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Political Reflections on Choreography, Dance and Protest

Oliver Marchart

Dancing Politics
Political Reflections on Choreography, Dance and Protest

PDF, 19 pages

What is the lesson politics can draw from dance? In the following I will not so much approach this question by focusing on dance as a genre of fine arts. Of course, as an art form, dance has always been articulated with politics: from the initial moments of ballet at the court of Louis XIV, where it was an intrinsic element of what Habermas called the representational public sphere of the court and a central element in constructing the grandiose public persona of the sovereign, via New York’s Workers’ Dance League with their intriguing slogan: Dance is a weapon in the revolutionary class struggle, to the innumerable dance events today driven by more or less radical political intentions. While it would be fascinating to present a political history of dance, this is not going to be my concern. For the start, I would like to approach the question from the opposite angle, from the perspective of politics and the role dance plays within political practices. In other words, this chapter will not be so much concerned with whatever is political in dance as a cultural or artistic genre, but with what might be dance-like in political acting. What happens, we will ask, when today’s sovereign, the people, start dancing publicly for reasons of protest? Only after this question has been clarified, I will return to two examples of “dancing politically” that originated from the art field – “East Side Story” by the Croatian artist Igor Grubic, and “How long is now?” by the Israeli performance collective Public Movement. 

The politics of frivolity

Let us take the following observation as a starting point: In the course of the last protest cycle, largely defined by the actions of the global justice movement and, more recently, the Occupy movement and other radical democratic movements, dancing has become an intrinsic and, indeed, ubiquitous part of protest. It is inseparable from the movement’s protest repertoire. Where protests occur, as a rule, there will be trucks with sound systems and a crowd of dancing people following them, there will be samba bands or drum bands such as Rhythms of Resistance, there will be radical cheerleaders of whatever gender exercising and waving their pompoms, perhaps there will be soldiers of the Insurgent Rebel Clown Army marching and pantomiming. In other words, there is all sorts of performative pomp and circumstances involved in today’s political protest. But hasn’t this always...

  • activism
  • protest
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Jean-Luc Nancy
  • acting
  • revolution
  • Hannah Arendt

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Stefan Hölscher (ed.), Gerald Siegmund (ed.): Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity

Stefan Hölscher (ed.), Gerald Siegmund (ed.)

Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity

Softcover, 288 pages

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PDF, 288 pages

This volume is dedicated to the question of how dance, both in its historical and in its contemporary manifestations, is intricately linked to conceptualisations of the political. Whereas in this context the term "policy" means the reproduction of hegemonic power relations within already existing institutional structures, politics refers to those practices which question the space of policy as such by inscribing that into its surface which has had no place before. The art of choreography consists in distributing bodies and their relations in space. It is a distribution of parts that within the field of the visible and the sayable allocates positions to specific bodies. Yet in the confrontation between bodies and their relations, a deframing and dislocating of positions may take place. The essays included in this book are aimed at the multiple connections between politics, community, dance, and globalisation from the perspective of e.g. Dance and Theatre Studies, History, Philosophy, and Sociology.