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How to Make Dances in an Epidemic

Tracking Choreography in the Age of AIDS

David Gere

Publication Year: 2004

    David Gere, who came of age as a dance critic at the height of the AIDS epidemic, offers the first book to examine in depth the interplay of AIDS and choreography in the United States, specifically in relation to gay men. The time he writes about is one of extremes. A life-threatening medical syndrome is spreading, its transmission linked to sex. Blame is settling on gay men. What is possible in such a highly charged moment, when art and politics coincide?
    Gere expands the definition of choreography to analyze not only theatrical dances but also the protests conceived by ACT-UP and the NAMES Project AIDS quilt. These exist on a continuum in which dance, protest, and wrenching emotional expression have become essentially indistinguishable. Gere offers a portrait of gay male choreographers struggling to cope with AIDS and its meanings.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Given that my work on this book has spanned nearly my entire adult life—a scary realization—it is no wonder that I have so many people to thank. I’d like to start with the San Francisco Bay Area choreographers and activists whose theatrical dances, site-specific works, films, movement meditations, and political protests first inspired me to think about the relationship between ...

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pp. 3-38

In 1980 John Bernd and Tim Miller inaugurated a series of dance-based performances titled Live Boys, a multimedia chronicle of their evolving gay relationship. Bernd had arrived in New York just a few years before, a new graduate of Ohio’s Antioch College, and was making a name for himself as a singer-dancer in.

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1. Blood and Sweat

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pp. 39-90

In a July 1987 MacNeil-Lehrernews segment called “AIDS and the Arts,” Bill T. Jones explained why he had counseled Arnie Zane, his lover and dance partner, against coming out on national television as a person with AIDS. “I am more than aware of the stigma attached to this illness,” Jones said. “We had one person ...

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2. Melancholia and Fetishes

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pp. 91-138

Standing in a beam of light at center stage, and speaking in a voice as sweet as that of the choir boy he once was, the dancer-choreographer Tracy Rhoades lays ou the premise of his 1989 Requiem.1 “All of the clothes I’m wearing were either given to me by my friend Jim, or I inherited them after he died, ”Rhoades says, ...

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3. Monuments and Insurgencies

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pp. 139-186

Choreography in the AIDS era lives in constant tension with the stigmatization of the body, with gay male choreographers and their audiences shifting back and forth between the acceptance and rejection of AIDS as a core metaphor in dance. The chain of signification from dance to AIDS serves both as a basic animating ...

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4. Corpses and Ghosts

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pp. 187-228

Rodney Price is sinking into his wheelchair. With head and eyes drawn downward, his bony forearms balance precariously on the arms of the chair, his feet tucked behind the stirrups as if to save him from free-falling into oblivion. In the videographic frame he is positioned exactly in the middle, straight-on, matter-...

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5. Transcendence and Eroticism

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pp. 229-262

Recently I viewed the 1990 film Longtime Companion for the umpteenth time, watching with the kind of obsessive fascination one usually reserves for a slow-motion train wreck or for the video-loop collapse of two gigantic buildings in lower Manhattan: You know what’s going to happen, you’re horrified, yet you simply ...

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pp. 263-268

A live performance of Mark Dendy’s Dream Analysis at DanceTheater Workshop in New York City has catapulted to its conclusion, and the audience is in a decidedly giddy mood. This dance-theater show is a comedy, after all, a thinking person’s comedy peopled with multiple Martha Grahams and Vaslav Nijinskys, ...


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pp. 269-311


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pp. 212-332


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pp. 333-341

E-ISBN-13: 9780299200831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299200848

Publication Year: 2004