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Dancing Bodie~

Susan Leigh Foster

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Si
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If you are asked to describe an object, you answer


that it is a body with a surface, impenetrable,
shaped, coloured,

ali

and what is

left of that imaginary being you call a body?


- Denis Diderot, "Letters on the Deaf and Dumb"

As a dance r working

with,

critical

on the one hand,

new interest
the tendency

ment

writing

about

delighted

the

at this

in it, and on the other, dismayed


to treat it as a symbol

ror desire

instead,

writings

seldom

address

they move quickly

that requires

something

as an initial premise.
ous and ephemeral,

a convenient

the refcrent

cern the historian

01'

01'

science

01'

for
and

01'

that con-

sexuality:

we

on an analysis

01'

~:

Michel

01'

"
~

or the involve-

as part

01'

delineates

and

~
~

as

~~

the Iines, hierarchies


that bodies

hardly

Iineaments

though,

'.

are asked

the disciplinary

two examples
nwthods

~~

organiza-

suffice,

include

cu!til'ating

ali sports

regulations

the body - II"hole

and ph)'sical-culture

governing

posture,

01'

worship;

arts; patterns

01'

conduct
standing.

in the perIvin.!:'. sitting.

'fft

......

~
I

etiquette

and comportment,
and \vhat is dubiousl)' titlcd
"nonverbal
communication";
habits in til(' workplace or place

r ~.
=

what might be done toward


01'

disciplines
through which it is molded, shapl'<l,
transformed
and, in essence, created. Such dis

IJursuits;

~
~

body when he describes

procedures,

to maintain
01' culture.2
These

Foucault

the instructable
organizations

rorming

~~
~

that instruct it. Roland

and spatial

ciplines
scrutinize

calculation

writing.'

stud)'ing

positions.

these writings

ror genres

01'

when one considers

receptacle

~~

the body for a theoretical

perrormances

unknown
mysteri-

l
r

the synec-

his desk and chair, his daily routines

01'

the disciplinary

analyze the bod)', but only as a product 01' the


various discourses
that measure it. I-Jere it exists
dS

tion

puppet

agenda

The bou)' remains

their new theoretical


Alternativel)',

01'

his own body in the physical

pects

the body I know;

unknowable

incorpo-

rerers to it in this way when he describes

by

past arms, Iegs, torso

and head on their way to a theoretical

or practices

ar

sexuality, for a utopia, ror that which is unique


to woman or for the clusive nature 01' the texto
These

01'

to the body based

01'

habits

substitution

discourses

01'

power.

01'

I miss in both approaches

Bunraku

to th~ds

technigiesusedt~-~~Tti;;teit..
Wli'ri 1 i-ead recent

li:

dochic

Barthes

body, Iam,

and, by extension,

topos or its metonymic


replacement
by a set
measurements
- is a more meat-and-bones

the

to it. I know the

its.response

the significance

into the larger workings

adjectives

that can be applied

about

parts and how they have been

to study -

What

approach

anJ

I;'

rateu

details

anatomical

subjectcd

body, I experience
it as aJ?9d)'-of-ideas.
I beIieve it is, as Diderot observed, the sum aI' ali the

body only through

li:

in and through

intriguing

sundry

and movable. But subtract

these adjectives from your denition

leam

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enacted, these tropes change its meaning by


re-presenting it,

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In \Vhat follows, I shall attempt to describe


one s~~~ ~?_~tof-ideas, that of the theatrical
danceI', r have imagined that I am addressing
Sr;:;-O;lCWIIO has secn but never participated
in thcatrical dance. My cO~lm~!1!~i~1li.!.ltOtwo
sections: the first focu~e2-?~.!h~Jorm.!1tion of

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da,Ci,g !-io,lllycon~cious!2~s:,-.~~1.~_~~:~nd
situates this Ijoiljri-ci;~iousness in a cultural

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dimensions and mutel)' declares its unwilling.


ness ar inability to execute commands. Brief

any other worldly object 01'evento They may


be articulated as verbal descriptions of the
body and its actions, 01'as physical actions that
show it how to behave. Whether worded 01'

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has ealled "techniques of the body,"-l Such practiees, Foucault has demonstrated, are part of the
fabric of culture itselr. They "invest, mark, train

discourse 01'the science of kinesiology; 01'they


may liken the body to a machine, an animal 01'

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the instructions g\'Cn, Yct suddl'llh-. illl'Xplic'.lhl)', it diverges from expcctatiom, fl\T.lls llc'\\

any of"_~~~~c:..':I~'plinesmakes of it a body-of.


itleas .. Each discinline refers to it using select
mct;;p~orb.~_~bIT.troR~~ tl~~e
it over.
These tropes may be drawn from anatomical

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eating, walking, as w0ll as ali practices that contribute to the development of what MareeI Mauss

and torture the body; they force it to carry out


tasks. to perform ceremonies. and to emit signs,"4
The dail)' prati,c,~Jmti21?ation of a body in

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Bcdies

alld aesthetk i110n;~~t.B~tl arc'firmiy rooted


iJi a \Veslern frameIVork for considering lhe
purpose and value of dance; they cannot avoid,
even as the)' tI')' to provide a perspective on,
Western assumptiuns about the bod)', the self
and the expressive act.

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The Perceived
Dancing

and Ideal

Bodies

Typicall)'. a danceI' spends an)'where from two


to six 110ursper da)', six to se\'en da)'s per wcek

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for eight to ten )'ears creating a dancing body


During the course of this tra\'ai!, lhe hod)' seems
('I)nstantl)' to c1ude one's cfTorts to direct it. The

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danceI' pursues a certain technique for reformin!~til(' hnch-. and til(' hndv S('('I11<
to ('onform to

1110mentsof "mastery of the bod)''' 01' of "fceling


at one with the bod)''' occur, producing a kind
of ecstas)' that motivates the danceI' to continue,
elear sensations 01'impravement ar progress _
the result of a rnomentar)' matching of one's
knowledge and awareness of the bod~' with a de.
veloping physical capacity - also pravide encour.
agement. The prevailing experience, ho\\'e"er,
is one of loss, of failing to regulate a miragelike
substance, Dancers constantl)' apprehend the
discrepanc)' between what the)' want to do and
what the)' can do. Even after attaining official
membership in the profession, one never has
confidence in the bod)"s reliabilit)', The struggle
continues to develop and maintain the body in
response to new choreographic projects and the
devastating evidence of aging,
Training th~I!~_a.t!:~__
t.~v2-I~~ies: o~~ce~\:e.d._~nd_!a~lg!ble;
the other, acsth~tic~DyJi~~
The dancer's perceived bod)' derives pril11arily
fram sensor)' informalion that is visual, aural,
haptic, 01factor)' and, prrhaps most important
kinaesthetic. Dancers see large portions of their
o\\'n bouies, a vista that changes as the)' mO\T,
The)' hear the sounds produced b)' locomotion,
h)' one holi)' part contacting another, hy lhe
hreath and hy joints and Illuscles creolking, popping and grinding as the)' nex, extend and rota te,
The)' feel the body's contact with the' ground,
with objects ar persons and with parts of itsclf
and the)' sense its ternperature anu s,,"eat. Thc)'
smell sweat anu breath, Thc)' sensc kinacsthl'tic
indications of the tension 01'relaxation, tollltncss
01' laxness, and degree of exertion for ever)'
rnllscle, the action of any joint and, conscqll(ntly,
the proximity of one bone to another, the rel.1t ionship 01'an)' polrt of the bod)' to gral'il)' and
the entire hod~"s C(luilibriunl. 1\n)' 01'this infor.
mation ahollt the percei\'cd bod)' Illol)'he incor
porated into til(' dolnce'r's ideal hodv, whel'e il

