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This special issue, titled “In and Out of Norden: Dance and the Migratory Condition,” focuses on dance moving in and out of a specific location in the world—more specifically the geopolitical region in Northern Europe known as “Norden” in the Scandinavian languages. In the context of dance, the concept of migration has always been relevant. Professional dancers, teachers, and choreographers have been travelling people, and in many cases this professional mobility has neither been voluntarily nor casually chosen. But more generally, whether for economic, political, religious, or other reasons, the mobility of people in the world has been an important factor in the diasporic patterns of all dance genres and forms. In the context of dance scholarship, the issue of migration was brought to the fore when, in 2008, two separate publications highlighted the issue. The essays in the winter issue of Dance Research Journal focused on “ways in which the experience and conditions of migration inform dance performance and reception” (Scolieri Reference Scolieri2008, v) in the context of Mexican danzas chuscas, taxi dance halls, and works of choreographers such as Jerzy Starzyriski, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, and Bill T. Jones. In Migrations of Gesture (Noland and Ness Reference Noland and Ness2008), the contributors addressed ways in which gestures migrate from body to body, from one medium to another, and between cultural contexts of dance practices such as ballet and classical Indian dance. Characterizing the notion of “migration” as opposed to “gesture,” Ness stated that migration denotes a kind of movement that necessarily covers ground. “While a gesture may involve no change of the gesturer's place whatsoever, migrations, by definition, are movements that progress through territory, in and through realms that, regardless of their actual size, are relatively vast with respect to the entities doing the traveling” (Ness Reference Ness, Noland and Ness2008, 260). More important, the chapters in Migrations of Gesture highlighted that migration may occur in the actual world as well as in a virtual realm such as filmic worlds or the Internet. The years surrounding 2008 were actually a time in which the World Wide Web was increasingly discussed—not least at the annual Web 2.0 Summit 2004–2011 (originally known as the Web 2.0 Conference) in San Francisco, California, US. In line with these discussions, dance scholar Harmony Bench introduced the concepts of “Screendance 2.0: Social Dance-Media,” identifying “viral choreographies” as specific dancing in viral videos in which social media users contribute with re-performances of specific choreography (Reference Bench2010). Thus, focusing on ways in which technologies facilitate the circulation and transmission of movements and gestures, Bench pointed to the importance of encounters between bodies and media technologies as an important factor of a general migratory condition.

Needless to say, the first decades of the new millennium have seen an increasing interest in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented by international migration. By means of methodological approaches from the humanities and social sciences, scholars are looking into the patterns, causes, and effects of international migration, asking questions such as the following: How will global warming affect human mobility in the future? What has been the fate of refugees seeking to escape the conflicts in Northern Africa and the Middle East? At the same time, a growing amount of regional studies have connected insights across academic disciplines in an attempt to understand how and why economic and political processes and outcomes are contingent upon regional and local circumstances. In the context of this present issue, it ought to be highlighted that we as guest editors represent members of the former research group Dance in Nordic Spaces, which was formally established in 2007 in connection with the larger research program Nordic Spaces that ran until 2012 (O'Connor, Fauve-Chamoux, and Wahlén Reference O'Connor, Fauve-Chamoux and Wahlén2014). The group included dance scholars from Denmark (Inger Damsholt and Karen Vedel), Finland (Petri Hoppu and Inka Välipakka), Norway (Egil Bakka and Anne Fiskvik), and Sweden (Lena Hammergren and Mats Nilsson). The outcome of the work carried out by the group within the framework of the larger project was published in two separate edited collections, one of which was included in a larger Routledge series titled The Nordic Experience (“The Nordic Experience” n.d.). The first edited collection, Dance and the Formation of Norden: Emergences and Struggles (Vedel, Reference Vedel2011), focused on the role of dance in the formation of Norden and ways in which the concept of Norden has been constituted and contested through dance. By juxtaposing material relating to theatrical, folkloric, and social dancing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, members of the research group examined emerging nations, canon building, local variations of global trends, and democratic practices in the arts. The second edited collection, titled Nordic Dance Spaces: Practicing and Imagining a Region (Vedel and Hoppu Reference Vedel and Hoppu2014), focused on ways in which different dance phenomena have either engaged with or dismantled notions of “Nordicness.” Looking into the ways in which dancers and dance forms move between different locations, organizations, and networks of individuals, the authors considered how similarities and differences between the Nordic countries could be discerned. Investigating patterns of reception at the arrival of dance forms from outside of Norden, as well as how dance from the Nordic countries is received in other parts of the world, the research group gradually became more and more interested in the issue of migration. Thus, combining dance studies, regional studies, and migration studies, members of the Nordic group gradually began to focus on the migratory condition as it manifests itself in dance in Nordic spaces.

