National Dance Platforms. A comparative study of the cases in Germany, the UK, Sri Lanka and Israel

  • Gustavo Fijalkow

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis explores the hitherto hardly investigated phenomenon of the national dance platform (NaDaP). NaDaPs are dance festivals in which three elements converge: they raise the claim of representing the nation, they present contemporary dance and their targeted audience is mainly (foreign) dance programmers. Despite the phenomenon being a global(ised) one, it only exists through local iterations. The thesis argues that both local and global dimensions interact and influence each other in the phenomenon. The questions leading the investigation are whether NaDaPs mediate or represent a nation, how they claim national-ness and to what extent this reflects back on the structure and content of each iteration.

Using the system of cultural flows proposed by anthropologist Arjun Appadurai and called scapes (Appadurai 1990, 1996), this thesis explores the streams of ideas, people and finances that interact at NaDaPs in their local and global dimensions and problematises the contradictory ways in which dance interplays with global(ised) systems of power. Using a mixed-methods approach, the study produces close readings of platforms in Israel, Britain, Germany and Sri Lanka; specifically, International Exposure 2015, British Dance Edition 2016, Dance Platform Germany 2016 and Shakti. A Space for the Single Body, and explores the ideologies that governed the events.

NaDaPs emerged in the 1990s, in the context of a globalised neo-liberal economy that favoured the constitution of dance pieces as marketable goods. While the phenomenon of the NaDaP had the positive effect of increasing the visibility and growth of contemporary dance, this thesis investigates the ideologies governing the notion of contemporaneity and questions whether contemporary dance might at times act as the folk dance of hegemonic nations, while NaDaPs act as agents of a neo-colonial system engaged in expanding its markets.

Further, under the lens of the financescape the thesis investigates the situationality of dancers with bodies that are described as ‘non-normate’ for not conforming to presumptions of the ‘non-disabled’ dancer. I argue that they subsume both the resistance to and the endorsement of a system that constructs dance as a commodity and propose ‘non-normatisable’ as a denomination that reflects this complexity.

The thesis concludes by discussing the existence of Danceland as a non-territorial imagined community (Anderson 1983) that presents many characteristics of a real-existing nation and paves the way for further explorations of the phenomenon of the NaDaP. The concept of Danceland leads to ask what its own NaDaP would reflect and how it would contrast occurrences in other lands. But more importantly, it emphasises the shared responsibility of all actors in the transnational dance community, to co-create their own environments asserting their positionalities with strong political voices.

Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor), Victoria Thoms (Supervisor) & Adrian Palka (Supervisor)

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