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Body/Bodies Series Lecture: Susan Leigh Foster - "Performing Authenticity and the Labor of Dance"

Event Type
Presented by IPRH and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, with co-sponsorship by the Spurlock Museum.
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum (600 S Gregory St, Urbana)
Feb 13, 2014   4:30 pm  
Susan Leigh Foster
Originating Calendar
Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH)

This danced lecture interrogates the explicit body presented in performances of competition dance on television shows such as So You Think You Can Dance. I look specifically at how dance serves in these spectacles as guarantor of authenticity and of a rigid set of gendered identities. Invoking neo-Marxist theories of affective labor, I show how dancers on these programs enact a cycle of alienation and hyper-devotion to the practice of dance, one that replicates the endless drive to consume that marks our contemporary moment. By looking closely at the expressions of surprise, gratitude, and praise for others that the dancers must perform, I consider how the competition’s protocols re-produce the lack of distinction between motivated and unmotivated relationships that is pervasive in our culture. 

A reception will follow the lecture.

This event is free and open to the public.

About the speaker: 

Susan Leigh Foster, choreographer and scholar, is Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. Her research areas include dance history and theory, choreographic analysis, and corporeality. She is the author of Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance (University of California Press, 1986), Choreography and Narrative: Ballet's Staging of Story and Desire (Indiana University Press, 1996), Dances That Describe Themselves: The Improvised Choreography of Richard Bull (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) and Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance (Routledge, 2011). She is also editor of three anthologies: Choreographing History (University of Indiana Press, 1995) and Corporealities (Routledge, 1996) and Worlding Dance (Palagrave, 2009).

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