Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Faculty of Education and Arts


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




This article was originally published as: Phillips, M. J. (2013). Skipping against hegemony: Where are states of lightness in contemporary dance-making? In Dance, young people and change: Proceedings of the daCi and WDA Global Dance Summit. Braddon, Australia: Ausdance. Original article available here


Dance relies on physical ideas born out of human experience. Changes in what we “do” and “transmit” in the context of pedagogy should follow the shifting and informed perspectives of the time, reflecting scientific, sociological, and imaginative advancements and practices. One day, while a young girl skipped down a university pathway, that principle was brought into question. This innocent protagonist’s skipping provoked a search for explanations of the erasure of a complex “foundational” action from the grounds of adult knowledgeable behaviour. Could this dismissal of a physical idea bear any correspondences with a limited range of contemporary dance compositional modes detected in the latest Perth International Arts’ Festival in Australia? Productions like Falk and Van Dijk’s Trust, Platel’s Out of Context: for Pina, and Guerin’s Human Interest Story, while finely wrought excavations of human experience, stood in stark contrast to the playfulness of Teatro Sunil’s Donka: A Letter to Chekhov, a new circus piece. All the works dealt with human dysfunction, but the so-called dance works evinced impasses of doom, whereas Donka’s lightness of touch invited compassion for the absurdity of existence. Why does modern/contemporary dance appear to stress seriousness in its dance-making processes? Is it a matter of proving disciplinary validity or has the discipline of dance become inadvertently too rigid and, consequently, hegemonic in subtle, unintended ways? This investigation examines issues of discipline legitimacy and relationships with socio-political conditions in an attempt to account for the apparent privileging of certain approaches in choreographic training. Philosophically, contemporary dance claims to be porous and profoundly committed to physical inclusivity, so why have quizzical clowns and skipping not been embraced by the discipline? These questions are not identical but this paper aims to explore their interdependency and the trail of incongruities left in their wake.

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