Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Tempest at Bard on the Beach

On the last weekend before school starts, Richard and I finally got to Bard on the Beach to see Meg Roe's production of The Tempest. First staged to acclaim in 2008, this reworked version is, courtesy of Christine Reimer's costumes, Alessandro Juliani's original music (played live by a quartet upstage right), and Rob Kitsos' choreography, certain a feast for the senses. The one confusing signal, however, came from Pam Johnson's cooly white and vaguely lunar set, which initially put me in the arctic hinterlands rather than the lush island tropics one assumes the play is set.

Tonally, this is certainly a "lighter" version of the play than I am used to, with the darker psychology that underscores Prospero's dark magic only occasionally bubbling to the surface. This might have been a result of the oddly passive and--it seemed to me--fatigued performance of Allan Morgan in the lead role. Interestingly, though like the other actors he was miked, I found it hard to hear Morgan's lines, and I was struck, in retrospect, by how much time Prospero spends offstage and also, when he is onstage, how often he is positioned as an observer. Lili Beaudoin's infectious performance as Miranda is certainly confident and winning, and it is charming to watch the utterly ingenuous flirtation between her and Ferdinand (a suitably besotted Daniel Doheny) unfold--in part because for once the actors match the roles in age. Again, however, it felt that the more complex emotions behind Miranda's temperament were glossed over. After all, we are introduced to her as she is offering paroxysms of shared grief for the victims of the shipwreck her father has just wrought. We seem to move from this fraught state to lively attentiveness (viz. the story Prospero has to tell regarding how they came to find themselves on this island) a bit too quickly and seamlessly.

Then, too, I wasn't all that compelled by the conspiring between Antonio (Ian Butcher) and Sebastian (Andrew McNee). Granted, the plot to kill Alonso (Scott Bellis) is presented in the play as wholly opportunistic and the arch-usurper Antonio does not give Sebastian a lot of time to rationalize--or doubt--his actions; however, I somehow wished I got a sense that the stakes were higher. Ditto my response to the key relationships between Prospero and Ariel (Jennifer Lines) and Prospero and Caliban (Todd Thomson). The former is as gossamer and delicately poised as Lines' constantly arched right foot, ready to take quick flight into the imaginative ether of beneficit master and willing servant rather than pausing to explore from a more grounded perspective the actual matter of what binds these two together. That is, of course, the perspective one associates with the monster Caliban, who has the greater grievance, and for whom the master/slave relationship is no mere dialectical exercise. But, ironically, he who provides the darkest ballast to the play is arguably overtaken (and undercut) by Roe's  most interesting dramaturgical innovation--turning the buffoonish clowns Trinculo and Stephano whom Caliban conscripts as potential assassins of Prospero into the drunken sisters Trincula and Stephana (and played uproariously by Luisa Jojic and Naomi Wright).

This casting innovation elicits all sorts of added gendered insights into the play. But the burlesque that accompanies it also firmly tips the generic hybridity of this, Shakespeare's most complex romance, firmly into the realm of comedy. And it renders Caliban as the voice of postcolonial resistance doubly impotent--by castrating him twice.


Monday, August 25, 2014

In the Studio with Tara Cheyenne

So today I began a very exciting project--working on a short dance-theatre piece with Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. The catch--and very much terra incognita for yours truly--is that Tara is building the work on me and my oh so not at all flexible body.

It all started with an email from my SFU colleague Dara Culhane, who invited me to participate in a fall "Imaginings Project" sponsored by the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography (of which we are both affiliates--though Dara's disciplinary bona fides are certainly much stronger than mine). The theme of this particular "Imaginings Project" is "Laughing Matters: Humour, Imagination and Political Possibilities." Twelve of us have been invited "to explore humour as a form of imaginative ethnographic practice" in our respective fields, thinking self-reflexively about how comedy, satire and parody might offer a different lens through which to envision our social theory and practice, research methodology, fieldwork and its transcription/translation, etc. And we were given lots of creative license in terms of the form through which we take up such questions: a creative text; images; audio or video works.