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"combines with fantasizeel visual 01'kinaesthetic

',out it ..Most tec!1llig':l~.ffer

. images of a boely, images of other elancers' boelies anel cinematic 01'vieleo images of elancing
boelies. The dancer's ideal body may specify size,
shape anel proportion of its parts as well as expertise at executing specific movements. Both
boelies, the perceived and the ideal, consist of
the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems and

?'aphy, a ~iTlgork~y
.<\re<\~.()~.<?~~~)!l~.~.~ell
,;'
as principIes governing the,.proper relations of
tfese;es~Tn da~;te~I~nique
~lasses, this
. tpography is put in motion by performing
sequences of movement usually designated by ,'" '.
th<:.de~~.!!!'_tI-,~.t\'y"<:,!?~4y_~
the teacher .
.v "
Unlike the private classes offered in the technique of playing a musical instrument, dance
classes are usually attended by fifteen to fifty
students at a time. They occur daily, rather than
weekly 01'monthly, and they rarely present for
study and performance an entire dance composition. Pht'ases 01'sections of dances may be
taught, but the issues of interpretation, development, coherence 01'style of performance are
more often aeldressed in rehearsal for a specific
work rather than in technique class. Furthermore, dancers are not expected to practice
extensively on their own. Their training is communal and highly regimented, but it is also context specific. As students learn to duplicate the
correctly demonstrative body and to avoid the
mistakes of the incorrect body, they present
(anel are presented with) endless new variations
on right and wrong. The demands ofboth the
perceived and the ideal bodies are thus redefined
by each teacher with each group of students.
E~<;.hd~!lf~c!1l1l3.ue relie~~extensive
nOl}l~!:!J.~l~I~,.9Jl'letimes
literal and s~;1;et1mes

any fat tissue of the biological body. The lungs,


stomach, sense organs, circulatory systems exist
only minimally; other organs and the endocrine
system not at all
~'" .
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Both hodies are co~s~~~~? irts.;4,~ each
influences the development of the 'other. Both
result from the process 01'taking dance classes,
as well as watching elance and talking about it.
Cumulatively, these activities help the danceI' to
develop skills at attending to, duplicating, repeating and remembering bodily movement. A third
kind ofbody, the demonstrative body, m~dia~~

the~~~i~~i~ti~;'~i'
~ sk~}sb~!.~~~;g
cori'ecfr-'ilcrl'ect
. '.

movement. Where the ideal

,----. -.- ...- ...--- ...--;:1'.- ...---.--1' ..- .....--

bodyel\:iC1estFi~A~l1.:.e.l:.witnits penection, the


dem011~;tf~~~l~~dy did~tT;~-iy'e~npha~Izesor
even exaggerates actions necessary to improve
dancing: it isolates moments in a movement
sequence 01'parts of the boely in order to present an analysis 01'the ideal. T~~
'~~monstratiy'~,
body elisplays itself in the body 01'the teacher,
anel";~7netimes in one's own image in the mirror
anel in the bodies 01'other stuelents in the class

-'

both a body topog- .

r;~.!~E~O!~S
..~<?~.~~s.ig;~~T~i
key';~~a;

oftr~~-b~dy

anel their mirrar images. For example, when


look at another student in the class, see heI' 01'

and their relations: A danceI' may be asked to .


"tot~te"th;'h~~'d-;fth;f~TI1~;
i~the hip socket,"
"lift
the
floating
ribs"
01'
"increse
the space behis body not as that of a friend 01'an acquaintween
the
skuIl
and
top
cervical
vertebra";
altero
tance, but as the bodily instantiation of desired
natively, to become "a baIloon expanding with
01'undesired, correct 01'incorrect, values.
air" 01'"a puppet." Techniques might visualize
Several systematic programs of instruction,
the body as a set of abstract lines running close
knoWi1S"dnctech1iqus~'ff-ex'isrffSt.ying
to the bones, as a set of points 01'regions of the
the perc~iy~4 po:dy,:()!g~~n.i,~J!Tg:~.rr~~:m~~~~~
surface and interior, as a set of forces that lift,
it presentsand correlating it with demonstrative

anel ideal'bodi~s. Ea~h'tech~iq~e '~~itiv~ts odily strength, ile'xibility and alignment, the shapes
III.ltk

hy l'Iw h",lv.

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descend, expand 01'condense specified areas of


the body. Dancers puIl, tuck, extend, lift, soften
and kllgllwn
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of the ho<ly throllghollt


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place these in a particular shape at a given time.


They learn to delineate rhythmic structures, to
regulate the flo\\' 01'effort fram one part to another,

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to sculpt, trace and imprint these parts in space,


Both the exercises themselves and any directives offered by the teacher are usually highly
repetitive. Drilling is necessary because the aim
is nothing less than creating the body. With repetition, the images used to describe the body and
its actions become the body. Metaphors that are
inapplicable or incomprehensible when first

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presented take on a concrete reality over time,


through their persistent association with a given
movement. For example, it may at first seem
impossible to lift the leg forward using the back
thigh muscles, but continued attempts to execute
the movement with this image in mind subtly
reorganize muscular involvement so as to produce the clear perception that precisely this is
happening.

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Over months and years 01'study,. the t!~ng


P.~o~~.ssrepe:ateA!y,I:~confjgures ilie b~dy: it identifies and names aspects or parts that were previously unrecognized, and it restructures the

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",hole in terms 01'dynamic actions that relate


the variolls parts, Neither the perceived body
nor the ideal body remains constant throughout
this process: definitions ol'both are altered and

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refined. The mastery 01'one area 01'the body's


topography enables the dancer to comprehend
new images and to reconsider familiar ones from

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anel\' perspective. Once one can "lift" the leg


from "underneath," one can appreciate anel\'
how to avoid "Ieaning into the hip" 01'the "supporting" Ieg.
Metaphors open out into related metaphors,
leading the dancer further into a given system for
conceptualizing the bod)'- The daily routines 01'

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curves or anglrs that body parts can f()rrn, and to

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Bad hahits (only recognizablc as such 01H'l'the)'


already exist) indicate probl('ms that recjuire
special attention. lI' the metaphoric system in
use proves inefTective in eliminating bad habits
or in preventing or curing injury, the daneer may
discard it in favor 01'alternative systems, The
dancer must decipher each new interpretive
framework, however, using as reference the body
01'metaphors built up thraugh prior training.
As dancers labor to meet the standards for
the ideal body - determined sometimes by
themselves, at others by a choreographer, style
or tradition - they inevitably encounter areas'
ofbodily resistance or incapacity, These deficits
are exaggerated by the intensity 01'training, and
they produce highly distorted, often obsessin~
images 01'the perceived body. The training regimen reveals the perceived body to be horribly
deficient in the size and proportion 01'its parts.
rts areas 01'inflexibility and lack
endurance can take on grotesque
Its inability to imitate shapes, to
or to relax or tense appropriately
aberrant inadequacy,

