Justus-Liebig-Universität GießenInstitut für Angewandte Theaterwissenschaft

Who can dance? Dance and/as its institutional critique

MA 04 /01

MA CUP 01/02/07/08/09

If we would ask the seemingly simple and mundane question „Who can dance?“, almost everybody with an awareness for democratic equality would answer: „Everybody can dance, of course!“ If we specified our question regarding the context in which the supposed dance should appear, for example “Who can dance at a public celebration or in the frame of an official dinner party” the answer would become slightly more complicated. And if we now asked “Who can dance on the stage of the theater” our answer would already be haunted by the discourse of skills, profession, training, privilege and artistry that the academic concert dance tradition since the invention of ballet as a convention in the 17th century carries with it.
So it seems that we let pass the assumption that each human being carries a potential for dance in its ontological constitution unchallenged, while we must admit that the form in which this potential can be realized within the cultural sphere of the western societies is regulated by unwritten rules, conventions and exclusions. In the last decades academic concert dance challenged its own constitutional restriction with the development of postmodern and contemporary dance aesthetics that formulated an immanent critique reflecting on the question of what is considered to be dance and who is supposed to perform it. Dance developed into a continuous questioning of its own foundations which led on the one hand to an enormously rich output of contemporary aesthetic positions in the recent years and on the other opened the closed theatrical stage to various unforeseen agents as carriers for new choreographic approaches.

In the course of this seminar we will encounter several scholarly positions that help us first to draw the historical line of the above sketched development and second to understand the theoretical and political implications for the positioning of dance that came along with it. Additionally we will add video material of significant performance pieces to our discussion.

The following performances we will visit together with the seminar:

20.10. Jan Martens: The Common People Frankfurt
9.11.16 Jerome Bel: Gala (tbc)
9.12. Antonia Baehr: Normal Dance (tbc)


Ramsay Burt: Judson Dance Theater: Performative Traces London: Routledge, 2006
Andre Lepecki: Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement. London: Routledge, 2005
Gerald Siegmund: Abwesenheit. Eine performative Ästhetik des Tanzes. William Forsythe, Jérôme Bel, Xavier Le Roy, Meg Stuart. Bielefeld:Transkript, 2006
Susan Leigh Foster: Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986