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  • Global/Mobile:Re-orienting Dance and Migration Studies
  • Paul Scolieri (bio)

Like dance studies, the interdisciplinary field of migration studies is interested in theories and methods for understanding patterns of individual and mass human movements across the world's stage, the policies governing human im/mobility, and the social experiences that such movements engender. Both dance and migration studies privilege movement and process as categories of analysis. As such, dance studies is uniquely poised to contribute to migration studies and the foremost topics within its terrain: citizenship and statelessness, territory wars, labor refugeeism, border wars, religious and political occupation, and environmental and epidemiological displacement. Recent scholarship in the fields of music, theater, art, architecture, and literature has persuasively insisted upon the importance of the fine and performing arts to exploring the experiences and conditions of global migration. To date, no volume has investigated the impact of migration studies in relationship to dance. The essays collected in this issue of Dance Research Journal offer directions for conceptualizing the philosophical and practical intersections between these two areas of study and make readily apparent the ways in which migration shapes dance performance and reception. Most of the essays were originally presented as lectures at the fortieth anniversary conference of the Congress on Research in Dance held on November 8–11, 2007, at Barnard College in New York City. At this meeting over one hundred dance scholars from over a dozen nations gathered to present research on the intersection of dance and migration studies. Many of the conference panels mapped out areas for new research, such as the effects of political occupation in the dances of the Middle East and India; the relationships between demography and choreography; the impact of immigration on the formation of modern dance in the United States, especially with regard to prominent U.S. immigrant choreographers such as José Limón, Pearl Primus, Hanya Holm, Geoffrey Holder, and George Balanchine; the integration of migration studies with somatic studies, human movement capture systems, and biometric technologies; and the reconfiguration of migratory histories in contemporary choreography by Gabri Christa, Jennifer Monson and BIRD BRAIN, William Forsythe, Akram Khan, and Joanna Haigood. The critical momentum amassed at the conference propels this issue to encompass the changes, crossings, and displacements of bodies that often go "undocumented." [End Page v]

It is not surprising that dance and migration studies share common ground. The "dance world" is a nomadic one, constituted by a mobile set of performers, choreographers, teachers, and audiences in search of economic prosperity, political asylum, religious freedom, and/or artistic liberty. As such, "choreography"—the arrangement of bodily movement in time and space—might serve as an ideal critical lens for understanding experiences of migration: What does choreography uniquely reveal about the conditions of im/migration, exile, refugeeism, nomadism, forced migration, and other forms of social im/mobility? How have dance theory and practice been shaped by these social and political forces? How can scholarship support and animate activism around the increased politicization—and in some instances criminalization—of touring, studying, teaching, researching, and performing in a globalized world? What does "migration" lend to an established set of critical optics through which we examine the relationships between dances and cultures: "multiculturalism," "diaspora," "postcolonialism," "transnationalism," "globalization"? These are just some of the questions raised by the essays in this issue.

The influence of human migration on the development of dance was an underlying preoccupation of arguably the most ambitious cross-cultural study of dance. The Choreometrics project was conceived and directed by Alan Lomax, co-directed by Conrad Arensberg, professor of anthropology at Columbia University, and carried out in collaboration with movement analysts Forrestine Paulay and Irmgard Bartenieff. Building on his Cantometrics project, which created a classification system for folk music, Lomax conceived of Choreometrics as a system to identify "dance as a measure of society" (Lomax 2003, 279). The Choreometrics team analyzed films of dances from "several hundred cultures" to identify and "code" the "relative presence or absence of certain movement qualities and certain pervasive body attitudes" (Lomax, Bartenieff, and Paulay 1978, 228). Using computers, the team performed statistical analyses on measurable patterns of torso, palm, and foot movements to determine "trans-regional...


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