Recent publications of interest

Bunker, Jenny, Anna Pakes and Bonnie Rowell eds. (2013) Thinking Through Dance: The Philosophy of Dance Performance and Practices, Alton: Dance Books. A new anthology of essays on the philosophy of dance. Includes a section on issues of ontology and identity, including essays by Anna Pakes, Renee Conroy and Geraldine Morris. Available direct from the publisher at:

McFee, Graham (2011) The Philosophical Aesthetics of Dance, Alton: Dance Books.  Includes an extended discussion of identity issues in relation to dance, which elaborates on McFee’s earlier work (1992, 2004). The new book upholds the notion that dance works are types, of which there can be many possible performance tokens, and further develops the thesis of notationality, i.e. an argument developed in (1992) to explain how the constraints of dance work types can be articulated and referenced in disputes about identity. Related concerns are also examined, including authentic performance in dance, and the respective roles of choreographers and dancers in determining the nature of dance works. There is also an appendix which argues against the Platonist ontology of music developed by Julian Dodd, and points up the distinctiveness of McFee’s notion of dances as abstract objects.

Davies, David (2011) Philosophy of the Performing Arts, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Explores the nature of performance, performable works and performances as artworks, spanning music, theatre and dance.  On the ontology of musical works, Davies sets out the basis for the what he calls “the classical paradigm”, namely the notion that musical works are types, which admit of correct and incorrect tokens (performances), and examines a range of views about whether timbre, instrumentation and contextual factors are essential to the identity of works. Chapter 6 includes discussion of how and why the classical paradigm does not seem to apply in the dance case, and the prospects for an alternative ontology of dance works.

Pouillaude, Frédéric (2009) Le désœuvrement chorégraphique: étude sur la notion d’œuvre en danse, Paris: Vrin. Explores how the actuality of choreographic practice has been systematically ignored by a philosophical tradition more interested in treating dance as metaphor, or in purely theoretical terms. The result, Pouillaude claims, is that the choreographic work is absent within philosophy and aesthetics, and this book explores the implications of that absence for dance and the theoretical discourse surrounding it. There are close, deconstructive readings of canonical writings on dance by, for example, Paul Valéry and Stéphanie Mallarmé, as well as a diagnosis of the difficulties confronted by analytic philosophical engagement with dance, e.g. through the work of Nelson Goodman.

See also select bibliographies on philosophy of dance and the ontology of art and music. If there is a relevant recent publication you think should be here but isn’t, please contact me by e-mail.