This article provides a genealogical critique of the history and modernity of dance. In doing so it establishes the political importance of dance as an art not principally of the body and its biopolitical capacities for movement, but of images and imagination. It traces the development of dance as an art of imagination, lost and buried in the works of Domenico da Piacenza, Jean-Georges Noverre, and Loïe Fuller, as well as its counter-movement expressed in the work of Rudolf Laban. It also locates contemporary dance within this political conflict by exploring new works, especially those of Ivana Müller, which call upon beholders to use their imaginations through the evocation of histories and memories. Such works can be understood to be deeply political, it will argue, because they work to transform society by creating time for a belief in the impossible. At its best, dance does not simply incite bodies to move but suspends movement, transforming the very image of what a body is capable of. These aims and practices of dance speak to contemporary concerns within political practice, theory, and philosophy for a reawakening of political imagination in times of crisis and neoliberal hegemony.
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