This chapter discusses the seminal work of Martha Graham through a political lens. The chapter examines the complex relationship Graham had to formal politics of her life (which was almost parallel to the 20th century). The chapter then focuses on Graham’s involvement in State Department funded tours to the so-called Third World. The chapter discusses Graham’s choreographic intervention in two of her key works. The chapter concludes in discussing moments of subversion within those State Funded tours.
Martha Graham, dance and politics
Writing on the body
The chapter presents the conceptual framework of the book in the context of the political theory and dance scholarship sources by which the book is inspired. I read dance as interruptive to other symbolic systems. Dance inscribes itself on bodies of participants thus allowing it to occur beyond a singular performance. Dance creates a shared embodied space between performer and recipient.
Gumboot dance in South Africa
This chapter discusses Gumboots dance in South Africa. Gold miners were not allowed to speak and developed a highly elaborate system of signification using their bodies and gumboots. That system was developed into a unique style of dance. The chapter discusses the development of Gumboot dance and its choreographic characteristics. It then focuses on the use of Gumboots dance within the Hungry Earth, a pivotal play within the history of Apartheid in South Africa. The chapter discusses the dialectic of subversion and cultural appropriation within this example
Isadora Duncan’s danced revolution
This chapter discusses dance pioneer’s Isadora Duncan’s work as a political intervention. The chapter presents Duncan’s ties to ideological and political entanglements in their historical context. The chapter elaborates the significance of Duncan’s choreographic revolution as well as its reception within the world of modern dance in the 20th century. The chapter argues that Duncan laid the foundations for the interpretation of the political power of dance independently of words.
One Billion Rising, dance and gendered violence
This chapter discusses the One Billion Rising movement, founded by Eve Ensler, that uses dance to protest against gendered violence. The chapter then moves to readings of various flash mobs performed under the auspices of the One Billion Rising heading. The chapter shows the immense variety in movement languages employed throughout the world despite referring to a single choreographed sequence. The chapter proceeds to elaborate the distinction between universally transgressive power of dance and the interpretation of dance as universal. The chapter discusses the duality of using dance to re-occupy the body as a space and occupying public spaces.
This chapter presents a discussion of the connection between dance and human rights. Drawing on the concept of the human rights paradox in radical democratic theory. Two case studies are discussed; the practice of dabke as Palestinian national dance, and Archive, a dance work documenting human rights abuse in Palestine.
Moving beyond boundaries
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.
The dancer of the future dancing radical hope
This chapter presents the conclusions to the book through a discussion of the Sun Dance, practiced by the Crow Native American people, through the reading of Jonathan Lear, and a response to that reading by Bonnie Honig. The chapter presents an argument for a possibility to dance and construct a world through the act of dancing.
James Baldwin and Malcolm X
Taking its cue from recent scholarly work on the concept of time in African American literature, this essay argues that, while both James Baldwin and Malcolm X refuse gradualism and insist on “the now” as the moment of civil rights’ fulfillment, Baldwin also remains troubled by the narrowness assumed by a life, politics, or ethics limited to the present moment. In his engagement with Malcolm’s life and legacy—most notably in One Day, When I Was Lost, his screen adaptation of Malcolm’s autobiography—he works toward a temporal mode that would be both punctual and expansive. What he proposes as the operative time of chronoethics is an “untimely now”: he seeks to replace Malcolm’s unyielding punctuality with a different nowness, one that rejects both calls for “patience,” endemic to any politics that rests on the Enlightenment notion of “perfectibility,” and the breathless urgency that prevents the subject from seeing anything beyond the oppressive system he wants overthrown. Both thinkers find the promise of such untimeliness in their sojourns beyond the United States.