We also introduced them to gunpowder weapons such as cannons, metal armor such as breastplates, and explained that war dogs and horses are not monsters and that warriors on horseback are just a man, in a metal suit riding a tamed beast rather than the two headed monsters the locals were destined to mistake them for otherwise. In other words, we did, what we always do, we helped out the underdogs against abusive tyrants. While we are good enough businessmen and women that we always keep our crews happy by making a good profit in the process, we keep future technology secret, but shift the balance of power in ways that slow the conquest of endangered people and allow them to bargain for better treatment and hold off the worst tyrants of the era as long as possible. We often share current era, not futuristic, technology with underdogs that current era tyrants are trying to enslave and suggest ways they can use this knowledge to resist being enslaved, abused, or slaughtered by those who got the current technology earlier than the others. (Boy won't Cortez be surprised !)

This should also level the playing field a bit by helping them clear up any confusion about whether Spanish conquistadors in metal hats and silly pumpkin pants are actually Quetzalcoatl returned. Of course I am having a little trouble convincing them to stop all the rumors flying that I am Quetzalcoatl returned, but Montecazuma said that I am fulfilling that role for his people just as the real Quetzalcoatl wanted it fulfilled by helping them understand and protect against a dangerous foe while bringing people together to find new forms of sacrifice that require less human waste. Even he found that second part a little odd at first, but I reminded him that the original Quetzalcoatl refused any and all human sacrifices and accepted only the sacrifice of his symbolic animals, namely snakes and butterflies (& sometimes birds). That satisfied him and the rest of the allied tribes and a true revival of Quetzalcoatl worship was reborn as the primary sect of their empire. While this did not stop human sacrifice all together there when doing special rites for particular Gods, it did cut way back on it especially at the times of dedication of the latest layer of beautification and enlargement of the main temples which usually happened about once in each emperor's life. They used to round up human enemies to sacrifice in great number for that special event (about once each generation), but now, they just round up rattlesnakes and butterflies, because I insisted and cited historical precedent to back it. (I knew those 20th century anthropology books would come in handy!)

Well back to the point. We expect all crew members of our flagship to work on playing instruments, dancing, making art (like the beautiful gold, jade, and feather masks the Aztecs gave us) , drama, poetry, and making beautiful, yet practical clothing, armor, and weapons design etc as part of their normal daily activities and as a way to evolve, to quote Dear Dr. Darwin's writings, into the most wonderful creature they can become!

Of course this has to happen around normal duties such as cannon, musket, and saber drill, knot tying class, swimming and stealthy boarding class, sail rigging class, hand to hand fighting class, etc. We do ; however, have fun competitions and award highly desirable prizes such as a full bottle of our special "Kraken Rum" along with the next day off to recover of course. (Putting a beast in your belly can be fun, but a bit intense for the faint hearted and they are never any good on the deck the next day anyway. Kept missing the targets and setting sails on fire during cannon practice don't ya know!!!)

Oh I should mention, that while we have swept away prohibition of women as crew members, (in spite of the silly local superstitions of most sailing ship era sailors about the Sea Goddess Calypso being so jealous of human women that she would try to sink any ship they sailed on, you are not allowed to tell everyone about he special rituals Admiral Radha performs to pacify the Goddess Calypso (and/or our ship's namesake) and to pacify and reassure our superstitious male sailors. We just let it remain a mystery among the various allies and enemies we encounter. They all think we are witches or something anyway, but are just too afraid to say so. I suppose since technology that is misunderstood is often mistaken for magic, that should not be surprising. After all, while we try hard not to show our advanced weapons, we do use clever tactics, new gun carriage designs, and other advantages from future eras in our battles. Our exploding rounds also have the uncanny luck of tending to explode just when we want them to, unlike those of our enemies, but by their very nature, exploding cannon rounds are difficult to examine after the fact. We also appear at times to be from another world or time. Perhaps that is because it is sometimes true!

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