Dance – Documents of Contemporary Dance – (Edit) Andre Lepecki

Dance as a Practice of Contemporaneity – Andre Lepecki


Dance’s main qualities:

  1. Ephemerality
  2. Corporeality
  3. Precariousness
  4. Scoring
  5. Performativity


  1. Ephemerality Dance leaves no object behind after the performance, away from the commodification of tangible objects.
  2. Corporeality A dancer’s job is to embody, disembody and re-embody. Reconfiguring the body and proposing them impossible.
  3. Precariousness Ongoing interaction with forces. Performing the precariousness of life, globalisation of neoliberalism.
  4. Scoring Or choreographing, reveals the technology of scoring. Once enacted operates in a regime of obedience. Dance establishes a contact between choreographic planning and the actualisation of movement.
  5. Performativity Reproduction of choreography, non-metaphoric implementation of these preconditions, again and again despite its ephemerality.




Recently dance projects have been created by artists, not choreographers. For example, Nevin Aladag’s Dance Occupations where groups of non-dancers invade a space, dancing wildly to no music. Flashmob. Here there is no collaboration between visual art and dance, but this fusion is driven by a need for the arts to break away from neat divisions.


Dance as a metaphor emerges at the end of the 19th Century in an attempt to establish dance as an autonomous art. Away from the constraints of music, literature and symbolic gesture.


After WWII many artists links their practice to questions of freedom and participation. Experimentation opened up the body to new arenas, getting closer to problems linked to questions that are constitutive of dance and choreography.


At the beginning of the 1980s two forces combined to reignite the political and aesthetic capabilities of dance:

  1. The AIDS pandemic and its effects around issues of mortality, corporeality and and identity.
  2. Hip Hop’s hypervisual music video culture and beat laced with specific visuality and raciality. The global non-theatrical dance recaptured the social


Dressage (1992) – Henri Lefebvre


People gesticulate, usually the top half of the body but sometimes with the hips and legs. Each segment of the body has its rhythm. What is fully natural?


Gestures cannot be attributed to nature, they change according to societies and eras. These manners are acquired/learned.


Something passed as natural when it conforms without effort to accepted models. Distinguish between education, learning and training (dressage). To enter into a society is to accept its values, bend to its ways, dressage. Dressage is based on repetition to break-in people to perform a certain act. Repetition is ritualised in humans, rites.


Phases of dressage:

  • Linear Has a beginning signal, and an end.
  • Resumption of the Cycle Reprises Cycliques General organisation of time, therefore of society.


The military model has been imitated in western societies to preserve and extend this rhythm. Repetition is pushed to the point of automatism.


Rhythms are present in learning and training, as well as dressage, these must be united as are the organs of the body.


Some Reflective Surfaces 1 (1975) – Adrian Piper


“Aretha Franklin Catalyst” (1972)

Adrian’s interest in disco dance figures as a form of ritualised sexual and political confrontation. Also this type of dance was capable of expressing a whole spectrum of feelings that they have about their own bodies, because the  rhythms tend to be repetitive and transform while musically it is complex and densely textured. Disco makes possible a physical empathy with the music which requires coordination and rhythmic discrimination to achieve this. You have to actually dance to disco and not just behave. To succeed is to express one’s sexuality individually. In a sexually repressive culture this is to express deviance. Hence the racist/homophobic reaction to disco.


The expression of defiance and individuality is open to misinterpretation. For example, you want to be picked up.


“Some Reflective Surfaces” (1975)

Explores the gestural and political significance of disco on a number of levels:

  1. Mutual self-consciousness of the audience and performer as to the meaning of gestures.
  2. Self-reflection of the dancer on their movements and their meanings.
  3. Partial definition and appropriation of those meaning by others.
  4. Political unity.


Voluntary self-objectification can be an act of political defiance, a celebration of the self by exposing the hypocrisy of the disapprovers as an attempt to eradicate their own uncontrollable impulses.


Notes on Funk (1983) – Adrian Piper


Motivation for doing “Funk Lessons” was the ignorance and xenophobia of black working class culture since 1972. Deemed inappropriate for serious political topics, which is elitist and patronising.


“Funk Lessons” (1982-84) – Hand-out summary

  1. Relaxed back.
  2. Knees bent.
  3. Whole foot on floor.
  4. Isolation of body parts.
  5. Polyrhythmic.
  6. Unifying music with dance. Each kind of music has its own dance style.
  7. Personalistic. Individual self-expression.
  8. Self-transcendent. Become one with the music.
  9. Participatory and non-exhibitionistic. A communal event, not for a spectator audience.
  10. Socially functional. Integrated into daily life, not a special feat of accomplishment.
  11. Modular. Simple units of physical movement.
  12. Repetitive. Patterns repeated until they become second nature.
  13. Improvisational. Transforming extended patterns.


Global Breakdancing and the Intercultural Body (2002) – Halifu Osumare


Breakdancing takes place in an improvised circle. Each soloist demonstrates their skills while encoding gestural messages which usually comment on other dancer’s perceived lack of skill. These battles originally took place in opposing gangs, lined-up facing each other, usually to settle disputes. A creative dance alternative to gang violence allows it to claim a discursive basis as a particularised dance form of the signifying tradition prevalent in African-American popular culture.


This has become a global phenomenon during the current era of capitalism, going beyond the barriers of language. Global capital and evolving Hip Hop subculture exist as parallel, yet intertwined, forces in this increasing complex era.


Rest in Pieces: Scores, Notation and the Trance in Dance (2005) – Myriam Van Imschoot


Dance has not used the word score for a specific object. Also dance has not depended on copyright and distribution to publish these scores. Scores are working tools.
The English word “score” covers a far wider range of meanings than, for example, Partition in French. Lisa Nelson’s “Turning Scores” does not refer to a written score at all. It is more a case of learning and enacting the rules of a game. William Forsythe scribbled lines, arrows and numbers onto a book of sketches by Tiepolo, forming an enigmatic riddle that the dancers were free to interpret. This choreography-at-a-distance resulted in “Hypothetical Stream” (1996). These scores enter a whole range of possible implementations.

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