On Political Gestures and Social Choreographic Movements

the-standing-man.jpgA version of this conversation first appeared in DYAD (2014) by Alice Tatge and Therese Steele

1) As an ex civil servant turned choreographer with a particular interest in politically driven social movement, we would be interested in you comparing two distinct acts of protest that occurred in Istanbul during the spring/summer 2013. 

For dance to work as a form of street protest it must be widely known or easily learnt, which generally means a folk dance (for example Wazir Attan in Pakistan or Toyi-toyi in South Africa) or something popular on Youtube (Thriller, Gangam Style, Harlem Shake). Protest dances with new choreography are rare (I can only think of One Million Rising’s dance against violence to women) and require a certain luxury of resources.

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Open House

DSC_0466.jpgOpen House is a short speech and movement score for 10-60 people. Using verbatim text from the national parliament it makes a game of the metaphors of political debates. If political speech is used to choreograph citizens, can that state-wide choreography be applied to a small crowd? And how might that crowd start to take control?

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Censoring Dance

revolutiondancersThe Hong Kong Ballet has been in the news recently for allegedly self-censoring its recent performance of The Dream of the Red Chamber, a collaboration with Germany’s Ballett Dortmund. [h/t Katja Vaghi]

The premiere on 1 November included a 12-minute video of periods from China’s history from the Ming Dynasty through to the Cultural Revolution. The latter featured dancers dressed as Red Guards waving copies of Mao’s little red book’ but this sequence was cut from subsequent performances.

According to the [Hong Kong] Standard the “Hong Kong Ballet explained that the video episode was cut due to technical reasons” while the South China Morning Post writes that  “Some media reported that senior management from Hong Kong Ballet met their German counterparts and decided to cut the section because it was politically incorrect.”

Whatever the story (I’ll be watching this one), here’s a few other examples of censoring dance: Continue reading

Embodied metaphor


“…valley of segregation…”

“…path of racial justice…”

“…solid rock of brotherhood…”

Metaphor is unquestionably a powerful tool in speeches. These are just three from Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the visualisation below shows the frequency of metaphor throughout his historic address (with pink bars representing metaphors and visual words).

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Persuasion is positioning

cicero.jpgRarely is speech simply a medium of communication, the channel along which a message is transmitted from A to B. As ancient rhetoricians understood well, it is the formation of a relationship between a speaker, the audience, and the issue around which persuasion is sought. That relationship shapes the audience’s reception of the speaker and disposes it in particular ways towards the message conveyed. Rhetorical knowledge, then, consists less in advice concerning the truthfullness of the message (as aggrieved philosophers such as Plato complained) than instruction on how an overall performance discloses aspects of the issue, casting it in a certain light and positioning the audience towards the matter in a particular way. Consequently, rhetoric gained a reputation as a mischevious kind of instruction concerned with the play of light and shadow, inviting speech to obscure as much as it illumined.

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