This article explores the sociocultural and political potential of touch-based somatic practices in relation to a performance by French conceptual choreographer Boris Charmatz entitled enfant (child) from 2011. By doing so it aims to bring together two seemingly incommensurable approaches to choreography: somatic and conceptual practices of dance. enfant is a piece for ten to 26 children (between the age of 6–12), nine professional adult dancers and two machines. The first half of the piece sees the adults manipulating the children, who seem to be asleep, in a doll-like fashion. Though some of the images are visually beautiful and virtuous, there is a sinister tone to the choreography. The piece explores the sensitivities and anxieties around the politics of touching children, addressing social taboos as the children seem vulnerable and helpless at first. As the piece progresses the tables turn, the children awake and start to play and manipulate the adults in a joyful explosion of activity, energy and power. In this article I’m interested in examining how somatic practices, as essentially the ‘undoing’ of learned behaviour, can be extended beyond the body of the individual to the collective and/or social body. Ultimately it questions what the status of children in our society is and how touch-based somatic practices can embody a critique of social, cultural and political norms in the twenty-first century.
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- Boris Charmatz
- soma-conceptual dance