Dance archive, what does it mean? Do the process of archiving and dancing come together?
Dances have been part of civilizations. As we learn from the past, what could WE learn from dancing?
On Sunday 19th December, I co-animated with other 8 dance and cultural practitioners the Moving Margins Symposium: dance archive in practice through distance and absence.
It offered other perspectives on archiving and archives and highlighted questions of transmission, learning processes and perceptions.
This symposium happened after a 6-months-working laboratory.
You may find more on our projects and the speakers here.
Dancing, an expression form as complex as language
Speaking any language enables communication and reflects a particular reality and beliefs system. It is the same for dancing. The latter should be considered more often when it comes to dances. Many are still facing stereotypes. It goes from being labelled exotic or entertaining, to being categorized as rude or disgusting.
In such a context, how to re-connect with their cultural expressions?
Would it be possible to acknowledge and get to know them?
Throughout this Moving Margins Symposium, the speakers navigated throughout history and geography to underline the depth of various dances and body movements. Approaching them through the awareness of the body enables one to perceive or even understand other realities.
It is the equivalent of going to a country to learn, practice and improve your language skills. We all know the added value it brings!
The cultural exchange starts there.
Dancing, another form of documentation
In several parts of the world, literacy has not been considered the most reliable, sophisticated or valuable form to document. People have used other tools. Dancing is one of them. So, it contains various functions, including archiving history, lifestyle or beliefs system.
Bodies don’t hold the same status or consideration everywhere.
Have a look at how physical appearance is more or less important in some cultures. It is also interesting to observe the rituals of body preparation for funerals. Apart from the spiritual beliefs, they also reflect the attention given to bodies.
When dancing is archiving, bodies become a form of archive, and transmission must happen from generation to generation. Each person takes part in transmitting. Learning and then teaching or sharing holds a crucial value.
Of course, some play a more significant role: griots, storytellers, teachers, masters. Nevertheless, individual responsibility remains.
You may be already familiar with the following African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. This teaching exists in various African cultural groups.
Education — transmission of knowledge — comes from various sources of the community.
In such contexts, individuals and groups are responsible for keeping alive the common knowledge. This information does not lay to books or other materials.
Furthermore, one embraces particular regard towards one’s body.
Why are dances used as an archive?
Living the body in its environment
One reason is that dancing allows us to experience life from our external and internal sensors. The body exists in and with its environment. A dancer pays attention to the breath or the heartbeats, as much as the surroundings. The dancer awareness of the environment increases. They perceive the ground, the sky, the gravity, at the same time.
With our body, we are part of a wider process. When it is agreed, one experiences dancing as a continuous dialogue with one’s environment.
It must happen to find harmony and balance.
It seems to be a persuasive reason to adopt dancing as an archiving process.
The broadcast of the symposium is still available here.