Likely Terpsichore? Dancing in the Museum of Ancient History and Archaeology

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    This article looks at shifting experiences of temporality when choreography ‘performs’ as museum exhibit, most specifically when these performances occur within the museum of ancient art and archaeology. I am interested in how we might consider the dancing body in the archaeological museum as a counter-archival object or, to use performance theorist Rebecca Schneider’s reworking of Foucault’s term, as a site of ‘counter-memory’ (Schneider 2011: 105). If and when the dancing body in the archaeological museum becomes a site of counter-memory, might it allow new visibility for those bodies - most specifically those female bodies – previously unrepresented, misrepresented or rendered invisible by history?

    I argue that live dance performance in the museum possesses the potential to articulate the gaps, the intervallic spaces, between temporalities. My thinking here conflates and expands two recent ideas – Rebecca Schneider’s theorizing on performance as ‘perhaps another word for the intervallic’ (Schneider 2016) and Georgina Guy’s idea of the ‘lacuna’ between the performed and displayed which may be ‘encountered anew and imagined through acts of theatre, exhibition and curation’ (Guy 2015: 184) in the museum. By offering a space to allow for gaps or lacunae to appear, the dancing body in the museum opens up a space for other stories, other histories, to surface. As Tony Bennett (1995) reminds us, the museum is a training-ground to think about temporality, to think about time, differently: dance in the museum may then be considered a means to think about history differently.

    This discussion is grounded in an analysis of my current practice-as research choreographing in and for the archaeological museum, specifically solos Myrrha (2015), Philomela (2017) and the forthcoming, durational Likely Terpsichore? (2017) all performed in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in the context of an artistic residency in the Archive of Performance of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD), University of Oxford. This practice in the museum builds on the potential of principles from the ancient Roman solo pantomime form, tragoedia saltata, for creating emotionally resonant dance-theatre performance. Here ancient sources are ‘re-imagined’ in order to find new possibilities for twenty-first century performance. I ask how choreography, like archaeology, allows us to excavate the body and the past. Is this a practice about remembering - or dismembering - an ancient form? What happens when this re-/dis-membering is put on display and exhibited in the museum?
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)66-79
    Number of pages14
    JournalPerformance Paradigm
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


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