Dance and Politics
Bodies of Weight

Part of the cover of “Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity”, Stefan Hölscher (ed.), Gerald Siegmund (ed.)
Part of the cover of “Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity”, Stefan Hölscher (ed.), Gerald Siegmund (ed.) | © Diaphanes Publishers Berlin

How can dance reconquer its critical potential if artistic strategies are used to heat up the globalised economy? That is the question posed by the collection of articles “Dance, Politics and Co-Immunity“ edited by Gerald Siegmund and Stefan Hölscher.

This publication, the result of an international symposium, is devoted to a subject that has been much discussed in recent years: How can the relationship between art – specifically dance – and politics be reconceived in the present day, when artistic strategies and working methods are being appropriated economically? Bodies and capital are sent on a trip around the world, while other, undesirable bodies are detained within politically and technologically sealed borders. These developments, write Gerald Siegmund and Stefan Hölscher in the introduction, have a twofold relationship to dance. Firstly, they are based on the ability of the individual body and its capacity for movement, which are the starting point for these processes. And secondly, they are occupied with distributing bodies in space, as choreography does. This leads the editors to make the following annihilating diagnosis that art and artistic communities have become a model for neo-liberal flexibilisation and self-exploitation. How can one speak of the relationship between dance and politics without repeating neo-liberal claims and conditions? Many of the articles in this volume address this question, examining the complex connection between (both modern and contemporary) dance and politics. They are compiled under five main themes: The Politics of Enjoyment, of Sense, of Modernism, of the Social and of Community. Many important representatives both of dance studies and of philosophy, political science and cultural studies present their views.

A policy of stumbling

Dance scholar Bojana Kunst, for example, who directs the Choreography and Performance masters study programme in Giessen, has written an enlightening essay on the potential for resistance of dancing and walking in post-Fordism entitled Working Out Contemporaneity. Dance and Post-Fordism. Artistic forms of production are one of the author’s main fields of interest, and she always aim to identify potential for action in the present time, which is deemed to be without alternative. In this article, she writes about the economic exploitation of the movement capability in post-Fordism in which, rather than fostering specialisation, the intrinsic human abilities to speak, think and move are made into production factors. The body’s ability to change is converted into flexibilisation, but this negates in particular such factors as the slowness of the body. Thus, this can become a stumbling block of the omnipresent, smooth flow. The author differentiates between everyday exploitation of the physical ability to move and dancers’ and choreographs’ knowledge about using movement. They can create distance from forms of movement that are used every day and mock them, thereby creating resistance.

Initiating as opening

In his essay From Parttaking to Initiating: Leadfollowing as Dance’s (a-personal) Political Singularity, dance scholar, curator and dramaturge André Lepecki critically examines the concept of participation. While it suggests that social stakeholding exists, Lepecki argues that the opportunities for action by participants are ultimately always predefined. He demands a new concept of engagement and proposes the term “initiate”. “Initiating” is an opening that facilitates or demands reactions. Contrary to what the history of the concept suggests, individual actors are not responsible for initiating. Rather, initiating opens up an impersonal dynamism between bodies, a force that always remains unpredictable and temporary. This exists in dance in particular, for example in contact improvisation as the creation of an impersonal field of force of action and reaction.

Room for manoeuvre of the turbulent present

Erin Manning and Brian Massumi occupy themselves with the political potential of autists, identifying in the texts of autistic people alternative ways of perceiving the world that do not centre on human articulation. And Isabel Lorey examines the immunisation of political resistance practices by ruling powers. Thus, ingrained structures and changes in politics are examined in diverse ways.

All this makes Dance, Politics and Co-Immunity a very successful book that offers concise diagnoses and stimulating perspectives on a highly relevant subject, because the contributions transform the editors’ annihilating initial diagnosis to make it productive. The scope of our turbulent present lies precisely in its inherent constant restructuring of relationships. This makes negotiations possible and opens up temporary scope for resistance that holds back the flow and highlights differences.

Stefan Hölscher (ed.), Gerald Siegmund (ed.)
“Dance, Politics and Co-Immunity”
Diaphanes Publishers Berlin, 288 pages, 29,95 EUR