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Moving beyond boundaries

Dance has always been a method of self- expression for human beings. This book examines the political power of dance and especially its transgressive potential. Focusing on readings of dance pioneers Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, Gumboots dancers in the gold mines of South Africa, the One Billion Rising movement using dance to protest against gendered violence, dabkeh in Palestine and dance as protest against human rights abuse in Israel, the Sun Dance within the Native American Crow tribe, the book focuses on the political power of dance and moments in which dance transgresses politics articulated in words. Thus the book seeks ways in which reading political dance as interruption unsettles conceptions of politics and dance.

Isadora Duncan’s danced revolution

28 2 ‘I dreamed of a different dance’: Isadora Duncan’s danced revolution Modern dance innovator Isadora Duncan (1877–​ 1927) truly moved beyond boundaries, both choreographically and politically. Born in San Francisco, then dancing with Augustine Daly Dance Theatre in 1896, she moved from London to Paris to Berlin in quick succession, performing in salons and achieving success before the age of twenty. In 1905 she established her first school in Germany, aimed at children of all classes, and in 1914 she went to the US and transferred her school there. Duncan

in Dance and politics
Martha Graham, dance and politics

48 3 ‘The body says what words cannot’: Martha Graham, dance and politics Before Isadora Duncan’s untimely exit from the world stage in 1927, she and Martha Graham (11 May 1894–​1 April 1991)  shared the limelight for a while. After training in 1910 in the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, mentored by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, in 1926 Graham founded the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, creating a hub for ongoing embodied conversations and revolutions in American dance. Those revolutions continue, they spill into multiple dancing

in Dance and politics
Writing on the body

11 1 Moving beyond boundaries: writing on the body The book is written by many bodies who danced and inscribed their worlds upon the intersections between dance and politics. The argument is a three-​dimensional space bounded by three axes; in this chapter I elaborate, explore and problematise the three axes which demarcate the space of the argument. The ontology upon which the argument acts is twofold. On the one hand the argument is grounded in the dancing bodies of those subjects whose political intervention has written upon the argument. On the other hand

in Dance and politics
Open Access (free)

1 Introduction Our political world is in constant motion. Our lives are continually shifting. Collective communicative structures which have held us together in various forms of communal life are relentlessly being challenged by new languages. Practices that have bound human beings together for thousands of years are transformed, gain new meaning and receive renewed significance. This book is a study of one such practice, dance. The book intervenes in critical conjunctures in political theory, bringing together new reflections on the moving body, spaces of

in Dance and politics
Open Access (free)

99 6 Dancing human rights We have seen that ever since Isadora Duncan entered the stage of political dance, various instances of sic-​sensuous have been performed on the stage of the argument by bodies contracting into themselves and releasing to other bodies, moving and being moved. Those bodies affirm their equality to other bodies –​whether the dancing bodies they intervene against, or bodies inhabiting other worlds that deem them unequal. From Martha Graham’s audiences who are uninvited spectators to the gumboot dancers in South Africa and the flash mob

in Dance and politics
Gumboot dance in South Africa

performances. I release the intervention illuminated in the choreography of Martha Graham into conditions in which speech was rendered impossible by economic, legal and political frameworks. Gumboot dance developed as a method of communication within systems of racial segregation in which speech was prohibited. Verbal communication was not allowed in the gold mines, nor were black South Africans allowed to enter the public sphere, hence their opinions and voices were silenced. I argue that the development of gumboot dance allowed for two parallel processes:  firstly, the

in Dance and politics
Open Access (free)
The dancer of the future dancing radical hope

which traces can be found in Lear’s argument. Further, we are reminded of Martha Graham’s statement, quoted in Chapter 3, according to which it is not for her to understand the meaning of her dance. That possibility is the creation of a conceptual symbolic system that cannot be articulated in words, cannot be signified in existing concepts, but creates a world through the dance itself. Bonnie Honig critiques Lear’s insistence on ethics rather than politics. A move to a focus on politics, she argues, can shed light on the ability to question power and on concepts of

in Dance and politics
One Billion Rising, dance and gendered violence

and through which political interventions are brought into being. This chapter focuses on the connection between utilising the body as a mechanism of political intervention in the public space and interventions into the body itself. One Billion Rising is a protest movement that explicitly utilises dance to convey a political message. I move from examining the movement’s own interpretation of dance as it is communicated in words, the weak reading of political dance, to exploring the grassroots response to the movement’s verbal message, and finally I  discuss the

in Dance and politics