Given that my current research is on dance-theatre, and given that Tara is one of the funniest dance-theatre makers I know, I thought it would be great to collaborate on a short video in which she taught me to dance and talk at the same time. That, in and of itself, would be hilarious, I knew. But there were some larger political issues I was also interested in exploring--not the least of which is that humour in dance (when it is allowed) is, as with virtually all comedy, so intensely gendered. Stick a man in a tutu (like the famous Trocks of Monte Carlo), or have him parody Martha Graham (like Richard Move), and it's gut-splitting (though, to be fair to Move, his mimicking of Graham very much oscillates between deliberate send-up--as when Move-as-Martha attempts to learn from Yvonne Rainer her famous "Trio A"--and very sincere homage--as in his reenactment of the iconic solo "Lamentation"). As is the case in other performance modes, women in dance are given far less room (quite literally) to be funny; one sees this, for example, when classic burlesque morphs into striptease--the eroticized dancing female body cannot also be bawdy (something Joanna Mansbridge writes perceptively about in her work on burlesque, including in a book on Women and Comedy that I've co-edited).

As I talked over these and other issues with Tara earlier this month, I also realized that the project would inevitably become something of an autoethnography, particularly in terms of working through some of the complex feelings (including the very unfunny feeling of shame) that would inevitably accrue around my own body when I explicitly put it on display and made it move to set choreography, no matter how basic the steps might be. If Tara is the expert informant in terms of her facility in moving and telling a story in a virtuosically side-splitting way (the metaphor seems appropriate), what would it mean for me, as a decidedly non-virtuosic mover (who nevertheless loves dance), to use humour as means to absorb into my own body some of her training and kinesthetic knowledge? And how might we think of our ethnographic experiments in the studio contributing to a larger discourse around a comedic pedagogy of the body that could be equally useful in analyses of concert dance and social dance?

Okay, so this post is way more theoretical and egg-headed than I meant it to be. Without going into too much detail about what we played with and at in the studio (because I want the finished video to be a surprise, even if it fails utterly in its intent), suffice it to say that I was stunned at what we accomplished in 2.5 hours. Tara is such an amazing teacher, quickly intuiting from our warm-up and early bits of improv that behind my demure exterior there's a showy diva at heart (the reference to the Rockettes probably tipped my hand). Having thus discovered my intuitive way of moving, and using one of my current favourite tunes, she was then able to come up with some simple choreography that I not only felt capable of mastering, but that also didn't feel alien or unnatural. Ditto her methods for finding the threads of a narrative: a series of questions about what makes me happy and what I like to complain about very quickly morphed into the start of a comic monologue that again felt unforced because it came from daily life.

I suppose this is altogether unsurprising for a professionally trained dance or theatre artist (like Tara Harris, who was also with us in the studio capturing everything on digital video). But as someone who mostly thinks about these things rather than does them, the process was revelatory.

I look forward to the next session. And stay tuned for news about the video's posting.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Deadhead in Heritage Harbour

This afternoon I finally made it onto "Deadhead," the large-scale sculpture-cum-installation mounted onto a WW II-era barge and anchored since June in Heritage Harbour, near the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Kits Point. Created by artist Cedric Bomford, in collaboration with his father Jim (a retired engineer), and his brother Nathan (an artist and builder), "Deadhead" is the third and final work in Other Sights for Artists' Projects' "When the Hosts Come Home" series, an ambitious multi-year initiative overseen and curated by Barbara Cole that took seriously the so-called legacy of model sustainability pitched as part of the post-Olympics development of South False Creek. More specifically, Barbara invited three artist teams "whose practices incorporate the use of recycled and refurbished materials to create temporary site specific sculptural works" that would promote moments of social interaction and public agency.