Creating a proposal for a special issue of Dance Research Journal, we have intended, as guest editors, to encourage scholars, from inside as well as outside the Nordic countries, to contribute research representing different perspectives on migratory dance practices in relation to the specific region Norden. Migratory dance practices are here understood as changing in location and as integrative to processes of becoming, thus embracing both the migration of dance practitioners and the international mobility of people travelling for business or pleasure, as well as the diffusion of dance ideas, dance forms, or dance elements through imagery disseminated via photos, films, and video. In reference to Arjun Appadurai's notion of the circulation of cultural forms, we highlight the dispersion of dance through a mediascape including social media on the internet (Appadurai Reference Appadurai1990, 301). This issue includes articles on the migratory condition as it relates to many different kinds of dancing, including theatrical genres such as ballet and modern dance as well as popular social and folk-dance genres such as the Lindy Hop, polska, and halling. Furthermore, it includes K-pop and African-derived dancing that represent genres and concepts coming from outside the most obvious Euro-American categories. It should be highlighted that, since the 1960s and 1970s, Norden has appeared as a model of democracy and equality, welcoming immigrants from different parts of the world. However, within more recent decades, different patterns of migration have created a more hostile and xenophobic atmosphere, following anti-immigration trends that have emerged in Europe. The articles in the present issue address questions related to broader issues of gender, ethnicity, race, appropriation, national identity, and dissensus, with respect to their relevance to and impact on the Nordic countries in a global perspective. As it occurs, all of the authors examine how dancing interacts with history and society both on local and regional levels and in a global context, thus illuminating critical questions such as the following: How does circulation and connectivity manifest itself in dance in our era of migration and globalization? How does participation in different dance practices inform the production of identities and vice versa? What forms of embodied agency can be located in migratory dance practices and how can their potential effects be articulated?

In “A Contested Corporeality: Solidarity, Self-Fulfillment, and Transformation through African-Derived Dancing,” Lena Hammergren investigates cultural transmission, generated by the circulation of both dance forms and people in an era of migration and globalization. She traces how two different migratory dance practices, respectively originating in West Africa and the United States, have produced new cultural and political meanings, surrounding the questions of appropriation and ownership in dance, as these have been introduced and practiced in a local Swedish context from the 1960s until our time. The emphasis of her analysis is on particular pedagogical and communicative situations in which the dance practices take place, and the detailed ways in which movements are verbally and corporeally performed and communicated. The study shows that the practices under investigation have contributed to a focus on an embodied self-fulfillment, rather than an interest in learning about cultural and historical specificity. Moreover, it shows that the existing sociocultural power differences between immigrant teachers and nonimmigrant students underline the inevitable framework of cultural appropriation. Hammergren, however, suggests a potential deconstruction of cultural appropriation and structural racism, by pointing to the fact that more recent pedagogical approaches invite students’ critical reflection on the movement material while it is practiced in the dance studio. Thus, such new approaches may in fact result in more reflective and negotiating ways of dealing with cultural encounters in dance.

With Chuyun Oh's article “From Seoul to Copenhagen: Migrating K-pop Cover Dance and Performing Diasporic Youth in Social Media,” the focus changes to a different form of circulation of dance forms. Contrary to the examples provided by Hammergren, dancers do not need to have teachers travelling from one country to another, in this case from Korea to Denmark, in order to learn new dances. Thus, K-pop dance—best known from the viral dance video “Gangnam style”—is effectively and sufficiently distributed through the channels of different social media, and YouTube in particular. Focusing on dance moving in and out of Denmark, Oh examines how COED9, a Danish teenage K-pop dance crew based in Copenhagen, constructs a diasporic, hybridized, and alternative cultural identity through the adaptation of K-pop fandom culture. Danish K-pop fans socialize, build friendships, and perform different personae, becoming parts of a viral community and transnational mediascape through which they learn, perform, and share dance with global audiences, extending and traversing a cultural location of dance within a fixed geography.

