New Directions in Dance History

By:
Dr Angela Kane
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My paper interrogates 21st century dance history scholarship. It positions current practices within the wider context of postmodernist discourse and, specifically, within the on-going debate about the nature, scope and processes of history. A body of dance scholarship exists that demonstrates the extent to which post-1960s developments in critical theory and cultural studies have impacted significantly on the study of dance, both philosophically and in practice-based research, with a resultant reappraisal of dance-making and writing within the framework of feminist, post-colonial and post-structuralist theories. However, there is still a woeful dearth of published work, a silence even, on how this new thinking has influenced the research and writing of dance history.

Alexander Carter’s 2004 anthology, Rethinking Dance History: A reader, is a welcome first text in narrowing this void. Carter’s title is an obvious acknowledgement of Keith Jenkins’ Re-thinking History (1991) and it draws upon many of his ideas about the philosophy of history and the practical concerns of historical enquiry. Carter locates her selection of essays within 'the wider postmodern debate about the nature of knowledge and disciplinary boundaries.' and she also makes reference in 'Destabilising the Discipline: Critical Debates About History and Their Impact on the Study of Dance' to another key text by Jenkins, The Postmodern History Reader (1997) .

My paper focuses on the seminal debate between F[rank] R. Ankersmit and Perez Zagorin in the journal History and Theory in 1989-1990, reprinted in Jenkins (1997). It attempts to situate 21st century dance history scholarship between these two diametrically opposed views. It also draws on Michael Bentley’s notion of historiography being created within certain ‘horizons of explanation', that is, it is differently constructed across cultural contexts at different points in time. While not aligning my argument to Zagorin’s polemic on postmodernism, I revisit his claim that a postmodernist concept of historiography renders it remote from the historical process. In so doing, my paper addresses the problems confronting the dance historian specifically who, when working within postmodern parameters, not only has to recognize that the remains of the past are sketchy but also that they are always secondary to the subject of our investigation, that is, the dance itself.


Keywords: Dance History, Postmodernism, Philosophy of History, The Historical Process
Stream: History, Historiography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Angela Kane

Head of Division of Arts, School of Arts, Communication and Humanities, University of Surrey
UK

Angela Kane is Head of the Division of Arts in the School of Arts, Communication and Humanities at the University of Surrey. Her teaching and research interests span 19th-21st dance history, analysis and criticism. Her doctoral thesis was on the American choreographer, Paul Taylor, and her forthcoming book, Paul Taylor A-Z (Alchemy to Zunch), will be published by University of Michigan Press in late-2006. She has published articles in Dance Research, Dancing Times and Dance Theatre Journal, and contributed several entries to Fifty Contemporary Choreographers (Routledge) and the International Encyclopedia of Dance (Oxford University Press). She has been an invited speaker and presenter at conference in the USA and a visiting lecturer at Barnard College, New York; City College, New York; and University of Michigan. At the University of Surrey, she convenes two undergraduate modules, Historical Perspectives; Contemporary Dance Forms and Trends; and two Masters level modules, Politicising Practice; Reading and Writing Histories. She also supervises and examines doctoral level work. She was a member of the Quality Assurance Agency’s Benchmarking Panel for Dance, Drama and Performance, and is a former External Examiner at Durham and Middlesex universities. She acts as a reader for Routledge and for Ashgate publishers.

Ref: H06P0169