Tracing Dynamic Spatial Histories and Networks of Movement on the Move

Presentation by Kate Elswit
Thursday, April 13, 5:00-7:00pm
Dwinelle Hall, 44-B (level C)
UC Berkeley, Department of Dance

This talk is based on a series of collaborations between Kate Elswit and Harmony Bench regarding the ways in which digital research methods can work in tandem with more traditional scholarly methods to manage the scale and complexity of data in accounts of what we call “movement on the move,” which we explore through the phenomenon of dance touring. In the first part of the talk, I draw on the project’s early research into South American tours by Anna Pavlova’s company during World War One and American Ballet Caravan during World War Two, to argue that a better understanding of the transnational networks of dance touring is critical to placing dance within larger theatrical and cultural systems. Larger questions of mobility, transportation, infrastructure, and cultural transmission are central to studying dance touring, and digital methods of research and representation can greatly assist scholars in the comparative analysis and interpretation of this phenomenon. Here focus is on the database and the map as tools that expand our capacity to trace “dynamic spatial histories of movement.” In the second part of this talk, I turn to a new collaborative work in progress that focuses on the archives of Katherine Dunham. While Dunham toured with her company like other mid-century dance artists, she also travelled for film engagements, curatorial work, as well as her own anthropological research, through which she cultivated a global network of support and influence. This new work broadens the scope of our focus on touring to show the scale of networks surrounding a single mobile artist, and what such networks propose for dance history.

Bio: Kate Elswit is Reader in Theatre and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and author of Watching Weimar Dance (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Theatre & Dance (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming Theatre& series). She has won three major awards for scholarly publications—the Gertrude Lippincott Award from the Society of Dance History Scholars, the Biennial Sally Banes Publication Prize from the American Society for Theatre Research, and honorable mention for the Joe A. Callaway Prize—and her research has been supported by many sources, including a Marshall Scholarship, a postdoctoral fellowship in the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities at Stanford University, the 2013 Lilian Karina Research Grant in Dance and Politics, and a most recently a Batelle Engineering, Technology, and Human Affairs (BETHA) Endowment Grant with Harmony Bench. Her essays appear in TDR: The Drama Review, Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, Art Journal, Performance Research, Dance Research Journal, New German Dance Studies, and The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics. She also works as a choreographer, curator, and dramaturg.