Letters to Lila and Dramaturg's Notes on Future Memory: Inheriting Dance's Alternative Histories

Elswit, Kate and Nair, Rani (2018) Letters to Lila and Dramaturg's Notes on Future Memory: Inheriting Dance's Alternative Histories. In: The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Reenactment. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 177-214. ISBN 9780199314201


Starting from differences between reenactment and the more established practice of historical reconstruction, leading practitioners and theorists ask how the notion of preservation and representation associated with reconstruction is transformed by reenactment into historical experience and affective relation to the past in the present. In other terms: How does dance convey historical meaning through sensuous form? Danced reenactment poses the problem of history and historicity in relation to the troubled temporality inherent to dance itself. Ephemerality as the central trope of dance is hence displaced in favor of dance as a reiterative practice that confounds categories of chronological time and opens up a theoretical space of history that is often invisibilized by ideologies of immediacy traditionally attributed to dancing. The preponderance of the re- in contemporary choreographic creativity points to the operational value of reenactment in dance as synonymous with cultural production itself inasmuch as culture is engaged with the re-appropriation of signs, citationality, and intertextuality. Collectively, these chapters theorize choreographic reenactments’ potential not only to re-arrange the relationship between past, present, and future, but also to destabilize singular authorship, to unleash choreographies’ multiple meanings, to challenge the linearity of dance history, to rewrite and re-inscribe dance canons, and to the highlight the dancing body’s agentive status as archi


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