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This essay brings the work of Georges Perec, the experimental twentieth-century French writer, into contact with dance. It considers ways that Perec's writing and post-modern dance share certain compositional processes and categories, such as Perec's four “fields” (the “sociological,” “autobiographical,” “ludic,” and “fictive”) and concerns (such as time, attention, and exhaustion); aspects of autobiography, such as acts of disclosure and mystification, and resistance to conventions of self-representation; the central place of the body; and the ways these forms so differently express, suggest, or evade what cannot be said in words. Written from the perspective of a dancer/scholar, it explores the experiences of dancing as they connect to ideas articulated or suggested in Perec's writing, and it demonstrates ways that dance may be created and viewed through a Perec-ian lens.
The articles that follow in this section developed out of an improvised dance and papers presented by a panel of scholars based in the United States and the United Kingdom at the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) 2008 conference at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.
1. One day, my father and I stood, chatting, in a bank lobby. “I just don't get it,” he said. “You've got more brains in your head than you have in your feet.”
2. My husband sings in an a cappella chorus, and for one Mother's Day concert we all wore necklaces emblazoned with words our mothers had never said. “Choreography and dance,” mine proclaimed. “What a wonderful career choice!”
3. After watching me perform some years ago, one of my children offered the following critical précis: “Your bra was sticking out.”
I could go on with tales of familial, as well as fraternal and collegial, disinterest and disappointment, not to mention resentment and the occasional frisson linked to artist children and parents, associated with a career that seemingly joins the extremes of narcissism, the temporal and physical limitations mandated by the life cycle of the human body, and the apparent separation from the left-brain activities supported by other fields and disciplines.
On April 3,1917, dancer Valentine de Saint-Point performed at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House. It is accepted as common knowledge (a term which may be stretching the point somewhat, given the relatively small body of writings which refer to her) that she was a) a Futurist, b) one of the very few, if not the only, female Futurists, and c) the only, if not one of the very few, Futurists to perform in New York.
Actually, none of these “facts” is entirely documented. In this essay, I will leave the third point untouched, assuming this aspect of Saint-Point's singularity to be at least relatively accurate. The second point I will deal with obliquely; that is, rather than debating whether her position as a woman among the Futurists was unique, I will consider how she saw being female as meaningful in her work. The first point interests me as well—again, obliquely. I will not argue here for or against Saint-Point's definitive categorization as a Futurist. Instead, by verbally reconstructing a performance and analyzing a body of written work related to it, I will examine Saint-Point's associations with Futurism and other experimental movements in performance taking place within the same general timeframe.
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