01'strength or
dimensions .
hear rhythms
become an

Working to correct bad habits, to modify


the body's aberrations and to increase its capa
bilities, the dancer frequently incurs pain and
learns Cluickly to distinguish bet\Veen several
kinds: constructive pain that \\'illlrad to grcatcr
strength or flexibility; destructi\'C pain caused
by the incorrect positioning or use 01' a part 01'
the body; chronic pain, the cumulativc result 01'
bad habit; pain resulting from too Illuch tension,
too little strength, acti\'ities other than dance,
overambition, inattentiveness and so on, Some
pains remain consistent and reliabll', and the
dancer carries them arollnd as constant features
ol'bodily topography. Others, intl'rmittent and
unpredictable, cause the dancer to chasl' aftn

training consolidate metaphoric knowleclge and


thereby produce bodily habits, some "good" and
some "bad," Good habits form the basis for the

them in search 01'a diagnosis that could prevl'nt


their recurrl'nce.

nf'wly perceived body, and the)' alio\\' the student


to attend to assimilating additional information.

develop, the)' increasingl)' occup)' lhe dancer's

As both the percei\'t'd and the ideal hodies


consciousness.

OVl'r time, dancers inLTeasillgiy

V/1

monitor their alignment, the quality of their


movement and their bodily pain - not only in
the dance studio but in quotiuian situations as
well. They may 01'may not apply technical principies learneu in the dance class to daily chores
and routines, but they certainly attend more
fully to these activities. They also retain kinaesthetic information from past performances 01'
these activities so as to begin to acquire a historical sense of their own bodily movements.
Most dance classes emphasize seeing a movement anu then performing it, whicl~ further
heightens the uancer's kinaesthetic awareness of
others. Dancers, ~n_oJ_e
!ban!b..,-!se who do .!l0t
uance, strongly sense what other person~' bodily
movements feellike. Walking uown the street,
they registeI' the characteristic posture anu gait
of passers-by; in conversation, they sense the
slouch, strain and gesticulations of othcrs. This
capacity for kinaesthetic empathy, however,'-'
rarely ind'des erotic f~lings. ThemetaphQrs
used to train -th~ d~~ing body seldom, if ever,
refer to t~~ sexual body:-TheTr~~l!e;:;ty~f
mirrors in I~arning t~..<!~f1~~
prC!!n.?"!:~~~,
f~m of
narcissistic ~f1!~~~!!ment with the body, but this
is usmll1y mitigat:.~ bJ !~~_i~j~!!D'.~o
f?~~Son,
and criticize, bdily inadequacies. The musculoskeletal empathy de~~i~ped by dancing usually
involves an appraisal of the other's and one's
own perceived bodies. The sexual bodies, perhaps adjacent to, and informed by, the dancing
bodies, remain clearly separate .
dancer's~~sness heI' 01' ~i~ p:~~~~~~
of the body
thusA ranfeslletween
body
- with ali its pins'J;dcli~t;;rtions -:a!1d i';;ages,
both fantasizeu and real, of other b.odies. Dancers
alternate between, 01'sometimes fuse together,
images from ali these bodies as they objectify,
monitor, scan, regard, attend to and keep track
ofbouily motion throughout

the day. The m,-:ta-

phors learned during instruction..:..<:~~:_~s~oth


markersand 'Dteq~r~t~rs_:Qf,~y~I()p'il1g~~dily
~) consciousl1lss. They ~ls(Unt~grate the tr~\ning
\,

01'the !'oely'\~~i-thaesthctic, social and Illoral .he-

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licfs ab.Ql!t.dance. The. repertoire of metaph9rs


learned in c1ass fUI~ctions not only to uefine the
dancer's body but also to establish the epistemological foundation for performing dance.

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The Body of Dance Techniques


I have tried to describe the development of uancing bodily consciousness in a way that would apply to most programs 01'instruction. Each dance

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improvisation, and vice versa. TJ:~illing~ot only


constructs a body but also helps to fashion an
exp;:~ssive self that, in its relation with the bouy,
performs the dance. Aesthetic expression can
result when a self uses the body as a vehicle for
communicating its thoughts and feelings, 01'
when the self merges with the body and articulates its own physical situation. Body and self can
also coexist, enunciating their own concerns and
commenting on each other's. Many other relations are also possible, each producing a specific
aesthetic impact on danceI', dance and viewer.
ln urder to i\lustrate the different forms that

tio~J..J~.~\,~ ~~arel 01'have 1'Jl~~~ ~s.~~t.!!!:!~9tin


cla~~:~~r fr~m compreh~'sive, they present only
a fe\Vtl':Y features of each technique in o;ue~ to
suggl':s.!p(>s.siblerelationships between body and
self lhal resull from inslructing lhe hody in a
given dance techniquc.

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o&~apher's 01'trauitio~':.~.:~th.e!i(;visi?n of d~~lce.


Each techniqu'creates a body that is unique in
how it looks and what it can do. Generally, the
style and skills it imparts can be transferred only
partially to another technique; thus, ballet
dancers cannot assume the bearing 01'perform
the vocabulary of movements found in contact

th~c-~:~ry. techrlq~e~ tllat, fiirmlat~~dig!nct


bodes ~I1d~~lves. Th<::~~~escriptions, which
emphasize the differenc:~s among the tech~lques,
de-Tv~'fr~mchoreographers' and critics' writings
a\:outthe techniques, as well as from obse~va-

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te~hni9ue, however, constructs a specialized and


specific body, one that represents a given chore-

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Oancing

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Bailei Technique.
T\le dominJnt and most
fJllliliar 01' JII theatricJI dJnce techniqlles is bJIIet. 01' the five bodies to be considered here, it is
the onl)' one with requirements for the dancer's

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physique, Success in this technique depends in


pJrt on thin, long limbs capable 01' displJying the
formJI geomctric feJturcs 01' the trJdition. The

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skills: it ser\'es the chore-

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others' performances. Competition, Jlthough


quiet, is fierce - in part becJuse stambrds for
perfection are so c1early defined. The aesthetic
San Francisco

Baile!.

Garry Sinick

positions - first on one side Jnd then, s\Vitching


Jrms Jt the harre, on the other, The movements

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work the Icgs (Jlways in J turned-out position)


Jnd, to J Iesser extent, the arms to create variations Jnd clllbellishments on CirClllJr Jnd trian-

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gular designs, The torso provides a tJut and

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llsually erect center conneeting the fOllr appendages Jnd the heJd. Approximately one half 01' a
c1JSSsession tJkes place at the barre, Stlldents

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then mon' to the center 01' the room for longer,


nlOrt' int ric.1tc cOlllhinations Jl ,'arying tcmpos,
Cbss l'nds \V'it h S('flu('nn's 01' IcJps Jnd I urns in

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stJbilizing the body by holding J barre. They perform mo\'ements, announced (in French) by the
teacher, originating in, and returning to, bJsic

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strative body thJt models proper practice, Frolll


the teacher's unchallenged Juthorit)', students
assimilMe the system 01' vJlues Jnd internJlize
the impulse to evaluate and rank their own and

body glimpsed in performances 01' the prelllin


dancers thus remains distinct frolll the demon-

petence, measure the student's progress through


a stJndJrdized set 01' physical skills. As with the
levcls 01' classes, the exercises in a given elass
progrcss from simple to more complex. Dancers
begin a standard dJily sequence \Vith one Jrm

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commitment to intensive training. The perceived body, never sufficiently thin or well proportioned, must mold itself repeatedly into the
abstract forms presented in c1ass and then on
stJge. The dancer's self exists to facilitate the

Classes, organized into severallevels

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The teacher illustrates the correct JpproJch


by performing a small excerpt from the phrase
- seldom, if ever, an entire sequence. The idcJI

ographer and, ultimately, the tradition by ordering the bod)' to practice and then to perform
ideaIs 01' movement.

