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Gabriele Brandstetter: Heteropolitics of Contemporary Dance
Heteropolitics of Contemporary Dance
(p. 145 – 161)

Xavier Le Roy’s “Le Sacre du printemps”

Gabriele Brandstetter

Heteropolitics of Contemporary Dance
Xavier Le Roy’s “Le Sacre du printemps”

Translated by Iain W.M. Taylor

PDF, 17 pages

The relationship between dance and politics has been described considering depictions of political topics, as a question of representation and power, in the distinctions of gender and body politics, in (post-)colonial shifts of power and under the conditions of globalization. But what could be the politically-other of dance, the aesthetic potential of movement? This article discusses this question by reference to examples of contemporary dance, and with a recourse to Theodor W. Adorno’s aesthetic theory.

Kunstwerke jedoch haben ihre Größe einzig darin,
dass sie sprechen lassen, was die Ideologie verbirgt.
Theodor W. Adorno

How are we to think about the relationship between dance and politics? Might it mean not only understanding dance politically, but also considering the politics of dance? The history and the discourse of dance is a history of the intricate negotiations between body, movement and politics: what André Lepecki calls the “choreo-political.”2 And the discourses and interpretations of Dance Studies reflect and address these questions with shifting degrees of emphasis. Yes, the political has for some time now been a search formula for an understanding of dance, and one that has managed to direct public attention to many of its different forms.

What can be said to be political is the relationship between aesthetics and power, the coincidence of political and aesthetic representation, for example in the dances at the court of Louis XIV – as Mark Franko’s reading of The King’s Two Bodies referring to Kantorowicz, has shown.3

Also political are the dances and movements portrayed by those choreographers whose pieces deal with questions of power, hierarchies, law and justice, inclusions and exclusions. A random sampling might include: Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table, Jean Weidt’s workers’ choirs, Valeska Gert’s socially critical dance sketches, Martha Graham’s American pieces,4 or the (early) Pina Bausch’s choreographies with their unsparing critical view of the social conventions and social roles of post-war Germany.

Finally the word political applies – quite openly and evidently – to those productions of a politically committed dance and performance scene, close to the Agitprop theatre, that uses movement choreo-politically in the sense of an emancipatory act – whether in the Europe of the 1968 student revolts;5 or – in another guise – in the context of the revolutionary new concepts of everyday body, everyday movement and everyday space as publicly performed by the members of the Judson Dance Theater: Democracy’s body6, as Sally Banes puts it.

Another – and terrible – chapter of the political is the history of all those dancers and choreographers who were persecuted, forced into internal emigration or driven into exile – the list is shockingly long. A historical investigation of the dancers persecuted and forced to emigrate in the Nazi period,7 or of the history of violence,...

  • theatre studies
  • politics
  • performativity
  • Xavier Le Roy
  • body
  • Theodor W. Adorno
  • the public
  • reception
  • dancing

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Gabriele Brandstetter

is Professor of Theatre and Dance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin since 2003. Her research focus is on: History and aesthetics of dance from the 18th century until today, theatre and dance of the avant-garde, performance, theatricality and gender differences as well as concepts of body, movement and image. Since 2007, she is co-director of the International Centre »Interweaving performance studies«.

Other texts by Gabriele Brandstetter for DIAPHANES
Stefan Hölscher (ed.), Gerald Siegmund (ed.): Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity

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

Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity

Softcover, 288 pages

Out of Stock

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.