Past CDR Events

Past CDR Events 2017/2018

As the academic year proceeds, past events are listed here in alphabetical order by speaker surname.

‘You had to be there’: dance seen and dance screened

Professor David Davies, Department of Philosophy, McGill University, Canada
12 December 2017, 17.00–18.30, Grove House, room GH008, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton

Appreciative access to artworks is increasingly technologically mediated. Many people now access visual artworks largely through highly detailed electronic reproductions, and our primary experiential access to works of music, in most genres, is via recordings. This raises questions of both an ontological and an epistemological nature. First, what status do the things that technologically mediate our access to works have ‘within the work’ Second, what contribution can such mediated engagements with works and performances make towards our proper appreciation of those works and performances? These issues might seem to have particular resonance for the philosophy of dance. First, bearing upon dance ontology, cinematic representations of dance performances might play an essential curatorial role in preserving the ephemeral events that are performances and, thereby, the works performed, in the absence of an established notational system of the sort we find in music and theatre. Second, bearing upon dance epistemology, such representations might greatly enhance our ability to appreciate dance performances that we have not attended or cannot attend, and the dance works of which they are performances.

Graham McFee has consistently rejected the claim that ‘screened’ dance can help to address either the ontological or the epistemological issues. I shall focus here on the issues about dance appreciation. I rehearse the reasons offered by McFee for his scepticism, and then critically assess these reasons by locating them in a broader philosophical problematic concerning the elements that enter into our appreciative engagement with artworks. I distinguish two roles that such elements might play, and argue that ‘screened dance’ can make an invaluable contribution to the playing of one those roles although it cannot itself play the role. I also consider whether there are certain dance performances where this does not apply.

Perceptual Patterns and Routinized Expectations of Dance Audiences

Professor Gabriele Klein, Professor for Sociology of Body, Movement and Dance, Hamburg University, Germany
16 November 2017, 17.00–18.30, Grove House, room GH009, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton

The global reputation of Tanztheater Wuppertal is based on multiple and complex practices of medial, cultural and aesthetic translations. In the tension between past, present and future, between memory, experience and imagination and between cultures and societies, these translations are following different, interrelated temporalities. ‘Being’, ‘becoming’ and ‘the having become’ are reciprocally related to one another, insofar as the future is not only perceived as an open but also as an already completed process.

This lecture pursues the thesis that the aesthetically unexpected of a dance performance is confronted with routinized perceptual patterns of the audience and that the ‘being affected’ of the spectators is always already permeated by an habitualized knowledge.

By analysing audience interviews, dance reviews and video analyses of the piece VIKTOR (1986) I will follow the methodology of a “praxeological dance analysis”, developed in the project. This methodology understands production as the development, performance and reception of a dance piece and sees these production processes characterised by multiple, complex translation practices. I will present a praxeological approach that (1) doesn’t locate the artistic ‘product’ just in the choreography itself but within the artistic practices and (2) will focus even more on the interrelationship between production and reception.

Based on the practice-theoretical concept of translation I ask about the how of translation: Which scenes, narrations and affects will prevail in the perception of the audience? Through which routines and knowledge is this perception shaped? What is the relationship between the ‘piece’ itself and the (journalistic and academic) discourse that (co-)produces the production of knowledge of the Tanztheater Wuppertal for years?

The lecture presents partial results of the research project “Gestures of Dance – Dance as Gesture. Cultural and Aesthetic Translations in International Co-Productions by the Tanztheater Wuppertal”, supported by the German Research Foundation.

At Hamburg University, Gabriele Klein (Prof. Dr. rer. soc.) is the Director of the master’s programme Performance Studies, Speaker of the research group “Translation and Framing: Practices of Medial Transformations”, Co-Speaker of the research training group “Loose Connections: Collectivity at the intersection of digital and urban space”, and Principal Investigator of the academic and artistic graduate program “Aesthetics of the Virtual”. She has been Visiting Professor at UCLA’s Department for Performance Studies (USA), University in Bern (Switzerland), University for Music and Performing Arts “Mozarteum” Salzburg (Austria), and Smith College (USA), as well as research fellow at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and Osaka City University, Japan. Her research focuses are urban movement and dance cultures, Pop cultures, and theory of movement, dance and performance as well as body sociology.

