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Dance And Lived Body

Dance And Lived Body

Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Dance And Lived Body
    Book Description:

    In her remarkable book, Sondra Horton Fraleigh examines and describes dance through her consciousness of dance as an art, through the experience of dancing, and through the existential and phenomenological literature on thelived body. She describes, with performance photographs, specific imagery in dance masterworks by Doris Humphrey, Anna Sokolow, Viola Farber, Nina Weiner, and Garth Fagan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7170-2
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

    (pp. xxi-xlii)

    Perhaps I should not be surprised that my study with modern dance artists stimulated my interest in existential thought and art, even though connections were seldom drawn by the artists themselves (and it is not my intention to label them existentialists). Even some philosophers who are identified as existentialist deny an affinity with the term, which surfaced in the nineteenth century in Kierkegaardʹs call for existential inwardness and was later made popular by Sartre in his defense of existential humanism. Common existentialist threads in the literature and art of the twentieth century have been traced, nevertheless.

    What interests me now...


      (pp. 3-21)

      Existential phenomenology fuses a theory of conduct (existentialism) with a theory of knowledge and meaning (phenomenology), resulting in a humanistic philosophy that includes investigation into language, art, psychology, ethics, epistemology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, religion, law, anthropology, and sociology.¹

      There are obvious connections between existential thought, the body, dance, and art in general, since they are all founded in lived and experiential values. Particular existentialist authors, however, developed views of the human being growing out of theories of the body, which have specific implications for understanding dance (not to mention the other arts, sport, or movement in general). These views of the...

      (pp. 22-42)

      All works of art bear the stamp of individual creation. Neither Martha Graham nor Yvonne Rainer escaped self in their dances. Yet they were both concerned, each in her own way, to transcend self-expression in dance. Rainerʹs efforts in this regard are well known, but it is too often forgotten that Graham openly rejected what she termed ʺself-expression dancing.ʺ Instead she sought a form of ʺcommunicationʺ adequate to her own time.¹ Dance is a form of expression – and communication – that necessarily involves the self. But how? Or under what conditions is self involved when dance is viewed as...

      (pp. 43-56)

      I have said that dance is an aesthetic expression of the body and that the body is aesthetically constituted in dance. This involves a concern for an aesthetic constitution of the self. I have also held that what can be known and subsequently valued about the body and the self through dance is known and valued aesthetically. Such statements require further explanations of the aesthetic and, more particularly, the aesthetic in dance, which involves the ever-present subjective dimension of embodiment – the body-subject, which is impossible to know as the body-object is known. Our subjectivity is lived rather than known....

      (pp. 57-74)

      The affective in dance grows out of its lived ground, a ground that is present in all forms of dance, regardless of whether the dance is performed for others or not. The aesthetically affective arises (in any dance) when the lived ground, the full body consciousness, is vitalized. It is thus that I may actualize the aesthetic when I take pleasure in my dance for myself, but I am not engaged in dance as art until my dance is expressed for others and its aesthetic values are realized between us.

      It is significant that in art, aesthetic values have a...


      (pp. 77-93)

      In part 2, we are still moving away from those futile existentialist views that fail to see meaning in life because they emphasize lifeʹs contingency rather than its cohesion, and fail to see the impossibility of erasing (even in our thoughts, let alone our actions) the compelling connectedness of self, body, earth, and world – a universe (a single verse), rendering both unity and diversity possible. Disconnection is possible only if connection is assumed. Likewise, irrationality stands in relation to rationality, nonbeing to being, negative to positive, and contingent properties must be contingent upon something. In short, all oppositions stand...

      (pp. 94-113)

      Let us begin to consider that dance evolves by means of aesthetic-historic oppositions, and that it does so in relation to defining constants, which are points of departure and return. The purpose of this chapter is twofold, then, and concerned with tensional factors of definition. In view of this, let us first reject the notion that dance can be redefined, as it is often claimed. Rather, we might see that there are constant points of reference in our understanding of what dance is; sometimes these points are even stated, as we name the aesthetic essence of a particular dance and...

      (pp. 114-140)

      Plato succinctly states two areas of interwoven aesthetic values realized through dance: ʺOne department of dancing is the presentation of works of poetical inspiration with the care for the preservation of dignity and decorum; the other, which aims at physical fitness, nobility, and beauty, ensures an appropriate flexure and tension in the actual bodily limbs and members, and endows them all with a grace of movement which is incidentally extended to every form of the dance and pervades all intimately.ʺ¹ Thus he sees that poetic expressiveness as well as beauty and grace of form are the purposes of dance.²


      (pp. 141-158)

      Female-male mythic archetypes generate a plethora of polarized oppositional complements, reflected in various ways in our dance. These I consider in this chapter as yin-yang, Dionysus-Apollo, earth-heaven (mother-father), and nature-culture-still in sight of expressionist-formalist aesthetic tensions and values. First I consider the mythic significance of the founding and recurring expressionist principle of modern dance, its Dionysian, earthly, female, and existentially open essence.

      The new abstract and new expressive dance of the late seventies and continuing in the eighties accounts for the past and uses it. It owes a lot to the postmodern attempt to see dance anew. In its technical...


      (pp. 161-177)

      Thus far, I have been describing dance as purposeful expression, a description I will continue to develop. I have also considered that dance has subjective content (that it is of our sentient selves), that it has objective structure (discernible form), and that these are interrelated in the tensions and polarities of our dance. In these concluding chapters, I consider the lived ground of dance and what the dancer signifies (signs) through this ground. This leads to a further concern for the nondualistic unity of our lived world – our one world – and the proof of this unity that our...

      (pp. 178-189)

      Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre take a particular perspective on time, describing its lived character – its metaphoric and poetic dimension in experience, rather than its objective measure. Space, inseparable from time, is similarly conceived in its poetics by Gaston Bachelard.¹ Preceding their writings was Henri Bergsonʹs exposition of our intuitive grasp of time.² These philosophers are interested in explaining time and space as experienced or perceived in subjective life. As I continue to describe the lived essence of dance in these last chapters, this will also be my concern. Here, I deal with time and space as...

      (pp. 190-208)

      InTime and Narrative, Paul Ricoeur shows how time is experienced through the ʺpoetic sphereʺ of metaphor and narrative, how it becomes human time.¹ My thesis is that dance also reveals time as human time and space as human space in its aesthetic (poetic) constitution of them in movement images. But certainly all the arts reveal time-space as lived in human experience. Dance does this through movement imagery, through structured figures of movement, in time-space. When we describe a dance or its movement images, we find ourselves also describing time and space in human (lived) and metaphoric terms.

      When we...

      (pp. 209-252)

      Because it is embodied, dance always reflects life. Dance imagery, no matter how abstract, has a lived ground: our lived body, our mythopoetic body, and our experience of time, space, and freedom.

      In order to consider various forms that dance imagery may take and to underscore the lived essence of all dance, I will describe specific imagery in dance master works from different historical periods, which illustrate highly contrasting styles of modern dance. First I describe abstract formalist imagery in early modern dance in one of Doris Humphreyʹs works, then symbolic expressionist imagery in a well-known work by Anna Sokolow,...