In the article “From Local to Global: Reflections on Dance Dissemination and Migration within Polska and Lindy Hop Communities,” Mats Nilsson invokes two more dance forms, the polska and the Lindy Hop, providing examples of how these forms move in and out of Norden. As argued by Nilsson, both forms were originally used in contexts of local community dancing: polska as a rural dance form in many European countries and Lindy Hop as an urban form in the United States. Later, however, both forms transformed into being the turning point of transnational post-urban dancing communities connected to Sweden. The polska was revitalized in the context of Nordic folk-dance revivals in the 1970s, and since then the Swedish polska dance movement has become a worldwide phenomenon. The Lindy Hop was revitalized in the context of the 1982 establishment of the annual Herräng Dance Camp in Sweden, featuring iconic Lindy Hop dancers such as Frankie Manning, and eventually growing into being the largest swing dance event in the world. Dancers travelling to Sweden in order to participate in polska dancing and Lindy dancing exemplify transnational prefix-dance communities, as Nilsson terms them, referring to a need to define dancing as being focused on a specific dance form or belonging to a certain culture, ethnicity, or nation.

The significance of nationality in relation to dance is further discussed in Anne Fiskvik's article “Renegotiating Identity Markers in Contemporary Halling Practices.” In this article, Fiskvik investigates how the Norwegian dance form halling is rearticulated in theater dance works by the Norwegian choreographers Hallgrim Hansegaard and Sigurd Johan Heide. Fiskvik examines what can happen with the halling, typically seen as a marker of Norwegian identity, when traditional “halling moves” are negotiated in an interplay between these and other moves and forms of dance from different cultures in a global context. Anne Fiskvik regards Hansegaard and Heide as wayfinding artists whose remix and rearticulation of halling problematizes the notion of halling as an ancient, fixed national dance form, while simultaneously challenging the power structures surrounding it within the Norwegian folk-dance field. According to Fiskvik, Heide and Hanseggard experience their work as existing between two worlds, a national and local folk-dance world as well as a global and international theater dance world, and the two choreographers manage to make artistic statements while still being able to negotiate halling from within the national folk-dance community.

Finally, in Karen Vedel's “Migratory Choreography and Spaces of Resistance,” the focus shifts back to the migration of people, or rather the ways in which theatrical dance can make statements on unidentified and/or silenced realities of immigrants. Vedel examines two contemporary dance works produced and premiered in Denmark in 2016 at the height of a European refugee crisis. Uropa – An Asylum Ballet featured six professional dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet and six asylum seekers from Eritrea, Syria, Burma, Pakistan, and Uganda. Republika was an independently produced solo performed on stage by Edhem Jesenkovic, a Bosnian immigrant. Using the term migratory choreography, Vedel wants to avoid a supposedly consensual understanding of migration as a grace note in the history of an otherwise homogenous and unchanging culture, but instead, situates her analytical stance in an everyday life marked by the migration of people and its entailing cultural transitions. She underlines that Uropa and Republika, each in their own way, function as choreographic interventions into a nonconsensual society focusing on the interrelationship between the choreographed articulation of the embodied experience of migration, recent restrictions in Danish immigration policies, and the event of the performance as it is actualized in the encounter with an audience.


We would like to thank Helen Thomas, editor in chief, for generously allowing us to edit this special issue of the Dance Research Journal. We also want to direct a special thanks to Birgitte Schepelern Johansen, associate professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies and Centre for Advanced Migration Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Thus, in the summer of 2017 she commented on earlier versions of the articles written by Fiskvik, Hammergren, Nilsson, and Vedel.

Works Cited

Appadurai, Arjun. 1990. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” Theory Culture and Society 7: 295310.
Bench, Harmony. 2010. “Screen Dance 2.0: Social Dance-Media.” Participations. Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 7 (2): 183219.
Ness, Sally Ann. 2008. “Conclusion.” In Migrations of Gesture, edited by Noland, Carrie and Ness, Sally Ann, 259280. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Noland, Carrie, and Ness, Sally Ann, eds. 2008. Migrations of Gesture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
“The Nordic Experience.” n.d. Routledge. Accessed February 2, 2020.
O'Connor, Pat, Fauve-Chamoux, Antoinette, and Wahlén, Staffan. 2014. Evaluating the Research Programme Nordic Spaces. Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. Accessed February 2, 2020.
Scolieri, Paul. 2008. “Global/Mobile: Re-orienting Dance and Migration Studies.Dance Research Journal 40 (2): vxx.
Vedel, Karen, ed. 2011. Dance and the Formation of Norden: Emergences and Struggles. Trondheim, Norway: TAPIR Akademisk Forlag.
Vedel, Karen and Hoppu, Petri, eds. 2014. Nordic Dance Spaces: Practicing and Imagining a Region. London: Routledge.