How do the dance worlds intersect with feminism and freedom?
The mechanical repetition of the cycles of industrial and post industrial capitalist production -the homogeneity of productive time- now extended through prostethic technological approaches to productivity (smartphones in capite) impose on the human circadian cycle, according to Lefebvre, a determinate biological rhythm (Lefebvre, p. 10), like that of a metronome, which replicates the very same abstract homogeneity of a timeless time -precisely that of the anonymous production of serial reproducibility-. A metronome -this is the suggestive image Lefebvre uses- marks no sequence but the framework of an ever-present-continuous, homogeneous, now. Such a rhythm differs, in its patterns, from that of human cycles (breathing, pulse, heartbeat): the human circadian cycle, even when considered as a series of repetitive patterns of movement (think on the repetitively movement of breathing, for instance, or the pulsing pattern of blood pumping through veins), is also characterized by evident alterations of such cycles, and a characteristic and unavoidable directionality that underpins that of mundane repetitiveness: that of birth, growth and decay (Lefebvre, p. 24), which is radically different from that of commodity production cycles in modernity (Lefebvre, p. 15). The normativity of modern production of commodities colonizes the body, imposing its logic -its time-space productively mechanical practices- as a prescriptive interference in human cycles. This interference restricts -as any other form of colonization- the capacity of the interfered body to act freely since, according to Bergson -as quoted by Groz-, free acts "are those that spring from the subject alone, and not from any […] manipulated behavior around the subject" (Groz, p. 6) Even though one might question the notions of freedom and manipulation underpinning this account of a free act, the main idea is that of action as connected to an active self: the emphasis of a free action is placed not on the subject -the agent- but in the action itself (Groz, p. 10), thus the ability to make an activity, to perform an action -or being restricted from it, being denied of such a possibility- is the measure of freedom. This account of freedom, then, stresses the need for positive action (Groz, p. 3), rather than understanding the body as a bearer of rights, thus avoiding the collapse of legislation and biology that so often ends up in biopolitics -under its traditional forms of racism, colonialism et al-.
If, following Bergson, freedom then belongs to the realm of actions, processes and events (Groz, p. 14), then it is unavoidably related to the body's own capacity of movement. Here is where the political emancipatory possibilities of dance are to be appreciated: the capacity dance has to break the normativity of both biopolitical and industrial capitalist -impositive and homogeneous- understanding of movement, repetition and cyclical reproducibility of both (movement and time), expands the variety of activities a body can engage into (Groz, p.15). Hence, the necessarily prescriptive critique of, for instance, hall dances during the first half of the XX century, since they represented a possible space of freedom for the working classes (Wagner, p. 307).
The prescriptive regulation of dance halls impinges directly over the working body embodiment of its own cycles as separated from those of the reproducibility of commodities and commodified time, pushing into it -forcefully- the regulatory and previously regulated cycle of serial production, thus avoiding the erasure of the paradigms of class, gender and race dance allows (Cf. Tomko, pp. 28 and 101: "the major innovation of dance was that a woman and a man placed their hand on each other"). The possibility of bodily pleasure experienced in dance (Tomko, p. 102) implies a break -I would like to call it a leisure break- into the productive logic of industrial and post industrial capitalism -even more, of any totalitarianism, may it be capitalist, national-socialist, patriarchal or communist- since it aims only to the possibilities of individual pleasure in movement (Tomko, p. 102) "that would have been unacceptable in any other public arena", such as that of the workplace.
Elizabeth Grosz. Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art. Duke University Press. 2011.
Henri Lefebvre. The production of space. Oxford, OX, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : Blackwell, 1991.
Linda J. Tomko. Class: Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Divides in American Dance, 1890-1920. World, 2000.
Workshop/Co-imaginar desde el cuerpo: prácticas colaborativas en la danza. Caracas/Venezuela Saturday, February 24, 2018. Abarcaracas. Caracas, Venezuela.