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Dance and Politics

Edited By Alexandra Kolb

This is the first anthology to explore the fertile intersection of dance and political studies. It offers new perspectives on the connections of dance to governmental, state and party politics, war, nationalism, activism, terrorism, human rights, political ideologies and cultural policy. This cutting-edge book features previously unpublished work by leading scholars of dance, theatre, politics, and management, alongside renowned contemporary choreographers, who propose innovative ways of looking at twentieth- and twenty-first-century dance.
Topics covered range across the political spectrum: from dance tendencies under fascism to the use of choreography for revolutionary socialist ends; from the capacity of dance to reflect the modern market economy to its function in campaigns for peace and justice. The book also contains a comprehensive introduction to the relations between dance and politics.
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10 Re-Presenting the Traumatic Real: Douglas Wright’s Black Milk


How can political awareness and social engagement be conveyed without falling back into the rhetoric of ecumenical allegories already programmed by the same political realm one is trying to critique/destroy?

— LEPECKI 1995: 5

Over a decade later, Andre Lepecki’s question continues to reverberate, highlighting the struggles and dangers for those choreographers and dance artists who wish to enter into wider political and social discourses through their work. In 2006, Douglas Wright, one of New Zealand’s most respected and awarded choreographers, made reference to the infamous photos of prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib in his dance theatre piece Black Milk. The performance toured New Zealand (25 March – 8 April 2006) and went to the Sydney Opera House (12–13 April 2006) in Australia, receiving critical acclaim. While Black Milk contained much of Wright’s hallmark stunning choreography, provocative imagery and disturbing themes, the Abu Ghraib sequence appeared a precarious practice, considering the difficulties, ethics and potential for ‘blow back’1 involved in representing the traumatic ‘real’. Wright’s utilisation of the images as the basis for a live action sequence aimed at critique seemed perversely to reinscribe the original humiliation tactics and power hierarchies of the political realm that created them. This was clearly not Wright’s intention and for that matter it did not seem that other members of the audience, ← 237 | 238 → while shocked and disturbed by the scene, were aware of this possibility or read it as such, and nor did the many critics...

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