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Illl'nts Jnd corrcctions Jre phrased so JS lo Jsk


pJrts 01' the body to eonform to abstrJct sh''1Jes;
the)' place the pelvis 01' head in specific locatiolls,
or extend the limbs along imaginar)' lines in
space. Additional cri teria based on the prccision
01' timing, c1arity 01' shape Jnd lightness 01' qual.
ity ali meJsure the studcnt's performJllce,

ideal body - light, quick, precise, strong - designJtes the linear shapes, the rhythm 01' phrases,
even the pantomimed gestures, .111with Iyrical
effortlessness, Success also requires the promising student to make an early and dedicated

crJftlike acquisition

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Bodies

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\\ hich dJneers tr,1ITI JCross the room diJgonJII)',


two 01' thrp(,' Jt a timp, Dpsrriptinn, 01' mn\'P-

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by performing a small excerpt from the phr~se


- seldom, if ever, an entire seC]uence, The ide~1
body glimpsed in performances 01'the premieI'
elancers thus remains elistinct frOIll the demonstrative body that models proper practice, from
the teacher's unchallenged authorit)', sludcnts
assimilate the system 01'values and internali7.e
the impulse to evaluate anel rank their own ~nd
others' performances. Competition, allhollgh
guiet, is fierce - in p~rt because standards for
perfection are so clearl)' defined. The aesthetic
San Francisco

Ballel,

Garry Sinick

fonn mo\'ements, annoul1ceel (il1 French) by the


teacher, originatil1g in, anel returning to, basic
positions - first on one side and thel1, s\\'itching
arms ~t lhe barre, on the other. The movements
work lhe legs (always in a turneel-out position)
and, to a lesse r extent, lhe anns to create variations and embellishments on circular anel trian-

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stabilizing the bod)' by holelil1ga harre. The)' per-

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petence, measure the student's progress through


a standardized set 01'physical skills, As with the
Ievcls 01'classes, the exercises in a given c1~ss
progress from sim pie to more complex. Dancers
bcgil1 a stand~rd daily seCjllel1Cewith one ~rm

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01' extcnd the limhs ~Iong illlagin~r)' lines in


space. Additional crite!'ia h~setl on the prccisioll
01'timing, clarit)' 01'shape and lightness 01'(llI~lity ali measure the student's perfonnance,
The teacher illustrates the correct appro~l'h

Classes, orgal1ized into severallevels 01'com-

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the onl)' one with reCjllirements for the dancer's


ph)'siCjllc, SlIccess in this techl1igue depends il1
p~rt on thil1, IOl1glimbs capable 01'displa)'ing the
form~1 geometric features 01'the traditiol1. The

ographer and, ultimately, the tradition by orderil1gthe body to practice and then to perform
ideaIs 01'movement.

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parls 01'the !lod)' to conform to ah,tr~l't ,h~pl'S;


lhe)' placc lhe pl''''i' 01'he~d in 'pl'l'ilk IOl'~lion',

crartlike acguisition 01'skills: it serves the chore-

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f~mili~r 01'~IIthe~tric~1 d~nce techniC]lIes is b~lIct. 01' thc fi\'c hodics to be cOllSidered here, it is

ideal botly - light, gllick, precise, strol1g - designates the linear shapes, the rhythm 01'phrases,
evel1 the p~ntomimed gestures, ali with Iyrical
effortlessl1ess, Success also reguires the promising studel1t to make al1 early and dedicated
commitment to intensive training The perceived body, never sufficiently thin 01'well 1'1'0portioned, must mold itself repeatedly into the
abstract forms presented in c1ass and then 011
stage. The dancer's self exists to facilitate the

...

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Thc domil1~111 ~l1d mosl

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gulat' designs, The torso provides a taut anel

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usuall)' erecl center connecting the four appendages and the heael, Approximatel)' one half 01'a
c1ass session takes place at the b~rre, Students
thel1 move lo the center 01'the room for longer,
more intricate combinations at var)'ing tempos,
Class ends \Vith seguences 01'leaps anel turns in
which dancers travei across the room eliagonally,
1\\'001' lhree at a time, Descriptions 01'move-

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rationale based on the pursuit of classica] beauty


offers dancers no alternative conceptions of
dance: inability to succeed at ballet implies failure at ali dance. S

danced into an evanescent realm of feeling-filled


forms. Her work has been reconstructed by a
number of companies that currently perform and
teach regularly throughout the U nited States.
It has also been preserved in the practices of
dance camps that offer summer study, primarily
to women, in interpretive dancing
For Duncan and those following in her tradition, the dancing body manifests an original naturalness. Unadorned by the contrived distortions
of movement that modern society incurs, the ideal
body inheres in a prima] experience of integration
both within one's self and within society. Its harmonious passages for the limbs and graceful phrasing emanate from the protean ductility of the
respiring central torso. It is here, in the region of
the solar plexus, that sou] and body meet and converse. The ideal body resides within every body
but deforms at an early age in response to social
pressures, By requiring dance study of ali young
children, it is thought, society wil! make itself
over, for dance is a revolutionary force that evokes
noble and pure motives in ali its participants,
In order to cultivate the natural body and to
allow it to relinquish affected habits, Duncan's
approach advocates the study of "basic" human
movements such as walking, running, skipping,
Iying do\Vn, standing, turning and jumping - ali
performed wilh a graceful, relaxed fullness, iniliatcd by patterns of breath, These basic l1lovements form se<jucnccs practiccd to music of

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Duncan Technique. Reacting in part against the


artificial and hierarchical organization of ballet,
Isadora Duncan and several other early t\Ventieth-century choreographers and performers
pioneered a radically ne\V dance aesthetic and
a concomitant approach to training the body.
Claiming for lhe body an intrinsi~ freedom and
meril, Duncan transported those liJr ",hol1l she

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Isadora

Dunean,

Rubyaiyat

of Ornar Khayyam,

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1899.

Jaeob Sehloss

great nineteenth-century
classical composers.
Dancers .lIso act out simple imaginary scenarios
guided by the music's meter anel harmonic deve]opment. Since music is considerecl to be the
truest expression of the human soul, dance,
which replicates its compositional structure,
can likewise indicate the soul's ephemeral but
fervent states of being When students are asked
to "retreat, shiclding themselves from an evil
force moving toward them," or to "fali to the
earth, lie quietly and then rise to greet the sun,"
they are participating, body anel soul, in primordial human situations.

