Sabine Sörgel

Title: “Time’s Moving Image” – Some Thought’s on the Philosophical Implications of Contemporary Dance Practice

Abstract: Merce Cunningham defines dance as “a visible action of life” (1951) thus referencing a dancer’s intimate awareness of embodied modes of knowledge as the creative base for artistic expression. His approach to dance is philosophical as it seeks relative ‘truth’ established by the evolving rhythm of movements in time and space. “Mind-Time” is explored through rigorous techniques of bodily practice. Anna Halprin, on the other hand, investigates “Body-Space” almost from the other way round, when she seeks to expand self-awareness in the natural environment of her Californian dance deck. Seeking ‘truth’ as the body’s own wisdom comes down to “recast[ing] dance as a vital agent for community expression and social change” (Ross 2007: 302). No less philosophical therefore, she, too, appears to interrogate corporeal modes of knowledge formation. In the context of 1960s counter-cultural formation, Cunningham and Halprin seem to share similar philosophical ideas on the body and its conceptualization of theory as embodied practice. Whether one thinks of Bourdieu’s notion of habitus or Butler’s theoretical take on performativity, these philosophical paradigms appear to have been with the practitioners long before that. In fact, ‘ideas’ are as such undeniably ‘embodied.’ Looking at dance practices that emerged in the context of the 1960s revolt, the paper seeks to address some of the philosophical reverberations of contemporary dance practice and its potential for knowledge formation as participation in democratic discourse.

Bio: Dr. Sabine Sörgel received her PhD in Performance and Media Studies from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, where she taught theory and history of theatre and dance until 2008. Her research interests include postcolonial theory, cross-cultural corporeality and identity construction in contemporary theatre and dance performance. In 2003 she was visiting scholar at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica and conducted field research with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica in Kingston. Her recent book Dancing Postcolonialism – The National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica was published by Transcript Verlag in 2007. Since Feb. 2008 she has been appointed Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance, Aberystwyth University, Wales.

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