The first work in the series was T&T's "False Creek," a temporary installation that for three weeks during the 2010 Olympics transformed the main concourse of the HSBC's downtown headquarters into a post-apocalyptic green heterotopia. Later that summer Köbberling and Kaltwasser's "The Games are Open" was installed in the undeveloped and fenced-in city-owned lands to the west of Athletes Village.  A larger-than-life bulldozer composed of wheat board reclaimed from the Village development as it was being transformed from temporary sporting dormitories to luxury condominiums for sale, the sculpture has, as Barbara writes on Other Sights' website (and as she talked about at greater length as part of a presentation at the conference on Art in Cities after Mega-Events that I co-organized two weekends ago), "shifted from sculp­ture, to gar­den, to dirt pile, each trans­for­ma­tion dri­ven by the agen­das of assumed own­ers." As many of us saw during Barbara and Lorna Brown and Vanessa Kwan's art amble as part of the Mega-Events conference, the remains of "The Games are Open" are currently being cared for by "rogue gardener" Eklas, who is in a fight with the city for access to water to maintain her truly beautiful plantings.

And, finally, there is "Deadhead," built from a stockpile of salvaged wood and other reclaimed materials into "an imaginative assemblage of sentry posts, guard houses, lookouts and observation platforms" that are "connected by swooping walls and spiraling stairs and ramps." Over various weekends in June, July and August, the Bomfords have hoisted an orange flag on their floating sculpture, indicating that it is open for boarding and exploration by the public, with free ferry service from the dock in Heritage Harbour. Various workshops and concerts and other events have also been hosted on the barge, and one can see how the work's jungle-gym-like construction would be a hit with the kids (several of whom were about today).

However, what was most striking to me were the uncanny perspectival shifts that the work occasioned in my field of vision. Seen from ashore, and in approach via the tiny ferry boat, "Deadhead's" various structural components and different vertical peaks and hybrid surface materials seemed at once of a piece with and totally disruptive of the built skyline of downtown Vancouver and the West End against which it is cast (with the corrugated tin around the spiral lookout tower especially alluding in an ironic way to the glass and steel condo towers for which the city has become known).

At the same time, from on board the ship, looking westward one cannot help but notice the huge tankers and cargo container ships that blot the horizon and bloat the waters of English Bay--a very different kind of visual economy, to be sure. And one that fits, more generally, with my theory of the Vancouver sublime.

On a gorgeous summer's day, staring out at picture-perfect mountains and sea, one's field of vision should be disturbed in such a way. That is what great art does and "Deadhead," like all the works in "When the Hosts Come Home," will haunt my imagination for some time to come.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

At the Culture Lab with Plastic Orchid Factory

Yesterday evening Richard and I, along with 15 or so other invited guests, were given a behind-the-scenes glimpse of plastic orchid factory's new work-in-progress, Digital Folk. The invited showing was the culmination of a three-week creative residency at the Cultch that involved an interdisciplinary collaboration between dance artist James Gnam, visual artist Natalie Purschwitz, sound designer Kevin Legere, and lighting designer James Proudfoot. The work also features the expert simulacral movement and air guitar skills of Natalie Lefebvre Gnam, Vanessa Goodman, Bevin Poole, Dario Dinuzzi, Jane Osborne and ... (I know I'm missing somebody).

As James explained in answer to a question from Dances for a Small Stage's Julie-anne Saroyan, and as Natalie put it in her email invitation to the showing, the work seeks to explore "the role that immersive movement and rhythm based videos games have played in defining a generation’s approach to identity, physicality, social dance and performance." James sees these video games as in many ways defining the folk identity of a generation of millennials who have become virtuosic adepts of mimicked musicality and movement (holy alliteration, Batman!), but in ways that paradoxically alienate them from a kinesthetic awareness of their own bodies in time and space, and that thrust them into an isolated feedback loop with the technology that then becomes an extension of themselves.