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Students imitate the unpretentious intent


and full-bodied commitment of the teacher,

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who frequently dances alongside them. The


actual shape of the limbs is less important than
the e1egree of involvemenl in the dance, evident
in the face, the <luality of movemcnt and lhe
graceful connections among arcas of the body,
These criteria li)!' succcss discouragc critical

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evaluation of one's own

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a pronounced distance between perceived and


ideal bodies could only result in pretentious

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performance). Instead, through repetition in a


coml11unal setting, movement and l11usicwork
their elevating, liberating charm. The ideal body,
then, one that has achieved simplicity in its movel11entand harmony \Vith the self, isslles from a
nurturing

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collective of bodies."
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Graham Technique.

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For Martha Graham, the

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dancing body must possess the strength, flexibility and endurance necessary to provide the
expressive self \Vith a fully responsive instrument. The goal of dance, to represent in archetypal form the deep conflicts of the human

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psyche, can be realized only through a rigorous


training programo As with Duncan, the body
functions as a perfect index of the self's feelings.
The self's ability to express those feelings,
though, like the body's ability to manifest them,
shares none of DlIncan's exuberance - the self
is too dark and repressed, the act of expression
too tortured for movement to be light and freeflowing. The ideal body, then, even as it manifests an agile responsiveness, also shows in the
strained quality and definition of its musculature the ordeal of expression .
Graham's technique coalesced out of the
vocabulary she developed in heI' earliest dances .
The basic set of exercises, which became routine
by the 1950s, dominated the American university dance cuniculum for many years, and it
continues to provide a coherent and viable aIternative to ballet training in dance schools around
the world. The first half of a class - as much

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time as the ballet student spends at the bane consists of cxercises performed in a sitting 01'
Iying positionj students then practice sequences
standing and, i'inally, traveling across the floor.
The exercises privilege movements originating
in the torso and radiating Ollt \Vith rcstrained
tcnsion to the periphery of the body. The slow
progression from sitting to standing to traveling,

~~

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Thc principallllctaphClr

- ,-

ti

excrciscs,

I1lCltCSa conncction

, I

':'J
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chological

r~~~.

'~.~~.

;:;.
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relate

'

pathways

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tions,

the cOl1lments

arduous

",

'4'_J

"

. I,,"'

; "
to

.<

project

,.,

dance's

within

01' becoming
concerning

',i. r,t;r~I'~

bady,

abays

50 the danccr

lacking

articulation,

~~J~h
..

self-

01' the

scrulinizes

selr

ror til(' causes 01' t he


The dancer's

either

percei\'ed

in integration

must strugglc

or

to hecol1le l110re lhan

it is - a quest that, in turn,


sensitizes the self.7

A<;~,,'~

to conslant

lhe validity

body's unresponsi\,eness.

tf "'i~ii.!.i
~".tn~/
;;..~i'~~,

by contextualthe larger and

an artist. Just as

rnust suhmit

message,

situaclasses

to ps)'c1lOlogical experience:

as \\'ell as body in a scarch

:;'.(;J.1,I}

classes, in

made in Graham's

corrections

interrogation

'fII. '.: \""

t .
- .'

Duncan's

and

variuus

is cast into imagined

the choreographer

~:.r< ;;~

:1.''4

',>

I ~,'~.~
.
. '" .""~:'.:

/i,,:'" )~,"'f 'J ~,

'!!l::.'

t'

4.

f""

~f

-,:! 'x,"1'",.."
~
~ r.I'-',;,.:;)'''~'

.,.1{

,~J , ...'.~.,''J.
,'::'~>';'~i:
,"1.'1 j .!".. j",

space through

they allude to the self's condition

~ .~~\.~I
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,/,
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.,,~C./~
J ../".".'
./~:.""{

Stude11ts introsl'ecli\'el)'

Unlike

the student

izing physical

\~:<t,;;,
"

,~

01' rclease.

which

1'1'0-

and psy-

body as the} contract

to external

refer only indireetly


..

'4.r~.
/::1" ..
, "''''t.tt'.''''
...:r .t~ 1,\
.-,'

functioning.

internal

in lhcsc

and r"leasc,

bct\\'ecnphysical

delve into the interior

, '1'...,.

cxplored

that orcontraction

strengthens

and

',,',(Yi'
~~ 1. -r,;'

.~ki
\:I'~'

CunninBham

"

a Illclllbcr
Duet" from Amer;can

;.v< .
. ..

Barbara

.,...

Document.

1939"

rnodern

Morgan

and the tensilc

SUClTssions

rrom cenlral

to

periphcral

,}

hody, alTirm both lhe possibility

lhe dirlicult;
repealed

. ;:~

teachcr

orbodily

expression.

\\'ilh slight variations

:/,

back into d)'na.nic


nized into action
:11

I .

'.11

',j

":.'

l'IH'rg\

,.

Excrcises,

compmcd

by the

oul and tl1<'n pulling

p,,,itions.

as by tlll' dissonant

TIll' I",dy, gaka-

lexlulTS

arrin's

hut tl1('n surges almost

orthc

l1lusi-

on til(' dO\\'nlH'at,

inn11ediatcly

ilv 01' multiple

in a I)t'\\'

dancing

to lhe nartlikc
lllon'l1lcnt.

nonhicrarcl,i"al

ballet,

I1ni'l"e

t1nal1ticil'ated.

elasticit;

predCllllinatcs

O\'('r

tl1('

nH'S~;)gl'

and 1'1"\''''nting

hOI\T\'('J', a radic,llh

definitiol1

cekhralcs

in til(' olTral1 mO\'('nH'nt.

illllllcrsing

01' enhancing

lask 01' I"l'paring

Unlike

and l\'ithdra\\'.ll

lcnsilc

pursuit

sl',ltial
oftlll'

1,)1'ils O\vn eXI'I"\'ssi\'(' I'url'0ses as in Grahaln or


Duncan; ratl,cr, it dedicales itself, as in IJailet,

I':\llIe pn'l'aik

1 i.'L1all'attcrn

lhe physical-

collll'lcx

'1'11('selr docs nClt use' the bo(h

distillcti\'l'

mililar)'

inscribing

Ilis conceplion

dircctiCln. Although thc prccise ,"ctric 1'('(I"il'('nl('nts ror thcse miniature


cvcles ClrattractiCln
gil'l' lhe class an almost

lo

bod;' ruses body and selfby


arliculan.

cOllll'an)'

bis OIH] approach

l11elhod presents

bodics

the selr in lhe practical


body's

01' Al11erican

Graballl's

and tecllllique

and temporall'attcrns.

as l1luch h)' its ol\'n I'0tent ial

cal ac(olllpanilllent,

al'l'('ara11Ce,

o.~

and

eaeh da)', cause lhe hody to spiral around

a spinal core, extending


, :~

Ieft Martba

Cunninghal1l's

,~ 'i'

.\,'

dancers,

choreography

:!~:"

Ivlerce Cunningham,

in lhe lale 1940s lo de\'elop

"<'/
.,/
; ../,
o

Technique.

01' lhe third gcncralion

OfCOllIH'I('"(T

.lllel

Cl1l1l1il1ghalll\ al'l'roaclr

1'I,)"'i'l"es,

This is, inl'arl,

'l',irkilH'ss

alld ti\('

tire 0IH'II-el1ded

hi~ (1.111(TS l"OIl\"CY.

