Preserving dance, making history: the role of the historian in dance performance.

Carter, Alexandra (2006) Preserving dance, making history: the role of the historian in dance performance. In: Music, Environmental Design and the Choreography of Space. Lasker, George E., ed. International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, Tecumseh, Canada. ISBN 1894613457. [Book Section]

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In dance, where there is generally no recourse to score or script, issues of preservation have been extensively explored. The position taken here, however, is not that of the reconstructor or of those who record performance but that of the historian. In order to illustrate the strategies adopted by the dance historian, a case study is offered of ballet in London at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a pertinent example, for no dances from the period are extant. How, then, does the historian deal with the ‘traces’ of the dance, left not in performance itself but in written/visual primary sources? Artistic convention distorts the visual image; written accounts are personal and conflicting; vested interests colour the record. Nevertheless, it is the historian’s role not to describe but to interpret and it is the very instability of the dance event which the sources produce which is of prime interest. For the historian, the ‘performance’ resides not in an attempt to construct an accurate account, but in the many versions of ‘the’ dance. The preservation of performance is, therefore, about the preservation of perception. It is this which keeps the history of dance always ‘on the move’.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Papers from the 7th Symposium on Systems Research in the Arts, held in 2005 in Baden-Baden, Germany, as part of the 17th International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics.
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts
Item ID: 4729
Depositing User: Prof Alexandra Carter
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2010 15:18
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 02:13

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