In what Saroyan usefully suggested was a "reverse engineering" of the video games themselves, we thus see in the 35-minute piece as it currently stands the dancers responding to different dance routines supplied by various immersive videos, before turning the cameras on themselves as, in a series of slow duets, they start to mirror each other's movements in more intimately responsive ways. We also see the six dancers call upon the arsenal of standard club grooves that gets repeated in many of these videos (fist pumps and hip thrusts and booty shakes) as they respond collectively to the same set of repeated instructions in digitally altered voice-over. A similar repertoire of rehearsed and stored moves is called upon by Dinuzzi in a standout solo to "Pump Up the Jam" that certainly made me see the Ballet BC company member in a brand new light.

There's a whole circuit (as it were) of additionally complex ideas at play in the piece, and it's gratifying to know that the Canada Council, together with the Cultch, is still willing to support this kind of research phase to the building of a piece--in which a lot of smart and talented artists can get in a room together and play. It was a privilege to be able to witness the results thus far, and I look forward to seeing the finished work.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ACME 2014

Tonight, at 7 pm in the World Art Centre at SFU Woodward's, I will be launching along with co-organizers Kirsty Johnston and Keren Zaiontz, and additional colleagues from UBC and Queen Mary, University of London, a conference called "The Life and Death of the Arts in Cities after Mega-Events."

As we note on our website, "The conference aims to begin an international dialogue about the role of the arts in the production of urban mega-events, with a specific comparative focus on both the positive and negative cultural legacies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and the London 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. This event brings together academics, artists, cultural presenters, and urban planners from Canada and the UK in order to re-imagine the impact and relevance of the visual and performing arts in such large-scale events. Through panel presentations and roundtable discussions participants will generate new ways of understanding the pressured and paradoxical context of artists and cultural industries being commandeered to produce and promote much of the theatrical and affective experience of hallmark events, while at the same time frequently being subject to aggressive infrastructural and funding cuts once the event is over."

We've got an amazing line-up of presenters and speakers, including Robert Kerr, Director of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad; Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre in London and Co-Producer of the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremonies; and Neville Gabie, former Artist-in-Residence with the London Olympic Development Authority. Things kick off this evening with a keynote presentation by renowned Vancouver conceptual photographer Christos Dikeakos, who will be talking with my colleague Clint Burnham about his documentation of the transformation of the False Creek Flats in the wake of Expo 86 and the building of the 2010 Olympic Village.

We have also programed several "art ambles" in the city curated by local artist-scholars (UBC's Dylan Robinson and Coll Thrush; Neworld Theatre's Adrienne Wong, who has returned to the city from her new home in Ottawa especially for this event; and Other Sights for Artists' Projects' Lorna Brown, Barbara Cole, and Vanessa Kwan). One of these is actually going on in False Creek South right now!

But for the rain, everything seems to be going ahead as planned (no anxious phone calls yet!). I hope to be able to blog a bit about the event as it unfolds over the next three days--either here, or as part of a team of posters to our ACME 2014 website.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

New Aesthetics and the Vancouver Sublime

Yesterday, at the invitation of Theatre Replacement's James Long, Maiko Bae Yamamoto, and Sarah Moore, I gave a talk at SFU Woodward's to participants of the 2014 New Aesthetics workshop, as well as interested members of the public. New Aesthetics, now in its second year, is a two-week summer intensive in which mid-career artists from Vancouver, elsewhere in BC, various parts of Canada, and the United States share their practices with each other, while also working in the studio with two internationally respected performance makers. This year's facilitators are Mariano Pensotti, from Argentina, and Toshiki Okada, from Japan--both of whom have presented their work to Vancouver audiences as part of the PuSh Festival (along with SFU'S School for the Contemporary Arts, a community partner in the workshop).

