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The Dance Analysis



Author: poem of William Carlos Williams Type: poem Views: 6

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In Breughel's great picture, The Kermess,

the dancers go round, they go round and

around, the squeal and the blare and the

tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles

tipping their bellies, (round as the thick-

sided glasses whose wash they impound)

their hips and their bellies off balance

to turn them. Kicking and rolling about

the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those

shanks must be sound to bear up under such

rollicking measures, prance as they dance

in Breughel's great picture, The Kermess






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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

“The Dance”(See Appendix A, Poem 1) by William Carlos Williams, an ekphrastic poem from Pieter Brueghel’s Kermesse (See Appendix B, Figure 1) exemplifies futurism through the encapsulation of simultaneous movement. This fascination with movement is reflected throughout the Williams’ poem represented by cyclic motion, “…the dancers go round, they go round and/ around…”(2-3) and further through choice of diction in the enjambed parenthetical section, “round as the thick-sided glasses whose wash they impound” (5-6). The poem begins and ends, “In Brueghel’s great picture, The Kermess” (1 & 12) further contributing to the cyclic motion of the poem. In addition the cyclic motion of the poem, motion is complicated by various verbs such as “tipping” (5), “Kicking and rolling”(8), “swinging”(9), and “prance”(11) causing a splintering on a spiral (or series of concentric circles) type motion. The reader can assume from the text that all of these actions are simultaneously occurring because of the use of commas, and the use of “and” instead of a chronological logging of action through the use of “then”. In addition to the physicality of the poem, there is sound simultaneously occurring in the background: “…the squeal and the blare and the/ tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles”(3-4).
The painting that Williams is proposing could be constructed using a format similar to Giacomo Balla’s, Mercury Passing Before the Sun (See Appendix B, Figure 2). First, the people dancing and the world spinning in a cyclic motion could be depicted like the spiral, the central focus on Balla’s piece. The straight lines that intersect the spiral could display various movements outside of the hypnotizing motion. Colors and stroke patterns could reflect the temperature, mood, time of day, and/or color or textures of solid objects or clothes. Music, painted, might appear as sporadic lines or clusters of strokes much like the white star-like silhouette in the upper left corner of the Balla painting. Though Mercury Passing Before the Sun has a completely unrelated subject matter, Williams writes the poem as a painter might build a futurist painting. The primary painting, however, does not imply characteristics of futurism; instead, it reflects a more ideal society. Though well known for his peasant scenes (“Pieter the Elder…”), Kermesse does not truly reflect life, a modernist convention. The clothes of the common people have been maintained and remain clean and white, the men have clean-shaven faces, faces are clean, and the roads are litter free. In a modernist paining, life would be depicted with more truth, some dirt and scruff. Further, William Carlos Williams wrote “The Dance” utilizing modernist conventions and reflects a futurist interpretation of the original Brueghel painting.

| Posted on 2017-12-04 | by a guest


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William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Dance” is an ekphrastic poem about a painting of a fair where a village takes part in a very active dance. The repetition of “round” in the second and third line is a visual imagery of the dancers’ looping dance patterns. In addition, the emphasis on bellies, butts, and shanks later in the poem suggests that round can be used to describe their obese physicality. It should be noted that the mouth is opened the largest when pronouncing round and around further accentuating the pig-like qualities of the villagers. Onomatopoeia is used as well as audio imagery to further bring the painting to life. However the annoying sounds might be used to help describe the violent aspect of the dance, as further supported by “kicking and rolling” in lines seven.

| Posted on 2010-12-14 | by a guest


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This poem is actual ekphrastic. It describes an existing painting. The poem on itself resembles a painting: it starts and ends with the same line 'In Brueghel's great picture, The Kermess', which creates a kind of frame. The poet tries to express the dance by repetition of 'round' and the lack of punctuation. The dancers dance uninterrupted.

| Posted on 2009-01-28 | by a guest




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