Wigman the Witch

Alexandra Kolb, Professor of Dance, University of Roehampton
8 November 2017, 12.30-13.45, Cedar, room ED106, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton

My paper investigates the three versions of Mary Wigman’s Hexentanz (Witch Dance) in the context of the different political regimes which they spanned. The changing cultural milieus shaped – through Wigman’s imagination if not necessarily consciously – the works’ forms and iconographies. The witch figure relates to pre-industrial, pre-Christian Germanic identity and sparked considerable interest among völkisch and indeed Nazi groups. Wigman’s dances present a kaleidoscope of different treatments of the witch motif, encompassing (variously) the life reform movement, an intercultural fusion with oriental performance traditions, and a strand of paganism which also influenced National Socialism. They converge, however, around a unifying critique of modernity.

Perspectives on dance-making, authorship and collaboration

Professor Stephanie Jordan and Dr Anna Pakes, Department of Dance, University of Roehampton
22 November 2017, 12.30-13.45, Cedar, room ED106, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton

Stephanie and Anna will each present papers given as part of an invited symposium on dance-making at the British Society for Aesthetics annual conference in September 2017. Stephanie examines the collaboration between Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, and the way it problematises the identity of dance and music elements. Anna explores the debate about dancers’ co-authorship of dance works, focusing on solo works created by a choreographer with/for a particular dancer.

Dance Studies and the Long Nineteenth Century

Dr Avanthi Meduri, Reader in Dance, University of Roehampton
6 December 2017, 12.30-13.45, Cedar, room ED106, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton

The histories of Romantic Ballet and Bharatanatyam, the classical dance of India, were conjoined spectacularly when a troupe of Indian temple dancers travelled to Europe in 1838. Recently, the acclaimed British choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh dramatized this tour of the five dancers in her production Bayadère: the Ninth Life. A radical reworking of Marius Petipa’s ballet La Bayadère, Jeyasingh’s work premiered in the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, in 2015 and was restaged at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in October 2017. More than a retelling, the remarkable work searches for the roots of the ‘Bayadère temple dancer herself and the allure she exerted in Europe over the centuries.’

Dance scholars have, for some time now, recognized the historical significance of this extraordinary event in world dance history. Yet the interlocked history of these two forms, extending over a 200-year time span, remains under-researched in dance history programmes because much of the scholarship on world dance forms continues to be articulated within the exceptionalizing framework of the ‘West and the Rest’ and/or the anthropological framework of the local and the national. My paper rejects this divided East/West framework and historicizes the entangled histories of Romantic Ballet and Bharatanatyam within the global framework of British imperialism, Orientalism and decolonization. What is gained by returning to what is being described as the long nineteenth century and exploring this entangled history? How will this return to imperial history impact on the development of dance studies in the 21st century and/or the specific development of dance anthropology as a field of study? These are some questions that I will discuss, albeit in a preliminary manner, in my presentation.

Recovering Kenneth MacMillan’s Lost Ballets

Lynne Wake, independent dance documentary filmmaker, UK
15 November 2017, 12.30-13.45, Cedar, Room ED106, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton

The early works of one of Britain’s greatest choreographers are largely overlooked, many of them lost completely. In this seminar, filmmaker Lynne Wake talks about the making of her documentary ‘New Wave Ballet’, which focuses on MacMillan’s choreography from 1952 to 1962. By interviewing dancers who helped create MacMillan’s first ballets, and restoring unique films made at the time, it became possible to get a sense of how revolutionary MacMillan’s ballets were in his formative years. This is part of a larger project, ‘The Golden Age of British Ballet’, which aims to restore films of key works created for the Royal Ballet from the 1950s-70s and to record interviews with dancers of the time.

Lynne Wake was a dancer with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet for eight years. She then joined Oscar-winner Kevin Brownlow’s Photoplay Productions working on film history documentaries, and on the restoration of classic silent films including Abel Gance’s ‘Napoleon’. She now makes dance documentaries.