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Moving beyond boundaries
Author: Dana Mills

Dance has always been a method of self- expression for human beings. This book examines the political power of dance and especially its transgressive potential. Focusing on readings of dance pioneers Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, Gumboots dancers in the gold mines of South Africa, the One Billion Rising movement using dance to protest against gendered violence, dabkeh in Palestine and dance as protest against human rights abuse in Israel, the Sun Dance within the Native American Crow tribe, the book focuses on the political power of dance and moments in which dance transgresses politics articulated in words. Thus the book seeks ways in which reading political dance as interruption unsettles conceptions of politics and dance.

Writing on the body
Dana Mills

11 1 Moving beyond boundaries: writing on the body The book is written by many bodies who danced and inscribed their worlds upon the intersections between dance and politics. The argument is a three-​dimensional space bounded by three axes; in this chapter I elaborate, explore and problematise the three axes which demarcate the space of the argument. The ontology upon which the argument acts is twofold. On the one hand the argument is grounded in the dancing bodies of those subjects whose political intervention has written upon the argument. On the other hand

in Dance and politics
Open Access (free)
Dana Mills

its surroundings (which I read as sharing embodied space). The concept of sic-​sensuous allows me to release the argument into a different theoretical space, demarcated by the literature of the paradox of human rights. The term sic-​sensuous has been understood throughout the book as carrying a threefold significance. First, as a refusal to follow the rules 102 102 Dance and politics of the beautiful or aesthetically acceptable. Second, the term always implies writing on the body by another body. Third, the term looks at moments of slippage of meaning

in Dance and politics
Open Access (free)
Dana Mills

reincorporate them into our contemporary political discourse. Therefore, the book draws upon a few methodological standpoints which are intertwined in the argument. First, the book tries to find instances in which dance goes beyond a delimited, defined audience. It seeks to trace moments in which dance 9 Introduction 9 has also gone beyond its boundaries in the physical sense –​beyond the boundaries of the physical space to which it was assigned. At the same time, the process of writing this book is doing exactly that  –​extending the scope of influence of dance beyond

in Dance and politics
Martha Graham, dance and politics
Dana Mills

the body, always writing upon 51 Martha Graham, dance and politics 51 other bodies, is equal to words as a means of political expression. Let us unravel this realignment of reading her politics to allow her to intervene in a field in which her voice is absent: political theory. I invite the reader–​ spectator into one space in which a she danced her own sic-​sensuous, the State Department-​funded tours in which Graham participated. Martha Graham and State Department-​funded tours, 1955–​87 During the Cold War, the US State Department funded dance tours to Asia

in Dance and politics
Gumboot dance in South Africa
Dana Mills

to participate in radical moments of transgression by creating a shared embodied space. The dance elaborates and expands the tension between contraction into a single body and an ever-​growing public sphere in motion. Moving bodies writing on other moving bodies, and shifting their motion and rhythm, demanding constant attentiveness, create a shared embodied space. In this space they express their equality to each other as well as their individuality. Moreover, they express the equality to those who deem them unequal. Gumboot dancers develop a language where they

in Dance and politics
Isadora Duncan’s danced revolution
Dana Mills

to other students, and thus the embodied conversation continues. The Duncan dance student shares the process of investigating the solar plexus; the bodies of Duncan students are inscribed in Isadora Duncan’s moment of dissent. The third dancer, Duncan’s own body responding to ballet as a system of signification, discovers her solar plexus as the spring of the new symbolic system which is communicated to others. To return to Isadora Duncan’s own writing: ‘when I  have danced I  have tried always to be the Chorus:  I  have been the Chorus of young girls hailing the

in Dance and politics
One Billion Rising, dance and gendered violence
Dana Mills

. Thus the book tells of two structural/​spatial interventions: Ensler’s own journey to reinhabit her body as a space, contracting into the space of her body and reaffirming its spatiality; and her attempt to intervene in the global political space for other fractured bodies to heal themselves, releasing her personal journey towards other bodies. There has been ample feminist writing about the connection between gender, embodiment, violence and public spaces. In this chapter I focus on Ensler’s unique reading and its influence on the One Billion Rising movement. Many

in Dance and politics