This year, the folks at TR were interested in supplementing the in-studio discussions and exercises with public conversations led by local artists (including Althea Thauberger, who will be speaking next Tuesday afternoon) and critics (me). Having been given a sense from Jamie and Sarah of what Mariano and Toshiki were planning for the NA participants, I pitched a talk that would focus, among other things, on "walking and talking; fiction and ethnography; social choreography and mobile intimacies; art in public places; and the Vancouver sublime." The latter topic, excerpted from a larger inquiry into recent site dance in the city, generated a fair amount of discussion. Seeing as we're in the midst of some pretty sublime Vancouver weather of late--but mostly because it's been a few weeks since I've seen any live performance, and I'm starting to feel negligent in my blogging duties--I thought I would share the introduction to the paper from which yesterday's remarks on dance and the Vancouver sublime were adapted.


"Dancing the Vancouver Sublime from Dusk to Dawn"

Against the painterly, late evening backdrop of the north shore mountains, and with the last of the sun’s rays glistening off the water of Burrard Inlet, the first bars of The Flaming Lips’ “What is the Light?” issue from a set of makeshift speakers as first one body, and then another, and then another, manifests on the horizon. Each seems to have emerged directly from the sea, and now advancing up the beach and onto the grass where ranks of onlookers are gathered—some of us purposefully and expectant, others accidentally and merely perplexed—these strangers pause to hail us. One, a man, raises his arm above his head in a static wave, while the woman to his right drops to one knee, supplicant to our collective gaze. Yet another woman, younger than the first, merely stops and stares. Soon these three are joined by others, until they number more than twenty, male and female, young and old, of different shapes and sizes and abilities, all gradually fanning out onto the grass and adding to the group’s cumulative repertoire of proffered gestures: here a woman puts her hands to her head and slowly folds in on herself; there a man opens his chest to the sky; and over there a young girl and a woman I take to be her mother lay down on their backs. Eventually all of the performers will end up supine on the ground. Until, suddenly—how did I miss this?—they are not and, standing upright once again, they begin to march en masse toward the first row of the assembled audience. Despite the warmth of the evening, the open and friendly faces of the performers and my fellow spectators, I feel a slight shiver down my spine and I wonder, in retrospect, if this is due to my excitement at the “destination experience” I am having in my own city, or a suppressed anxiety about who else in this park is being excluded from the eventfulness of this event.

Over three successive weekends in July 2013 I attended four different performances of outdoor, site-based dance in Vancouver, each yielding moments that were similarly sublime—in the dual Burkean sense of inspiring aesthetic awe and inducing feelings of uncertainty, sensory confusion, even fleeting terror (Burke 2008 [1757]). These moments occurred as part of: the Dancing on the Edge Festival’s (DOTE) presentation of the Ontario-based series Dusk Dances, from which my opening description derives, and staged for the first time in 2013 at CRAB/Portside Park in the Downtown Eastside (DTES); New Works’ All Over the Map midday program of “global” dance and music on Granville Island; and Kokoro Dance’s 18th annual Wreck Beach Butoh, held at low tide every summer on Vancouver’s famous clothing optional beach. In the larger essay that flows from these introductory remarks, I suggest that these performances, and my experience of them, help to map a kinesthetics of place particular to the city’s urban geography, and to the cultural, economic, and social asymmetries historically embedded in Vancouver’s performance of publicness. As Lance Berelowitz has persuasively argued, that performance owes much to Vancouver’s waterfront setting, with the consequence that a great deal of “Vancouver’s constructed public realm” takes place “at the edge,” especially along its sprawling seawall and in its many beachfront parks, spaces of leisure activity that have gradually superseded in importance the city’s working waterfront, and that “substitute for the more traditional centrifugal public spaces of older cities” (2009: 128). However, far from being “theatres for vital, legitimate political expression”—as, ideally, most urban public spaces should be—these apparently “’natural’” and “socially neutral” amenities mask, according to Berelowitz, a “highly contrived, ideologically controlled and commodified reality, in which the city’s beaches [and related waterfront destinations, including Granville Island] can be understood as a series of discrete public spaces, in terms not only of built environment but also in social formation, use, and regulation” (245).

