Body as archive: the presence of history in dance
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 12:06 by Elizabeth Thomson
This thesis explores the relation between the past and present as a methodology for theoretical research and choreographic composition in recognition of artistic legacies. In particular, it demonstrates how the dancing body is a valuable resource for historical and cultural inquiry. The strating point for this investigation was a concern regarding the persistent presence of the past in my own body and implications relating to authorship in my choreographic work. This thesis applies the theoretical framework of Body as Archive in order to explain the significance of revisiting history in the production of new insight, connections and imaginings for future directions in dance. Research has been both about the body and undertaken through the body, examining my own embodied history as material for choreographic composition. It has been conducted through the two components of creative practice and exegesis, and pursued through a combination of writing and dancing. Creative practice took the form of two performance works entitled The Alphabet Dance and Restaging the Hills of the Dry Grassy Jazz Dance, in conjunction with three modes of reflective writing. This exegesis examines the Body as Archive in relation to debates on ephemerality, language and the dancing body, and artistic legacies in dance practices. Research exposes the persistence of assumptions stemming from the mind / body binary and cultural prejudices. In addition, it highlights the need for dance practitioners and theorists to continue rethinking our historical narratives from new perspectives. Finally, this thesis offers proof that by revisiting the past, we can tumble upon surprising facts that have previously been forgotten, and that these new realities offer potential for radically realigning ourselves in relation to our perpetually unfinished pasts.