What’s in a “dancer”? What’s in a dancer as part of Artscross?

Giorgio Agamben writes in ‘The Coming Community’ that “the antinomy of the individual and the universal has its origin in language” (2009, 9), making the point that the way language is used “transforms singularities into members of a class, whose meaning is defined by a common property” (ibid.). Agamben states that we are dealing with “linguistic being”, a “being-called”, which highlights that the distinct singularities that are grouped together in words has much to do with the way that language works.

If we think of the word “dancer” in this way and in the context of Artscross, I wonder what we are describing here beyond the linguistic category that the term is creating, in practice terms, in suggesting a “common property” to the practitioners involved here.

If, as Agamben suggests, “the comprehension of singular distinct objects m in a whole M is nothing but the name” (ibid.), I wonder if this thought is quite liberating in terms of the pluralities of training systems and backgrounds involved in this project. Are we dealing, as he further states, with “paradoxes of classes” in simply calling all the practitioners involved “dancers”?

In my engagement with Artscross over the past couple of years I feel we have encountered paradoxes on many levels. Each performance piece created sets up its own parameters in terms of a measurement for what it means to be ‘good’ at ‘dancing something’. Different training systems and traditions entail their own judgements as to what might be ‘right’. The many individual dancers involved in this project, from the three cities Beijing, London and Taipei, bring with themselves different skill sets and sensibilities.

Yet these very sensibilities seem to have perceivably widened in this project here in London. When talking to several dancers involved, there has been a general admiration on behalf of the London practitioners for the technical ability of their colleagues from Taipei and Beijing, and on the other hand an admiration for the London-based dancers’ abilities to express their individuality in their ways of moving very strongly.


Warm-up before first run-through on Wednesday evening

It is perhaps impossible to pinpoint what makes a “dancer” in terms of applying definite qualifiers, applicable across all works created here and all practitioners involved. But it seems to me that each practitioner involved here has been stretched to engage in new experiences, in the sense that they had to leave their comfort zones, even at the very least in the grappling with different languages that has been so much part of the creative process of each work, but in most cases in working in a way that allowed for encounters with elsewhere possible.

And what has arisen, in my view, are zones of contestation of what “dancing” or a “dancer” might be, for each and everybody involved, in each of the performances, which I find beautiful to watch.

Making new experiences happen – creating zones of contestation

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