Moving Publics: Site-Based Dance and Urban Spatial Politics

Date created: 
Site-based dance
Temporary publics
Relational kinaesthetics
Choreographic topographies
Audiencing bodies
Urban proscenium

Moving Publics develops a set of strategies for analyzing how professional site-based dances refunction and reframe the public spaces in which they are set. Using a site-specific methodology, I focus on five case studies in Vancouver (Canada) to advance a theory about the reciprocal relationship between ground and movement—a notion of “choreographic topographies” that is sensitive to the socially and politically inscribed grooves that constitute a given dance’s local emplacement. I examine an archival dance, an “urban proscenium” dance, a vertical dance, a danced walking tour, and a tactile dance to analyze how different forms of site-based dance hail audiences in their bids for curbside attention. These performances, I argue, contain important information about the relationship between a temporary public and the address (in the dual sense of salutation and location) around which that public coheres. I contend that choreographic explorations of public places bring us together to move, or in stillness to watch, in ways that challenge our atomized movement through city spaces. In doing so, these dance-based practices pose questions of aesthetics, use, access, exclusion, density, and mobility in resolutely physical terms. Framed by kinaesthetic concepts (arriving, gathering, following, turning, lifting, passing, and adjusting), Moving Publics proposes a model of choreographic thinking that takes movement as a critical lens as well as an object of study. Extending outward from my study of the choreographic object, I bring a movement interpreter’s attention to the physical arrangements of audiencing bodies in and around the dances I study. I analyze the consequences of coding as theatrical both the publics and the public spaces in which these dances are set, and I examine what dance—a form that regularly relies on directed, delegated, and aesthetic labour in the context of collaborative co-presence—can expose about how we move in and through our cities, with and past one another. The dances I study foreground how the city (a built, legislated, lived, and perpetually unsettled structure) orchestrates a set of quiet choreographies of the everyday even as they reimagine a “relational kinaesthetics” at the threshold of vicariousness.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Dickinson
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.