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Reviewed by:
  • Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance by André Lepecki
  • Sima Belmar (bio)
Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance. By André Lepecki. London: Routledge, 2016; 194 pp. $125.00 cloth, $39.95 paper, e-book available.

Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance. By André Lepecki. London: Routledge, 2016; 194 pp. $125.00 cloth, $39.95 paper, e-book available.

In the first chapter of Singularities, "Moving as some thing (or, some things want to run)," André Lepecki describes a scene that sent me pealing with laughter. Colombian visual and performance artist Maria José Arjona is warming up for her durational performance Untitled (2004) in the gallery specially made for her inside Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt. She is blowing bubbles of "liquid soap laced with vermillion pigment" (28), bubbles that begin to rise from the gallery and threaten the building's protected spaces. Lepecki, who has yet to arrive at the space, receives a call from the technical director who shouts, "The bubbles are everywhere!" Arjona's fugitive bubbles send the house technicians on a frenetic mission to capture them with butterfly nets, and Lepecki finds himself gingerly walking alongside Arjona, who has entered a trance-like state, attempting to ask if it is okay that this mayhem is taking place during her performance. There is so much rushing, dashing, blurting, chasing, splatting, and breathing, so much activity erupting beyond the control of the artist, the curator, and the technicians, it's like a scene from the Keystone Cops!

Taking us through the event with the patience, humility, and wit of a great storyteller, Lepecki accomplishes two tasks with this anecdote: 1) he demonstrates a thing as "less an object than a mode of actioning the absolutely unforeseen" (36), as that which wants to run despite human efforts to run things; and 2) he performs the figure of the "audience as witness" (175), an audience tasked with "the responsibility of caring for a performance's afterlives, by giving testimony" (172). The anecdote does something else as well, something all of his performance descriptions do: it stimulates the reader's nervous system, taking them on a kinesthetic-affective ride straight into the materiality of theory. [End Page 167]

Singularities is a sparkling work of dance theory that reads like an urgent and prescient call to action. It combines performance studies, dance studies, black studies, continental philosophy, and political theory to ask "what it means to be a dancer in today's world" (2), a world governed by neoliberal rationality. The case studies—performances that "gather and take place under the name of dance" (5) by artists from Colombia, the US, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Brazil, Romania, Argentina, France, and Germany—"both express and critique the fundamental elements that define the (irrational) rationality sustaining our age of neoliberal, neocolonialist capitalism," embracing "choreopolitical actions" (5).

Readers new to Lepecki will need to brush up on their Gilles Deleuze since Lepecki has so thoroughly digested his philosophy of immanence. And it doesn't hurt to be at least somewhat versed in black studies, particularly Fred Moten and Stefano Harney's theorizing of the undercommons, which is indispensible to Lepecki's reading of Marcelo Evelin's and Mette Edvardsen's dances in the dark, works that expose blackness as "an onto-political force of disruption" (59). But even without this background, any dancer, dance-maker, or dance lover will thrill to a book that claims dance as "one of the most relevant critical-aesthetic practices in live art today" (7).

The book is also a (tough) love letter to dance. Lepecki reimagines modernity's figure of the silent, spotlit dancer, the "angelologic" servant of the choreographic master, as self-reflexive and historically conscious, skilled and stumbling in the dark, resistant to the physics of flow, "the laminar that imposes upon the turbulent a transcendent principle of ideal order" (154). As a dancer still in love with the organizing principle of the "5-6-7-8!" I bristled at the thought that traditional technique classes are necessarily complicit in constructing an ideal community, "where individuals move about incessantly only to avoid each other and to make of this avoidance the glorious...


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pp. 167-169
Launched on MUSE
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