- The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater ed. by Nadine George-Graves
Music scholars interested in performance writ large will find inspiration in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater. The forty-four essays organized into ten sections or 'microconversations' reflect the vision of Nadine George-Graves, who puts dance and theatre in conversation using such concepts as corporeality, phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, Leder), and theatricality (Davis and Postlewait) that can provide filaments or complex webs of connection. The volume's content represents a broad range of historical phenomena, geographic locales, boundary-challenging traditional genres, and recent theatrical experiments. An eclectic array of scholarly approaches characterizes the whole, from essays with clear historical, anthropological, or philosophical underpinnings to experimental and interdisciplinary accounts.
George-Graves's introduction posits that when theatricality is deployed, important affective relationships are created. Such performances, haunted by prior performances and haunted by life, serve as metaphors for the interpretation of human behaviour. Many questions the collection raises about performance have implications for music: what does it mean to be embodied, to be 'in your body', to be aware (or hyperaware) of your body's movement in time and space, and to exert corporeal energy? What happens when we are on the receiving end of that corporeal energy, when we watch another body move? How do bodies deploy this power towards aesthetic ends, move towards a condition of social justice, or create magic? Whose bodies matter, and how do they matter as individuals and as socially related beings?
The microconversations avoid easy categorization according to race, class, gender and sexuality, genre, historical period, disciplinary or theoretical approach, or geographical origins. Instead, through the grouping of essays, the editor encourages the reader to make connections that the title for the microconversation suggests. In other words, George-Graves shakes the readers' potential classificatory complacency, and pushes them to ask new questions.
The title of each section provides a topical thread for four or five contrasting essays, encouraging new visions of theatricality and embodiment. 'In Theory/In Practice' is [End Page 333] followed by two sections entitled 'Genus', the first focused on theatricality related to dance and the second on theatre. Then come 'Historiographical Presence and Absence', 'Place, Space, and Landscape', Affect, Somatics, and Cognition', 'Unruly Bodies', 'Biopolitics', 'National Scales and Mass Movements', and, finally, 'Infection'.
A detailed look at the first section demonstrates the promise of the approach. 'In Theory/In Practice' contains five essays. Ann Cooper Albright invokes her deep experience with movement practice and reception to understand the 'less theorized and often invisible exchanges of somatic and cultural meaning' (p. 33), exchanges that resist our recognition and analysis, especially in performances that aim to contribute to social justice. Anita Gonzalez reflects on the complexities of a global maritime context to show how workers' identities are regularly renegotiated on ships and at ports of call, her approach collapsing the distance between anthropology and history. The section takes a turn towards interpretation of historical documents for dance and theatre, with VK Preston's examination of the performances captured and inspired by sixteenth-century sources for Beaujoyeulx's 1582 Balet comique de la Royne. The study invites readers to engage with the imagined reconstruction of the event as it separates the reader from the past performance. Ray Miller explains how the emergence of the dance dramaturg and the role's importance as a supportive medium among production participants as theatrical hierarchies, including the fuzzy boundary between choreographer and performer, have shifted over the past forty years. To close this section, Vida L. Midgelow imagines an internal dialogue between dancer (body?) and practice (mind?) in order to show their interrelatedness. These essays could hardly be more different from one another, yet they each construct their subject anew through a sensitivity to the instability of danced identities in a social context, and the importance of the body as a sensing, moving, expressive exponent of the mind.
As a musicologist with interests in dance and embodiment in relationship to intersectional...