Lxcrciscs

"li'

IH' I<'clrni(l"l'

cbss I'ar;- froll1

~~~'1
J'

,I

~r

;,

,to

day to day as they systematically explore the


body's segments and their possible range 01'
movement. They present spinal curves, arches .
and twists, leg Iifts, knee bends, brushes 01'the
foot - ali using quotidian names for parts 01'
the body and their actions. Sequences 01' these
moves, complex in duration, meter and rhythm,
form subt!.- rd.ltions \\'ilh lhc SlllTolllHlingSP,ll"l'.
Students focus on accomplishing elear bodily
enunciations 01' these spatiotemporal relations.
The danceI' is asked to enhance bodily accomplishment by remaining alert an(J'concentrated,
to be "qui on his 01' heI' feet." Where ballet's
ideal body privileges certain joint actions over
others, Cunningham's ideal body is imbued
equally throughout with animated alertness.
The teacher presents movement sequences
as problems to be solved. Students are asked to
focus on and to demonstra te, through their
articulacy, the choreography inherent in the
movement sequences. The height 01' a jump 01'
extended leg matters less than the elear presentation 01' complex directives - quick changes 01'
weight 01' focus, polyrhythmic patterns in different body parts, carefully patterned paths 01'
movement across the floor. The accompanist
reinforces the emphasis on composition by
experimenting with different tonal and timbral
frameworks, even for the repetition 01' a given
exerci se. Such a strong and contrasting musical
presence affirms the autonomy 01'dance and
music as expressive media. Students must attend
to the two distinct forms simultaneously and to
their unpredictable relationships, rather than to
fuse one with the other.8
Contact lmprovisation

Tec:hnique.

[fthe Cun-

ningham body is a jointed one, the body cultivateu in contact improvisation is weighted and
momentous. This technique, developed collaboratively in the early 1970s by Steve Paxton, Nancy
Stark Smith, Lisa Nelson and others, explores the
body's rclations to gravit)' and to other bodies
which reslllt from ils ahilily lo flow as a ph)'sical

mass. Contact improvisation gained popularity


rapidly in the United States uuring the [970s
and early 1980s as an artistic and social movement. [ts technique elasses were complemented
b)' freguent informal practice sessions known as
"jams," which allowed dancers to learn from,
perl(lI'Ill f()I',and socialize Wilh, onc anolhl'l'. lts
I)'ri("ll ,llhklicislll h.1Shcen inl'<lrpor.lled inlo lhe
movement style 01'man)' dance companies in the
United States and .lIso in Europe, where it olTers
one 01' the few alternatives to ballet training.
U nlike an)' 01' the other techniques discussed
here, contact improvisation sets parameters for
how to move but does not designate a set vocabulary 01' movements for students to learn. Stuclents
explore throllgh improvisation the movement
territory established by the stylistic and technical rules 01'the formo Classes inelucle practice at
simple skills 01' weight transfer as well as opportunities to use them through improvisation with
others. Exercises present ways to "clrain weight"
out 01'one area of the body, to "collect" it in
another ancl to transfer weight across any 01'the
body's joints. Certain Iifts 01' rolls are practiced
again and againj other exercises direct stuclents
to experiment for several minutes at a time with
methocls of regulating and channeling the body's
weight on their own 01' with a partner. As in
Duncan's approach, the body is believed to have
its own intelligence - though one encumbered
by its artificial and ungainly habits. Dancers can
be advised on how to 1'011, jllmp into another's
arms 01' land from a great height, but they are
.lIso encouraged to "Iisten" to the body, to be
sensitive to its weight and inelinations and to
allow new possibilities 01' movement to unfolcl
spontaneollsly hy attencling to the shifting network 01'ongoing interactions .
The teacher's guidance, like the students'
participation, is hased on an assessment 01' the
needs 01'the momento Rather than specifying a
series of preconcci"cd forms, both tcacher and
students n1llst determinc what mO"'('ment is apaI a ,1:i\'I'nlinH. Inlhis
prol'ri,IIC for 11)(',1:1"0111'

"tt,

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,,:;;..~,
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Illunily

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~)1';'7:_
.'/'~"-"
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the studcnts'

.lI

:~i~f~:X.~~
:
'(:;(.t:-I

'/IJ-,.,J~,
tf'\,':. '. "J, ., -,

t'. ~
,

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,~Si"

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"

student

with its emphasis

encourages

dancers

fi

ing dance

I',
Nancy

Conlacl
Erich

Stark

Smith

..

"

"

'I

Ptashek,

lhemsell'es

The structure
tlll'tic project.

dcmocratic,
unprcdictable
and highly physical
situation, the dancer's self hccomcs imlllerscd in
lhe body, as il does f()r Cunningham.

f;

!l:

lhe changing

Ideally, ils slrength

.) ...

the \\'eight

,;

n~

is constantly

context

...r:

ielen-

rcncgotialed

01' the imprnvised


should

01' anothcr;

it must manil'est

The body,

\\'ith an ongoing

be sulficient

bllt el'l'n more

in

rotatcd

Stlldents

01' aUlhorily

de\'elopl'd

the dancing

Ballet's prescribed

pairings 01' posi-

cast the teacher

age one another.


braces

legs and arms, constructs

.'1'" "r 1('\'('1

"r ''',,)('rt

a fkxihlc,

elc-

lradition,
The teachcr's conl'ise
the student within lhat tradition.

dirl'l'til'l's
Dllncan's

place
lI'alks

frolll the (lllOlidian

rh)'thm

el11hod)' an ideal 01' nalural-

illlporlant,

and Duncan

tech-

and quality,

I1('S5. 'lheir

graccful,

grollnded

litheness

inlheir
sel'ks

to render the hocly transparent


lo the IU111inous
inclinalions
01' lhe sou!. 'lhe lcachn's
enthusihei" lo incorporall'

til(' slu-

in the role 01' facilitator,

dent into the dancing cOlllmunil)'- The restrained


successin'
1110\TIllents 01' Grahal11's contract ion

to apprel'iate

and relcasc

and encollr-

Each 01' these techni<plcs

allparticipants

on olltl\'arelly

gant, Iifted body that displays tlll' classicallinear


and arrial forl11s t hal are the Idllllarks
01' that

aS11Ianel conl'iction
nique

in l'ach

hod)' to its al'S-

and skips, dillerent

~\ I

and hoth ask sllldents

to

and danccrs,

to bear

an ability to go with the now9

illlprovisation

take

dance.

1'1',

floth contact

in mak-

may he relnant

as choreographers

class helps to connect

Franz

tily: its elel'inition

"

,',

Alan
1979.

hO\\TI'l'r, is nol invested

';"
'.>'

(',

and

Improvisalion,

insighls

that qllcstion

on composition,

tions and steps, and its elllphasis

'i

.,.
'';1'

the

and physi-

Cunningham's

as well as in performing.

their own careers

"."

~!/

to intcrest

from c1ass whatel'er

I :"~

cOlllments

to discipline.

technique,

:~~'~

j~

through

:;.~~ -

\~{

:IJ:'"

encourages

this psychological

!~~~.~.

',;~~i'

;'i

ability to perform

form. The leacher

to measure

onc's commitment

,;

,,~~;~,
.; ..,.,

-<7

the danccr's

cal participation

::;~.;'

. 1",., . ! ~~,';')""
f.

on the other hand,

,'}

.,~

lo~

revolve around

with physical

. I,

~ij"~'

.~.,

t ..

technique,

fully Graham's vocabulary 01' movement, bllt the


dancer is also askcd lo fuse inner Illotivation

...,'<" ..,. :, 1.~"


:iJJ.,i'

"

I.!,#".~.

.,;~:-.I,::":':.:.'~:
:~:.::~:>:iZ:.~
~',
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,...

