- Futures of Dance Studies ed. by Susan Manning, Janice Ross, and Rebecca Schneider
The exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that I had extended time to think, move, write, and teach with the uniformly strong Futures of Dance Studies. Over a full year, I dipped in and out of this volume’s twenty-eight chapters and their explorations of dance as a “focus of study, means of study, method of study, and motivator of study,” as described by editors Susan Manning, Janice Ross, and Rebecca Schneider (3). Remarkably consistent in the urgency of its stakes and the depth and rigor [End Page 603] of its inquiry, as well as energetic and surprising in its scope and methodologies, Futures of Dance Studies indexes the vibrant present of the field while modeling a mode of scholarly production that is as effective as it is atypical.
In a unique approach to scholarship curation, chapters are linked by means of production: each of the authors was a participant in the six-year-long Andrew W. Mellon Foundation–funded initiative “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities.” This project was codirected by the collection’s editors, and the essays benefit from extensive development within communities of writers and with the editors. Initially conceived by Manning as a “field-building initiative” for a comparatively young academic discipline (4), what became the Mellon Summer Seminars in Dance Studies has produced a body of scholarship that is sure to guide the discipline for decades to come as it builds upon earlier, field-establishing collections such as Corporealities: Dancing Knowledge, Culture and Power (1995), Meaning in Motion: New Cultural Studies of Dance (1997), Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader (2001), and Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader (2008). Indeed, the essays in Futures of Dance Studies extend the historical methodologies and theoretical approaches of these previous canonical volumes into new zones of inquiry, showing how the interdisciplinarity at the heart of dance studies is one of its greatest strengths, particularly in the field’s capacity to put pressure on (often white supremacist, patriarchal, xenophobic, and settler colonial) assumptions about embodiment and their consequences for interpreting movement’s meanings.
Futures of Dance Studies is an unusual collection in that among its voluminous chapters there is no weak link. Chapters span time periods from the medieval (Kathryn Dickason on biblical representations of dance) to the present (Alana Gerecke on site-specific work and the politics of urban planning), as well as geographies, from Cuba (Elizabeth Schwall’s reassessment of the complexities of Cuban choreographers creating under censorship), to Greece (Natalie Zervou’s account of activist choreographies as they move through crisis as a financial order), to China (Emily Wilcox’s deeply researched narrative of Choe Seung-hui’s role in the development of East Asian dance modernism and its circulation). Topics range widely as well, from Clare Croft’s compelling excavation of dance criticism’s lesbian archive, to Lizzie Leopold’s coinage and analysis of the “choreographic commodity” (380), to Rachel Carrico’s nuanced reading of New Orleans second lining in social and concert settings.
The volume is organized in seven sections, each beautifully curated and introduced by the editors: as they note, “Archives,” “Desires,” “Sites,” “Politics,” “Economics,” “Virtuosities,” and “Circulations” each chart only one path through these multifaceted, resonant contributions (7). I would like to offer a few alternative resonances here, acknowledging that space precludes description of each chapter’s achievements. An overall strength of the collection is its attention to racialization, in particular to how whiteness shows up in dance’s aesthetic and cultural labors. One could effectively group essays from Daniel Callahan (on choreomusicality and theatrical dance), Rebecca Chaleff (on the whiteness of imperialism in Romantic ballet), Gillian Lipton (on Dance Theatre of Harlem’s aesthetic and social interventions), and Melissa Templeton (on Les Ballets Jazz and the racial politics of Québécois culture) into a ballet reader that helpfully names and analyzes the historical privileging of this form, and...