Many dancers believe that somatics, postmodern experimentalism, and practices rooted in East/South Asian, Indigenous, or Afro-diasporic forms necessarily make experimental concert dance a progressive field. But what kinds of agency do dancers actually experience? Movement artists design practices that promote ’emptiness’ or ‘unlearning.’ Such methods accrue to single individuals or institutions with fiercely devoted followings. In many cases, these practices reinforce the familiar dynamic between controlling choreographers and endlessly obedient dancers. Often, they are framed as (quasi-)mystical or spiritual endeavors.
Meanwhile, the world at large undergoes larger struggles over embodiment, sovereignty, and survival. Young people reclaim divination and ancestral spiritualities, governments curtail the life chances of marginalized groups, and emergent fascist movements frame political freedom as a matter of physical autonomy. In this moment, bodies are the explicit ground of political action. Further, animist-adjacent ways of knowing — including somatic experience, intuition, and spirituality — are used to justify all manner of gathering, from collective resistance to cult dynamics. As people who specialize in bodily knowledge, dancers are especially poised to ask the question uniting all these projects: When I work, who or what am I asking to claim my body?
This event is a two-part conversation. The questions are big, but we want the exchange to be open and inviting. (In other words, this isn’t an academic conference!)
The first session is a roundtable with artists whose practices explore various connections between movement and intuition, spirituality, etc. Barry will be joined by Gregory Barnett, Zena Bibler, Jade Charon, Dixon Li, and estrellx.
In the second session, attendees are invited to continue the dialogue in small- and large-group settings.
We hope this event will prompt a closer look at dance’s place in the larger field of cultural somatics. Please join us as we ask how our practices align with broader efforts to remake bodies and the world.
Barry Brannum (they/them) is learning how to do whatever needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Their creative practice spans movement, writing, music/sound, research, and teaching. One of their most recent projects, BAROT, is an experiment in combining tarot, performance criticism, and cultural somatics. Barry currently holds lectureships at CalArts and CSU San Marcos, and is a PhD Candidate in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures / Dance.