~~~i~.1J
I ,~'."

1"

~. ,.1:

,J

em-

ahstract

ideaIs. Graham's

~~

l .,'~:"~,.~
,

them,

places dancers in competilion


with each other
but also with lhemselves.
Cri teria for success

J~'

.,... ' 4f".fi4


~r
,,;'):1 i;

l""

against

01' the tradition's

;::~

, , " :~~".;l

J'.

"

ilsclf and
competition

:~!tt;
I ;~r;;~l'

"',,

~ '
< ..

"

,J~~""

:.7:;

\"

";~.
-' t'7". IJ. , .' .. .
tlr;-:,~;~;J
~::
~
'
"
f. ;::.~ '~}: t : ,'
',:9

':r.

~."

'11.

':r;.~~,,:,'--;..~.
., '.I'.""~'ti,;I ,-'
fl)1:'"~~

!"

:.

pcrformance

body the authority

,I

t'}..',' ,,' ,~~~!.


,fit.~\

.\ ....
.~.l.;..l

::
,tt'

li

.,.,"4

..~r~, .,.'.,l.
r ..." :'.
~:;:::l~-,-,'
Ilj'

ali incite

among students, l'cachers, as they introduce


the tradition's
standards
for success aml rank

;""

responses

the

in the "'\TIs 01'c1?ssl's

in lhe chorcography

in its viewers'

.(~L.,. _".,
:.(-",.4,\

In hallel, hy contrasl,

01' Vallll'S cvident

and companics,

';1 /' ,1\


f.

':~..

!~%'" i' i,
j,~~~j~!;~
'j:<' ,
,"','"

ofelancers.

hierarchy

in the c1ass, \\'hatel'er


ise, as nH'llllH'rs

"r a

ellltheir
('Olll-

huild " sinl'\\')', tl'nsile,

eI)'n,'lllic "oely

thal s}mholi7,CS a sell' full of turhulent


and the strugglc

inl1('rl'nt

f(Tli ng~, Th" tea{'hcr's

ine~pre~sing

feelings
those

int iIll"l ion of t h" "nlu(lll~

'113

The "Hired"

training ahead warns students of their need for


commitment as it summons them to the dance.

Prior to the last decade, each 01' these technigues


\Vasconsidered to be unigue. Not only did each
mark the body 50 deeply that a danceI' could not
adequatd)' pcrform another techniquL', "ut each
aesthetic project was conceived as mutually exclusil'e 01', if not hostile to, the others. Recently,
ho\Vever, choreographic expcrimentation with
eclectic vocabularies and with new interdisciplinary gel1l'es of performance has circumvented
the distinctil'eness of these bodies. A new cadre

Cunningham's matter-of-fact inventory of the


body's structural capabilities produces a lanky,
intdligent, alert bod)' that elo(luently declaill1s
its own physicality. Cunningham teachers tend
to approach their students as junior colleagues,
instructing them while prcserving their autonomy as potential artists. Contact improvisation's
athletic, Ileet body realizes itself through the act
of contact with others. Its teachers must consistently empowcr students with the a~ility to improvise an innovative and sensitive response to
the collective gathering 01' dancers.
Much more could be said about each 01' these

dance makers, called "independent choreographers," has emerged; their aesthetic vision can
be traced to the experimental choreography of
the early 19605 and 19705, a period when choreographic investigation challenged boundaries
between dance and day-to-day movemcnt and
claill1ed any and ali hUll1an movement as potential dance. Because these choreographers' work
neither grows out of; nor is supported by, any of
the academies of dance, classical 01' modern, their

Ballet dancers, for example, have insisted on


practicing before a mirror si~ce the middle of
the eighteenth century, whereas Duncan pre-

introduces students to the set of metaphors out


which their own perceived and ideal bodies
come to be constructed. It a]so instructs them

01'

in the rhetorical relations that bind body to self


and to community.
Wa!er Motor, 1978.

Mangol!e

:,;:i,~
:.Ir--i~J
-;-"~

,1~;'1l

I:
I
?

::.1

":,

<j

'I

"

~",

','

.t

'':,'j;''

.~
~.

11:

."

:,""."

,1
1.,

'~

P'P-':'~'T7:M

creasingly inlluenced their aesthetic development.


These choreographers have not developed new
dance technigues to support their choreographic
goals, but instead encourage dancers to train in
several existing technigues without adopting the
aesthetic vision of any. They reguire a new kind
of body, competent at many styles. The new multitalented body resulting from this training melds
together features from ali the technigues discussed above: it possesses the strength and Ilexibility found in ballet necessary to lift the leg high
in ali directions; it can perform any mOl'ement
neutrally and pragmatically, as in Cunningham's
technigue; it has mastered the athleticism of
contact improvisation, enabling a danceI' to fali
and tumble, and to support another's weight; it
articulates the torso as a Graham danceI' does;
it has the agility

01'

Duncan's dancers.

lt" 1

".:.

",

.~.t _
.

:~.'

":'>.

,';};j.

), .. $:.. ..:

,,'
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,
."

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success depends largely on their own entrepreneurial efforts to promote their work. New institutions of "arts management and administration"
have grown to meet the needs of producing their
work. Issues of fashion and fundability have in-

ferred teaching outdoors on a carefully groomed


lawn. Through choices such as these, reiterated
daily in distinctive routines, each technigue

Babette

;f',
.~ :'

01'

technigues - how each elaborates a set of rclations among parts 01' the body, and among dancing bodies, and how each de\"<'lops the body
within a sonoral and architectural environment.

Trisha Brown,

.~.
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Body

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Ijothes

This hody exists alongside others that remain


more deeply involve() in, and consequently more
expert at, the techniques I have outlined. It does
not display its skills as a collage 01'discrete styles
but, rather, homogenizes ali styles and vocabularies beneath a sleek, impenetrable surface.
Uncommitted to any specific aesthetic vision,
it is a body for hire: it trains in order to make a

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dance choreographers,

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one's "lifest)'le," it can be constructed


one's desires.

to suit

01' equal influence on the hired bod)' is the


video dancing body, which is as familiar to
"danrercize" and MTV enthusiasts as to thcatrical

~~:,'t,~;' :~

(~

living at dancing
The hired body has been shaped partly by contemporary practices 01'physical education whose
goals for such activities as sports, aerobics and
individual exercise programs - jogging, swimming, weight lifting and so on - have been set
by the scientization 01'the body's needs. Like the
ideal body promoted by these activities, this hired
hody should achieve a certain heart rate, a general
leveI 01'strength and Ilexibility and a muscular
tonus. The criteria for evaluating its training
share physical education's specialized and scientific orientation. They use the language ofbiology and kinesiology to appraise the strength,
flexibility and endurance 01'the body's muscle
groups. Through this scientitk language 01'the
body, the hody's character is reduced to principIes 01'physics: it can he enlarged here, c1asticized
there. This bod)', apureI)' ph)'sical object, can be
made O\'er into whatcver look one dcsires. Like

per!<)fmcrs and viewers.

