The relationship between politics and human movement has been made explicit in London over the past few weeks. Last night's timely discussion at the Southbank Centre set out to explore the ways movement involves politics. Using the "Move: Choreographing You" Hayward Gallery exhibition as a reference point, Andre Lepecki chaired Xavier Le Roy, Bojana Cvejic and Tania Bruguera in a fascinating and light-hearted discussion.
Referring to William Forsythe’s observation of choreography as a ‘system of commands’, Lepecki kicked off proceedings by suggesting that this requires obedience on the dancer’s behalf. The power relationships between the dancer, choreographer and spectator became a consistent thread in the discussion. The political division between art and dance, the politics involved in making and performing work versus the political implications of the finished product and the apparently controversial exhibition title were also hot topics.
Defending the imperative nature of the title (Move: Choreographing You) curator Stephanie Rosenthal explained that much of the work presented in the exhibition and over the weekend entails manipulation of the spectator, either physically or mentally, by putting the spectator in a specific position. This approach allows the choreographer or artist to operate their ‘system of command’ on someone other than the dancer. Le Roy suggested that an important aspect of the dancers’ role within the exhibition is that they control when the movement occurs. They offer it to spectators - they are not objects. By putting the spectator into an uncomfortable or unusual situation and changing the expected role of the dancer a political act takes place. Ironically the actual movement becomes less significant - it’s a static revolution.
It was the intrinsically political nature of performance that dominated the discussion. However dance has been having an increasingly interesting relationship with big P politics over the past year or so. With arts cuts biting, the vast number of people present in the Purcell Room suggested that, although we are not yet marching on Millbank, there are plenty of people who would be more than happy to choreograph, perform, attend and discuss a protest ‘movement’ should the need arise.
By Hetty Blades
Image: Xavier Le Roy, Low Pieces is performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall tonight at 8pm, tickets £17.