Special Issue "Dance and Abstraction"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752). This special issue belongs to the section "Musical Arts and Theatre".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (11 October 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Juliet Bellow
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Art, American University, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Interests: 20th-century art; modernism; intermediality; relations between dance and the plastic arts; Auguste Rodin; Fernand Léger; Loïe Fuller; Ballets Russes; Cambodian dance; post-colonial theory
Dr. S. Elise Archias
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA
Interests: 20th-century art; performance art; mid-century abstract art; Yvonne Rainer and her students; Joan Mitchell; Melvin Edwards; Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our proposed Special Issue focuses on the relationship between dance and abstraction broadly understood, encompassing explorations of non-objective form and "pure dance"; mediation and substitution; systems of economic circulation or technological data; racial constructs and the operations of subjecthood. The group of essays gathered here, which examine case studies spanning from the 1920s to the 1980s situated in diverse locales across Europe, Brazil, and the United States, collectively provide a historical grounding for current artistic practices and scholarly conversations on the issue of embodiment. In dance, visual art, and film prior to the 1980s, the body was often used in impersonal ways, as a manipulable and abstractable material, by artists who exploited both its general, universal qualities and its imbrication in the specificity of lived experience. Many works produced in this period also used the body to explore modern concepts of what makes a human being or experimented with bodies and forms of embodiment as they figured in collective political formations. The essays in this Special Issue show that abstraction, when conveyed through or combined with the performing body, is a crucial vehicle through which ideas motivating political and artistic practice have been given form over the past hundred years. Collectively, they provide a new framework for understanding both dance and abstraction, advancing the scholarly discourse on embodiment in the fields of art history and dance studies, and are intended to promote further dialogue between the two fields.

Dr. Juliet Bellow
Dr. S. Elise Archias
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • dance
  • abstraction
  • modernism
  • racism
  • primitivism
  • gender studies
  • impersonality
  • autonomy

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
“Dance and Abstraction” Special Issue Introduction
Arts 2020, 9(4), 120; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9040120 - 25 Nov 2020
Abstract
In his 2013 book Hating Empire Properly, historian Sunil Agnani helpfully reminds his audience that an emphasis on cultural difference—a perspective that we tend to think of as the postmodern antidote to Enlightenment-era universalizing rhetoric—can in fact be traced back to early [...] Read more.
In his 2013 book Hating Empire Properly, historian Sunil Agnani helpfully reminds his audience that an emphasis on cultural difference—a perspective that we tend to think of as the postmodern antidote to Enlightenment-era universalizing rhetoric—can in fact be traced back to early modern European thought [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
The Balanchine Dilemma: “So-Called Abstraction” and the Rhetoric of Circumvention in Black-and-White Ballets
Arts 2020, 9(4), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9040119 - 24 Nov 2020
Abstract
Choreographer George Balanchine was known for rejecting the premise that his ballets were abstract. Yet, a closer look into his comments on abstraction reveals a greater degree of ambivalence toward the concept than previously noticed. His influential words found response in dance critical [...] Read more.
