I wrote this about a month ago after seeing Jennifer Archibald perform at Salon de Dance at Studio@620 in St. Petersburg, Florida but I believe it is still relevant. Tomorrow I’ll attend Helen Hansen’s performance and I was just reminded again of my response to this important topic.
I’ve been sitting quietly in the wings of the Internet watching the conversation that occurred in the dance communities after Alistair Macauley’s article, “Choreographic Climate Change.” Many dancers and choreographers were absolutely enraged or astounded by some of the statements that Macauley made in this article and a few dance ethnographers, critics and writers countered his sweeping generalizations with intelligent answers that highlight the flaws in many of his arguments. While his article discussed what he believed is a lack of focus within dance over the last decade, what I found most troubling was his claim that “dance is the art with no history.” I’ve been wondering what it means to label the ephemeral as having no history. The body itself contains an enormous amount of history and dance is the art that utilizes the body first and foremost in communication. Yet, often the body’s history is ignored as it is not easily decipherable. I’m interested in this because my work as a writer attempts to communicate with the language of the body, its nuances and its various histories. The body is absolutely fascinating and anyone who studies it or focuses on it, regardless of which field they approach it from, understands this. It is an organism that is what we depend on to survive, that we derive our identity from, our pleasure from and from whence new forms of life originate. It is an amazingly complicated system that is designed to survive, constantly repairing itself and breaking down, aging and revealing new elements to us. The body has a very subtle, powerful and honest vocabulary that says things where words cannot. Yet, we have no formal codification of this vocabulary and so we don’t understand how interesting and complex our own bodies are as we often focus mainly on our minds and we divorce our minds from our bodies. That is where the disconnect between a written text and a choreographed piece comes into play. Yet, both of these have histories that originate from the body. Maybe humanity – or more precisely Western culture – should really pay attention to what the body is trying to say, how it says it and what its concept of the ephemeral means to all of us. Maybe once we grasp the significance of the ephemeral we will come to terms with the fact that all history is ephemeral because all of it is written by the body.