The video dancing body is orten constru('\ed


rroll1 the edited tapes 01'dance 1l10\,(~ll1ent
filmed
rroll1 difTcrent anglcs and distances. Its 1l10tion
can bc slo\\'ed, sll1eared 01' replicated so that it
performs hreathtaking feats, and )'et it projects
none 01'the tensile qllalities 01'mO\Tmcnt, the
hody's sitllation in space 01'the charisma 01'a
live perrormance. Nonethel('ss, it orrers to perrO'l1\erS, choreugraphers and scholars the irre:;istible promise 01'a "pennanent" record 01'the

dance, ",hich can he vic"'ed and H'vie\\'cd iIHJerinitel)'. This reconl, hclpflll as a too} in the choreographic process, has become increasingly
mandatory as a promotional device required b)'
ali dance producers and funding agencies as an
unproblematic simulacrull1 01'live dance.
Although the video body bears little resell1blance to any 01'the bodies perceived in the dance
class, it shares with the hired body certain ideaIs.
Both feature a rubbery Ilexibility coated with
impervious glossiness, and both are equally removed from the aesthetic vision that implements
them. Training to construct it primarily takes
place standing behind the camera and sitting in
the editing room. The techniques it manifests,
along with the aesthetic orientation it supports,
be10ng properly to the medium 01'video, not
to dance as a perrorming art. Training to construct the hired body occurs in rooms full 01'
bodybuilding machines 01'in dance classes whose
overall aesthetic orientation may hold little
appeal. 5tHl, both video and hired bodies appear
as the products 01'an elTicient and "unbiased"
training program, assumed to be neutral and
completeI)' adaptahle; as a result, thC')'mask the
process through \vhich dance technique constructs the bod)'.
01' course, there is nothing ne'" ahout the
assertion 01'a normative or original bod)', or an
efficaciolls "'a)' to instruct the hod)'. Dunran
and thC' other earl)' ll1o(krnists, ror cxample,
obscured their approach to constrllcting the
bod)' h)' insisting 011the "natllralness" 01'their
training. Their "natural" hod)', ho\\'ever, contravel1cd prevailil1g ~esthetil' ideaIs and I'l'csel1(('d
a profoundly different alternativc, \\'hC'reas the
multipurpose hircd hod)' suhsull1es and sl1looths
over differenccs. The 11l0dernist approach to

r4
..

l-

dance making, evcn as it promoted the hody's


movement as material suhstance to bc \Vorked
into art, assumed an irrcvocahlc connection to
a seI!'. The hired hody, hllilt at a great distal1l'C'
rrom the self, recluces it to a pragll1atic 1l1C'rchant 01'movemcnt profTni ng \\'h~t('\c" lnnk

~~r

appcals at the momento It not only denies the


existencc of a true, decp self, but also proscribcs
a relational self whose desire lo empathize predOlllinatcs ovcr its need for display. The hired
body likcwise threatens to obscurc the opportunily, opened to us over this century, to apprehend lhe body as lIlultiple, prolcan and capable,
Iiterally, ofbeing made into many ditTerent
expressive bodies.

2. Michel Foucault, Discipline alld Punish: The Bireh


C!I(h~ friso/1,

tr.\l1s. Abl1 Shl'rid.lll

(Nl'\\' \'ork: P.\I1thnlll,

1978).
3. lIis cssay is induded inlhis \'Olumc, pp. ~54-477

-l'IlS.

4. Foueaull, Discipline alld Punish, p. 25.


5. D"seriplions

01'

If

lhe hallel d,1Ss e.ln hc "lUnd in

Merrill Ashley and Larry Kaplan, Dallcillg.fi"

8,,1,,"chi"e

(Ne,," York: OUllon, 1984); Cynlhia Lyle, O<1l1cen"" O,,"C-

!
!
I:

f
.l

in[J (New York: Orake, 1977); anJ Joseph Maw, Dallce Is


NOTES

a Contact. Sport (New York: Salurday Revie\\' Prcss, 1974).

I. See, for example, RolanJ Barthes, The Empire


cifSigns,

Irans. Richanl HowarJ (New York: IliIJ anJ

6. For more Jelailed aeeounls


to dance techniclue

01'

Ounean's appmaeh

scc Irma DUllcan, DUllCUll DUllccr

Wang. 1978); and Barrhes by Barrhes. Irans. Riehard

(Middlelo\\'n, Conn.: Wesleyan Universily Press. 1966);

Ho,,"ard (New Yurk: Hill anJ Wang, 1977). Barthes,

The Techllique ciflsadora

ho,,"e'er, also uses lhe hody as a symhol for desire aud

Iloriwns, 1970); and IsaJora Ounean, The :Irr '!flhe


D"nce (Ncw York: Thealre Arts. 1928).

lhe 1Illconsdotls. I Jm indc.'hkd


ano to Kim 13entOIl

to Cynthia

NO\,;lCk

fur their nsightful COlllllll'nls

011

Ihis paper.

DUllcan (Brooklyn, N. Y.: Danee

7. l;rahalll's philosophy
marizeo

in her artidc,

01'

.;:)

/'

dancl' kdllli'IUl' is SUIll-

uThe Amcrican

D.1IKI.::,"

Arlllilage a/1()Virginia Sle\Vart, eJs., Modem Dance (Ne\V


Trisha Brown,
Carol Gooden

Man

Walking

Down

Side

of Bui/ding,

1970.

'0'0'.'

'.-

York: Weyhc, 1935), pp. 101-106; idem, "A Dancer's


World" (Irans<:ripl aI' the film A Ouncas

.r.

in Ml'r1e

H'orld) Ounce

Observer (Jan. 1958), p. 5; and in Alice Helpern, "The

Evollllion of Martha Grahalll's Technique," Ph.D.


Disserlalion,

Ne\VYork Universily, 1981.

8. Cunningham

describes his approach lo dance

.j .""

."

lechnique in his arlide "The Funclion aI' a Techniqlle

I,

Faces (New York: WorlJ PlIblishing, 1951), pp. 250-55;

,..

~;.

~\'J}
"

I.

01'

..:if.,
;.. ...
:.:;r:

,'.

Dancer and the Dance (Ne\V York: Boyars, 1985).

9. For a comprehensive anJ insighlful analysis

/i.!,
:; ,~.~~

;.~

for Dance," in Waller Sorell, ed., The Dance Hus Mar~


and, in conversalion \Vilh Jacqueline Lesschaeve, Tile

jJJ
";'~.l

"'t,'"

t1

~;'~l.
.. "~
.t...:"\;.

the devclopment

01'

conlacl illlprovisalion, see Cynlhia

/~

~{

Novack, Sharin8 the Dance: An Ethno[Jraph)' cif Contacl


Improvisarion

(Milwallkee: University ofWiseonsin Press,

1990); anJ Contact Quarter!r, a jOllrnal fealllring arlides


on contact improvisatiol1.

41-6

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