Towards a Decentered History of Dance

Genre : Communiqués
Principal country concerned : Column : Dance
Release/publication date : February 2020
Published on : 03/02/2020
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Towards a Decentered History of Dance
International Conference / Lyon, France
September 17-19, 2020
Institutional partners: Centre National de la Danse, Lyon Dance Biennale,
CNSMD de Lyon, ENS de Lyon

How is history moved, reconfigured, stimulated, by current research on dance? In connection with the forthcoming publication of A History of Dance in the West (Ed. Seuil, Sept. 2020), this international conference aims to extend questions addressed by scholars' contributions to the book, as well as generate entirely new dialogues via various acts of "decentering" dance historical scholarship. The polysemic notion of decentering is here understood as an invitation to reevaluate theoretical models, methods, approaches and historiographies of dance (see specific themes
proposed below).

One idea for a choreographic inspiration for the decentering process are Alwin Nikolais's 1970 experiments and development of a "travelling center". For Nikolais, decentering the dancing body provided emancipation and an opening up of the body's expressive forces, especially in relation to a heritage of codified, hierarchical methods of organizing the body in dance training. Just as Nikolais experimented with a multiplicity of impulses and a polyfocality in space and time, this trans-period
conference Towards a Decentered History of Dance hopes to valorize and initiate new ways for researchers to modulate their viewpoints (geographically, through time periods, aesthetics, genres, ethics as well as in relation to both artists and audiences of dance) concerning the history of embodied movement, that is to say, both theatrical as well as social dance practices.

Decentering is thus understood as an intellectual process of deconstruction, in which "moving the center" is a means to decolonize and reorient research perspectives, theoretical notions and methods by which dance practices and cultures have historically been legitimized or ignored ("center vs. periphery", "capital vs. province", "noble/savant vs. common/popular", "occidental vs. oriental", "high art" or theatrical dance vs. "folklore" or "ethnic dance"). Decentering the dance historian's perspective is a theoretical and methodological gesture requiring an effort of reflexivity and a
certain willingness to take risks. This is particularly pertinent where deconstructing hierarchies, reconceptualizing categories, reinventing and redefining sources and methods is concerned. Our intention is to generate a safe space for new knowledge and scholarship emerging from a decentered state of potential off-balance. Conceptualizing how people from different regions of the world relate to and have related to one another in the past via dancing and via movement experiences like Nikolais's "travelling center" will hopefully allow new research in dance history to
resonate with the various intellectual and corporeal imperatives to "move the center" that have been challenging a variety of fields in the social sciences and humanities.

We propose the following (non-exhaustive) possibilities for themed proposals (for a detailed description of each theme, please see our website) :
1. Decentering source material for dance history
2. Decentering spaces, places and geographies of dance
3. Decentering the gaze
4. Decentering the œuvre in dance
5. Decentering gender in dance
6. Decentering corporeal expressions of emotion

This international conference, Towards a Decentered History of Dance, organized with the support of the Lyon Dance Biennale, the National Center for Dance (CND), the National Superior Conservatory for Dance and Music (CNSMD) of Lyon, and the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) of Lyon, is open to all dance researchers and seeks particularly to encourage the submission of proposals by emerging scholars and doctoral students.

Submissions The deadline for submissions (in French or in English) is March 13, 2020. Please send proposals of no more than 500 words, accompanied by a title, your name and contact details by email.

The conference will endeavor to provide simultaneous interpretation in both French and English for all papers.
In order for conference proceedings to be published not long after the event, presenters will be required to submit a written version of their paper ahead of the conference.
There are no registration fees. Limited help with travel and accommodation may be offered to presenters, especially emerging scholars or those with no institutional support, on a case-by-case basis.

Organizing Committee
Laurent Barré (Centre national de la danse), Laura Cappelle (CERLIS), Elizabeth Claire (CNRS/EHESS), Marie-Hélène Delavaud-Roux (Université de Bretagne Occidentale), Marie-Hélène Garelli (Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès), Mariem Guellouz (Université Paris Descartes), Felicia McCarren (Tulane University), Florence Poudru (Passages XX-XXI, CNSMD de Lyon), Aude Thuries (CEAC, Université de Lille)


  • Arterial network
  • Media, Sports and Entertainment Group (MSE)
  • Gens de la Caraïbe
  • Groupe 30 Afrique
  • Alliance Française VANUATU
  • Zimbabwe : Culture Fund Of Zimbabwe Trust
  • RDC : Groupe TACCEMS
  • Rwanda : Positive Production
  • Togo : Kadam Kadam
  • Niger : ONG Culture Art Humanité
  • Collectif 2004 Images
  • Africultures Burkina-Faso
  • Bénincultures / Editions Plurielles
  • Africiné
  • Afrilivres

With the support of