Justus-Liebig-Universität GießenInstitut für Angewandte Theaterwissenschaft
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Dance and politics. Exploring the political in 20th century dance history


BA 04/07/09, MA 01/04, CUP 02/07/09

In the course of this seminar we will explore the theoretical and political framework that has been set in motion within the historical developments of modern and postmodern dance in the western societies. With the paradigmatic shift from ballet to modern dance in the beginning of the 20th century the notion of dance becomes largely expanded. Starting with Isadora Duncans "liberation" of the dancing body, the body in motion gets charged with various new concepts, approaches and utopian hopes. The hitherto definition of dance from now on is challenged by explorations, experimentations and various modes of production that also lead to a new connectivity between dance, the social and the political.

At first we will concentrate on the development that took place in continental dance practice starting with the German Ausdruckstanz of Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman. From there, we will follow the trail across the ocean and encounter dance practitioners that shaped the understanding of Northern American modern dance, namely Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. In a final historical step, we will deal with the postmodern approaches in dance, that were developed in the Judson Dance Theatre (Ivonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton) and the German Tanztheater (Kurst Joos, Pina Bausch) in the 1960s and 70s. We will discuss in how far their achievements are still influential for contemporary dance and choreographic practice and the understanding of how bodies are shaped and brought into motion.

The seminar will put emphasis rather on the examination of political implications, utopian concepts, and discursive demarcations that can be found in the choreographic work of the artists, than on the developments in style and dance technique. Therefore we will also take into account how choreography as art takes place in relation to certain ideologies, how it is producing knowledge and technologies of the dancing body, how it explores the inscription of bodies in social time and space and how it finally defines the political relation of bodies towards each other.