Contributing to the “artifice” of publicness produced by these spaces are the increasingly choreographed and highly spectacularized performance events that take place within them, of which the annual Celebration of Light fireworks festival at English Bay is paradigmatic in Berelowitz’s estimation (257-8). The sited dances I am concerned with are in many ways the antithesis of the Celebration of Light’s commercialized ethos. At the same time, each also displays different degrees of social and environmental awareness and solicits different levels of community participation, an attentiveness to the civic dimensions of public ritual that is more or less acute, I want to argue, depending on the extent to which the dances take opportunistic advantage of their sites in order to either strategically uphold or tactically resist the normative placed-based discourses that adhere to those sites. Those discourses, I assert, can be articulated as three versions of a distinctly “Vancouver sublime,” producing a cognitive map of the city that moves—east to west—from the biopolitical to the touristic to the natur(al)ist.

In using dance to lay bare the ideological fissures undergirding Vancouver’s “sense of place,” I am seeking, on the one hand, to foreground the fundamental importance of the physical experience of movement to what Frederic Jameson sees as the alienated metropolitan subject’s “practical reconquest” of the “urban totality” in which she finds herself (1991: 51)—of which we may take (differences in gender notwithstanding) any of Walter Benjamin’s flanêur, Guy Debord’s psychogeographer, or Michel de Certeau’s city walker as exemplary (see Benjamin 1983; Debord 2006 [1955]; and de Certeau 1984). At the same time, I am also hoping to use these case studies from Canada’s west coast to explore, more broadly, the “place” of kinesis within performance studies as a discipline, especially as it helps to connect, conceptually and methodologically, the field’s different strands of aesthetic, ethnographic, and social analysis. Here I take my cue from Dwight Conquergood, who challenged us to push beyond Victor Turner’ influential notion of performance as poeisis, as “making, not faking” (Turner 1982: 93), and to embrace performance as an expressly kinetic form of doing, “as movement, motion, fluidity, fluctuation, all those restless energies that transgress boundaries and trouble closure” (Conquergood 1995: 138). Bearing in mind as well Conquergood’s injunction that “performance-centered research takes as both its subject matter and method the experiencing body situated in time, place, and history” (1991: 187), I thus include as part of my larger analysis partial transcriptions of some of the verbalized thoughts and observations I recorded on three separate walks I took in April 2014 in an attempt to map, both cognitively and kinesthetically, the physical distances and affective connections between my different sites of research.

The idea for this comes from the sensory and performance anthropologist Andrew Irving, who has pioneered a kind of ethnography of interiority, taking a page from modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf by recording the stop-and-start narratives of his subject-informants’ inner lifeworlds as they wander the streets of Kampala or New York City, their observable social actions sometimes more, sometimes less congruent with the dramas going on inside their heads (see Irving 2007; 2011, “Strange”; 2011, “New York”). Because my walks were task-oriented, and tied to specific routes between fixed points, it is perhaps no surprise that the dialogues I conducted with myself (when I actually remembered to speak into the head phone mic attached to my smart phone) end up reproducing aspects of the coercive power structures on display in the city’s grid system, my remarks often tied to familiar landmarks that demarcate a strategic version/vision of recent urban development in Vancouver. At the same time, I have taken abundant liberties with the performative transcription of my autoethnography, tactically editing, reordering, interpolating, and even inventing in order to interrupt prescribed circuits of movement and excavate their sedimented layers of history, deliberately leading readers astray with discursive perambulations that derail the logical flow of my argument. But I am also seeking, in these sections, to superimpose another kind of map of Vancouver, one that constellates the landscape of performance and performance studies research in and of Vancouver by putting my exteriorized interior monologue in dialogue with the voices of other scholars and artists.