Choreographer George Balanchine was known for rejecting the premise that his ballets were abstract. Yet, a closer look into his comments on abstraction reveals a greater degree of ambivalence toward the concept than previously noticed. His influential words found response in dance critical writing, where the term “abstract” continued to circulate, but was often applied in vague ways, such as “so-called abstraction.” This and other softened terminological variations formed an ambiguous collection of abstractive terms, like a vague word cloud around the dance concept. This article explores abstraction in Balanchine’s particular ballets, and makes a two-fold argument. On the one hand, by emphasizing the visual aspects of Balanchine’s compositions, we may uncover ways to untangle his dilemma about dance abstraction. Visual theories of “semantic abstraction” by Harold Osborne, and of “the gesture of abstraction” by Blake Stimson, may help us to understand the abstractive modes in several of Balanchine’s black-and-white ballets. On the other hand, whether discussed or not, Balanchine’s abstractive gestures have created powerful representational shifts in some cases. In particular, by examining the interracially cast duet from the ballet Agon (1957) as a visual case study, we may see how Balanchine’s rejections of the concept, amplified by critics’ vague terminological invocations of, or silence about, abstractive choreographic gestures, occluded the work’s participation in the discourse of abstraction. Simultaneously, unnoticed yet potent choreographic gestures of semantic abstraction may have promoted whiteness as a normative structure, one that relies on a hegemonic “bodily integrity” (as discussed by Saidiya Hartman). Such an analysis leads to a recognition that Balanchine’s abstraction could have been a subversive form of dissent similar to Kobena Mercer’s concept of “discrepant abstraction.” However, I posit that, as a result of the Balanchine dilemma and its influence, the interlinked gestures of an abstract nature that have not been recognized as such promoted the self-regulative structure identified by Bojana Cvejić as “white harmony.” Ultimately, a more specific and clear application of the term “abstract” in ballet is needed, as it can help to dismantle or disrupt the system of white supremacy operative in dominant ballet structures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
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Open AccessArticle
Rosas, the Storyless, and Roles
Arts 2020, 9(2), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9020044 - 28 Mar 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Analyzing the early work of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker—and particularly Rosas danst Rosas (1983)—this article examines the notion of “the storyless” in relation to the role: that pillar of dance, and especially choreography, which enables the individuation, transmission, and exchange of each dancer’s [...] Read more.
Analyzing the early work of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker—and particularly Rosas danst Rosas (1983)—this article examines the notion of “the storyless” in relation to the role: that pillar of dance, and especially choreography, which enables the individuation, transmission, and exchange of each dancer’s part. Set in relation to the principles of serial music that De Keersmaeker had already explored in Fase (1982) and to the idea of seriality itself, the role provides a way to consider how “storylessness” could be both emancipatory and feminist. It responds to identitarian models of feminist argumentation by suggesting that a virtue of certain forms of abstraction lies in the pleasurable ways that dance’s roles demonstrate the circulability and exchangeability of the self. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
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Open AccessArticle
Trisha Brown: Between Abstraction and Representation (1966–1998)
Arts 2020, 9(2), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9020043 - 27 Mar 2020
Abstract
Choreographer Trisha Brown (1936–2017) is renowned as one of the most influential abstract artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Emerging from Judson Dance Theater and the 1960s avant-garde, Brown invented what she termed her ‘pure movement’ abstract vocabulary in the 1970s, rejecting [...] Read more.
Choreographer Trisha Brown (1936–2017) is renowned as one of the most influential abstract artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Emerging from Judson Dance Theater and the 1960s avant-garde, Brown invented what she termed her ‘pure movement’ abstract vocabulary in the 1970s, rejecting narrative, psychology and character as bases for dance-making. Yet Brown’s notion of abstraction, when examined across the long arc of her fifty-year career, is more complicated and elastic than previously known. This essay addresses selected choreographies dating from her first decade as a choreographer, the 1960s, to the production of her first opera L’Orfeo (1998), underscoring how memories, images, language and stories fueled a previously unexamined dynamic relationship between abstraction and representation that profoundly influenced her choreography’s development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
Open AccessArticle
Dance That “Suggested Nothing but Itself”: Josephine Baker and Abstraction
Arts 2020, 9(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010023 - 14 Feb 2020
Abstract
This article reconsiders Josephine Baker’s legacy for the field of dance by emphasizing the principles of abstraction that she developed through performance. Although she is considered to be a modernist, Baker is rarely discussed as an abstractionist. Doing so requires a rethinking of [...] Read more.
This article reconsiders Josephine Baker’s legacy for the field of dance by emphasizing the principles of abstraction that she developed through performance. Although she is considered to be a modernist, Baker is rarely discussed as an abstractionist. Doing so requires a rethinking of the relationship between race and abstraction, a conversation revived by choreographer Miguel Gutierrez in 2018. Audiences in 1920s Paris described how Baker confounded identity categories to produce something new for the stage, but critics and scholars since have continued to define her by those very categories. Baker’s dancing prioritized the expression of kinesthetic energy over representation or narrative, clearly fitting within the purview of abstract dance. In building upon the work of Brenda Dixon Gottschild, I argue that Baker demonstrates how abstraction is not in opposition to Africanist dance aesthetics, but rather is a constitutive part of it. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
Open AccessArticle
On a Curious Chance Resemblance: Rudolf von Laban’s Kinetography and the Geometric Abstractions of Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Arts 2020, 9(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010015 - 04 Feb 2020
Abstract
This paper investigates a case of historical co-emergence between a modern system of dance notation and the rise of geometric abstraction in the applied arts during the first decades of the 20th century. It does so by bringing together the artistic careers of [...] Read more.
