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Abstract

The documentation of dance regularly asserts a false concept. This is that dances can be fixed, like a text, script, painting or even a musical score. Dance academics and organizations like ballet companies and the trusts that claim to protect and preserve the heritage of specific choreographers protect this idea. Focused far more on outputs than production, they decontextualize dance by ignoring its context: the working process. Notwithstanding the problematics of this assumption about the archival form of such material, that the tokens of the types that Wollheim (1968) posits as necessary are simply too flexible to be captured as definitive, this in itself presents a creative opportunity. This paper posits this working process as played out in performance as well as the confines of rehearsal, and gives as a practical example the performance of a work by the same dancers across a thirty-year timeframe, presented alongside the original video material.

For dancers and choreographers there is a more subtle process of evolution that occurs with the regular performance of a dance: the dance changes itself to suit its purposes, and this often renders the meaningfulness of documentation an academic (or more lately legal) exercise. Evidence for this can be found not only in the experience of dancers, but in the actions of choreographers dealing with their own works, even when they are considered classics. Dances, it seems, simply wear out unless they are subject to regular revision and a definitive version cannot be said to exist. This is not to say an account of a dance is impossible, but to suggest there are conditional features that need taking account of, and to question the artistic validity of ossified reproduction.

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