Jonas Rutgeerts is a dramaturge and dance theorist.
Currently based in Belgium, he received a PhD in philosophy during 2019. The focal point of his research pivoted on highlighting dance as a vital form of cultural and social practice.
His forthcoming book Unbecoming Rhythms: Performing Temporality in Contemporary European Dance delves deeper into this research, going on to reveal how choreography experiments with our concepts of time. Due to be published by Intellect Books, it will build on theoretical perspectives on temporality and a detailed examination on choreographic practices.
In this reading list Dr Rutgeerts offers an anthology of books that explore all facets of dance, including ideology as performance in dance, how dance plays role in the queer world and it’s importance in Latino culture.
Social Choreography: Ideology as Performance in Dance and Everyday MovementAndrew Hewitt
I would like to start the list with a book that has been formative for my research: Andrew Hewitt’s Social Choreography. Although the book is quite dense and complex, its basic idea is simple, elegant, and – above all – highly original. In the book, Hewitt develops the concept ‘social choreographies’ to show how dance is used as a “structuring blueprint for thinking about and shaping modern social organisations”. Through dancing, we can experiment with new political orders and develop new societal relations. Although Hewitt focuses mainly on the 18th and 19th centuries, I think the idea of social choreography can also be applied to many contemporary cultures of dance. Think for example of club culture. As the term already suggests, clubs are not only places where we come to dance, but also microcosmic worlds within which we can explore new political collectives and experiment with new social relations.
Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities on and off the StageJane C. Desmond
Although the edited volume Dancing Desires is already quite old, it is still a timely and urgent book. In the book, Jane C Desmond and 17 other dance theorists explore the erotics of dance, delving into the physical and mental pleasures of dancing, as well as of watching dance. From the outset, they relate this analysis to the fields of feminism, gay and lesbian studies, and queer theory. As such, the book not only shows how dance is connected to desire but also how exciting, unruly, and provocative this desire can be once it is disconnected from the traditional heteronormative dichotomy, which frames the female dancer as an object and the male onlooker as the subject of desire.
Impossible Dance: Club culture and Queer World-MakingFiona Buckland
In Impossible Dance Fiona Buckland is also concerned with queer theory. Focusing on the gay, lesbian and queer club culture in the 1990s in New York City, Buckland explores the radical potential of the club dance floor for a renegotiation of questions of gender and sexuality. Queers, who were denied access to most public spaces, sought refuge in the clubs. As such club culture and club dancing became powerful building blocks for the development of new alternative communities and for the creation of a political imagination that is not based on heteronormativity. Buckland, who did four years of fieldwork for the development of this book, describes these alternative lifeworlds in a style that is accessible, but also rich in details and nuances.
Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o AmericaCeleste Fraser Delgado, José Esteban Muñoz
With Everynight Life, we shift the focus from club dancing to another prominent trope within popular dance culture: Latin dance. In this anthology, Celeste Fraser Delgado and José Esteban Muñoz bundle several essays that all explore how ‘Latin/o’ expresses itself through the act of dances. Although these essays all approach the material from a different perspective, they all explore the relation between dance and the construction, rehearsal, and/or subversion of the racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes that are associated with ‘Latin/o’. In doing so they not only view dance as a powerful medium for identity formation but also analyse its potential as a tool for cultural resistance, showing how dance gestures can easily transform into a provocative socio-political grammar.
Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black LifeTavio Nyong’O
Although dance is not the main – or, at least not the sole – focus of this book, I still wanted to include this book on my list. The book is not only an insightful description of specific cultural expressions that are developed by Black queer artists but also an inspiring analysis of the political potential of these cultural expressions. Drawing on Sadiya Hartman’s concept of critical fabulation, a method that can be described as “as straining against the limits of the archive to write a cultural history of the captive, and, at the same time, enacting the impossibility of representing the lives of the captives precisely through the process of narration”, Nyong’O shows how queer people of color use cultural expressions to rethink their relation to past and future temporalities. According to the author, queer dances such as Voguing can critically question traditional historical narratives through the creation and embodiment of new ‘fabulous’ historical figures.