Speeching is a project to find different ways to understand political speeches, not just with our eyes, ears and brains, but by using all of our bodies.
Speeching comes from a wider interest of mine in understanding democratic politics from the perspective of the body – what actually happens physically when we vote, when we demonstrate or when we sign a petition? Perhaps by understanding – or even changing – democratic politics at this level we can find new ways of doing things before we can think of them rationally.
I’m certainly not the first to look at political activity from a choreographic perspective. For example Susan Leigh Foster’s 2003 article ‘Choreographies of Protest‘ reconstructs nonviolent protests from the 60s, 80s and 90s from the perspective of a dance scholar. And Stephen Duncombe Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at New York University approaches politics as a theatrical practice in his work as an academic and an activist.
For Speeching I chose to focus on the archetypal political performance, and there is something of history of analysing speeches beyond their policy content too. This often involves asking a body language expert to offer an opinion on politicians, often in election campaigns. In the most recent presidential race New York University’s Chris Bregler (professor of Mathematical Sciences) and Peggy Hackney (an expert in Laban movement analysis from Berkeley) examined the body language of President Obama and Mitt Romney word by word in a number of speeches and debates.
As a dance project however, I want Speeching to be a studio-based , embodied engagement with speeches. I want to use the sounds, structures, meaning and movement of speeches both as an alternative political education, and as the starting point for choreography.
So as David Cameron delivers his long-awaited speech on the UK’s relations with the EU and Barack Obama delivers his inauguration speech we won’t just be watching and discussing speeches but also singing and dancing them.
Hamish MacPherson is a dance artist.