In so doing, I am drawing not only on Michel de Certeau’s characterization of city walking as an enunciative act similar to writing and speech, but also on his distinction between the strategic as that which represents the “triumph of place over time” and the tactical as a mobile nowhere “that must accept the chance offerings of the moment” (1984: 36-7; emphasis in original). Thinking about site-specific dance in relation to the social choreography of cities thus means paying attention not just to the (pan)optics of where that dance takes place, but the much more ephemeral and fluid kinesthetics of when, a movement in time between past and present that can produce surprising instances of situational confluence or juxtaposition. As Susan Leigh Foster has argued, in her discussion of the specific social and choreographic tactics deployed by American site-based dance and contact improvisation in the 1970s, “tacticians seeking insights into the kinds of resistive action pertinent to their moment will find that their responses can only be formulated while in motion, in response to the movement that their situation creates” (2002: 144). Applying this principle of kinetic intersection to the aesthetic and identity formations produced through different dance communities in the contemporary global city, Judith Hamera (who studied with Conquergood), has similarly argued for contextualizing dance technique as part of a larger archive of the social work of bodies in “practices of everyday urban life,” one in which “movement with and around other bodies” produces a “relational infrastructure” that binds bodies “together in socialities with strategic ambitions” and produces “modes of reflexivity” that “tactically limit or engender forms of solidarity and subjectivity” (2007: 3, 22). Further, Hamera argues that these mobile intimacies engendered by dancing communities—friendships between dancers, instructors and students, performers and audience members—in turn comprise an important layer of the “civic infrastructure” of contemporary urban living, making the case via her specific Los Angeles focus “for even closer examinations of the ways the daily operations of performance expose, manage, finesse, evade, and often transform the tensions, constraints and opportunities that must be continually negotiated by embodied subjects within the global city” (210).

I am similarly interested in what social, aesthetic, community, and civic relationships get mobilized or, to use Hamera’s phrase, “danced into being,” in outdoor site dance in Vancouver, as well as both the physical and metaphysical limits placed on these relationships by the political horizons in and through which they are constituted. “Such horizons,” according to Randy Martin, often “promise to enlarge the sense of what is possible,” but can also get “lost in daily experience to the enormous scale of society” (1998: 14), a terror in the infiniteness of our local obligations to each other as residents of the global city that in this instance I am calling the urban sublime. For Martin, the bodily mobilizations of dance, especially as they “contest a given space,” can “condense” and make “palpable” what otherwise remains immensely obscure about political mobilization; while Martin resists idealizing dance as “the solution in formal terms to absences in other domains of social practice,” he does suggest that an analysis of the “politics of form” in dance can serve as a method for “generating concepts that are available to theoretical appropriation,” including for critiques of different “forms of politics” (1998: 14-15). This is the method I am attempting in the paper derived from this introduction, using recent examples of site dance in Vancouver to advance a theory about the sublime experience of the city, and its politics of place.

Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Verso, 1983.

Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2009.

Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. 1757. Second edition. Ed. James T. Boulton. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Conquergood, Dwight. “Rethinking Ethnography: Towards a Critical Cultural Politics.” Communications Monographs 58 (1991): 179-94.

---. “Of Caravans and Carnivals: Performance Studies in Motion.” TDR: The Drama Review 39.4 (1995): 137-41.

Debord, Guy. “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography.” 1955. In The Situationist International Anthology. Ed. and trans. Ken Knabb. Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006. 8-11.

De Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Randall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Foster, Susan Leigh. “Walking and Other Choreographic Tactics: Danced Inventions of Theatricality and Performativity.” SubStance 31.2-3 (2002): 125-46.

Hamera, Judith. Dancing Communities: Performance, Difference and Connection in the Global City. New York: Palgrave, 2007. 

Irving, Andrew. “Ethnography, Art, and Death.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (2007): 185-208. 

---. “Strange Distance: Towards an Anthropology of Interior Dialogue.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 25.1 (2011): 22-44.

---. “New York Stories: The Lives of Other Citizens.” cities@manchester, 12 December 2011.

Jameson, Frederic. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.

Martin, Randy. Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
Turner, Victor. From Ritual to Theatre. New York: PAJ Publications, 1982.