This paper investigates a case of historical co-emergence between a modern system of dance notation and the rise of geometric abstraction in the applied arts during the first decades of the 20th century. It does so by bringing together the artistic careers of the choreographer Rudolf von Laban and the visual artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Comparing their pedagogical agendas and visual aesthetics, this paper argues that the resemblances between Laban’s Kinetography and Taeuber-Arp’s early geometric compositions cannot be a matter of pure coincidence. The paper therefore presents and supports the hypothesis of a co-constitutive relationship between visual abstraction and the dancing body in the European avant-garde. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
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Open AccessArticle
Machine Bodies: Performing Abstraction and Brazilian Art
Arts 2020, 9(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010011 - 19 Jan 2020
Abstract
In 1973, Analívia Cordeiro produced the videodance M3x3. Filmed in a Brazilian television studio and choreographed by Cordeiro with a computer, the work explores the limits of the human body through abstraction and its inhabitation of a new media landscape. Tracing the [...] Read more.
In 1973, Analívia Cordeiro produced the videodance M3x3. Filmed in a Brazilian television studio and choreographed by Cordeiro with a computer, the work explores the limits of the human body through abstraction and its inhabitation of a new media landscape. Tracing the genealogy of M3x3 to the history of videodance, German and Brazilian art, and Brazilian politics, the article spotlights the media central for its conceptualization, production, and circulation to argue for how the video theorizes the posthuman as the inextricable entanglement of the body and technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
Open AccessArticle
Mapping a New Humanism in the 1940s: Thelma Johnson Streat between Dance and Painting
Arts 2020, 9(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010007 - 11 Jan 2020
Abstract
Thelma Johnson Streat is perhaps best known as the first African American woman to have work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. However, in the 1940s–1950s she inhabited multiple coinciding roles: painter, performer, choreographer, cultural ethnographer, and folklore collector. As part of [...] Read more.
Thelma Johnson Streat is perhaps best known as the first African American woman to have work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. However, in the 1940s–1950s she inhabited multiple coinciding roles: painter, performer, choreographer, cultural ethnographer, and folklore collector. As part of this expansive practice, her canvases display a peculiar movement and animacy while her dances transmit the restraint of the two-dimensional figure. Drawing from black feminist theoretical redefinitions of the human, this paper argues that Streat’s exploration of muralism, African American spirituals, Native Northwest Coast cultural production, and Yaqui Mexican-Indigenous folk music established a diasporic mapping forged through the coxtension of gesture and brushstroke. This transmedial work disorients colonial cartographies which were the products of displacement, conquest, and dispossession, aiding notions of a new humanism at mid-century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
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Open AccessArticle
The Hollywood Dance-In: Abstract and Material Relations of Corporeal Reproduction
Arts 2019, 8(4), 133; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8040133 - 14 Oct 2019
Abstract
This essay asks what the figure of the Hollywood dance-in—a dancer who performed in place of a star prior to filming and who assisted the choreographer in the creation of dance numbers—can reveal about the reproduction of corporeality as an operation that is [...] Read more.
This essay asks what the figure of the Hollywood dance-in—a dancer who performed in place of a star prior to filming and who assisted the choreographer in the creation of dance numbers—can reveal about the reproduction of corporeality as an operation that is both abstract and material. Focusing on the white film star Gene Kelly and his Mexican-born dance-in Alex Romero, the essay shows how the men functioned as literal and virtual doubles for one another in the rehearsal process and argues for an understanding of their relations of reproduction as queer and racially charged. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dance and Abstraction)
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