Dance and Gesturing to an Elsewhere
Daniela Perazzo Domm, author of Jonathan Burrows: Towards a Minor Dance, examines the choreographic work of Jonathan Burrows.
In a year when a global pandemic has forced many to avoid all but strictly necessary travel, it feels strange to think that my encounter with the choreographic work of Jonathan Burrows is entangled in so many ways with travelling. It started on a late summer’s day in 2003, when I drove to Linate, one of Milan’s airports, to meet Burrows, who was arriving from London having been invited to perform at Uovo Performing Arts Festival, where I was working. Only a month or so later, I myself travelled to London, leaving Italy and my hometown to study for an MA in Performance and Culture at Goldsmiths College. It was here that I started to research Burrows’ choreography, later embarking on a PhD in Dance Studies at the University of Surrey. Venturing into dance studies was in itself a journey for me as, while I felt at home in the field of performance, dance was a discipline I had only just begun to move towards.
In the three years that followed, travelling took the form of trips to performance venues, archives and Jonathan’s own home to gather scribbled notes, audio recordings and memories of his pieces. The research didn’t stop when personal life circumstances led me to move to Brussels in 2007 and then to Berlin in 2011. Here too I kept in touch with Jonathan and his work until returning to working in academia and to London in 2015 allowed me to reshape the research into a monograph project, with the aim to include Jonathan’s more recent work up until 2018 and focus more closely on his collaboration with the composer Matteo Fargion. I feel proud that, after extensive rewriting of the doctoral thesis material, the book, Jonathan Burrows: Towards a Minor Dance, has found a home in Rachel Fensham and Peter Boenisch’s excellent series ‘New World Choreographies’, published by Palgrave, which champions scholarship that promotes a rethinking of what dance might look like, signify or do.
One of the key ideas I work with in the book – which is also invoked in its title – is Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of minor practice: a political, subversive way of rethinking a major tradition from within. This reworking of a dominant language enacts a deterritorialisation of accepted codes from a minoritarian position; it is a gesture that destabilises expectations, pointing to the possibility of acting otherwise and of imagining an elsewhere from within a known framework. Through this lens, the book elucidates and reflects on the ways in which Burrows’ works produce a sustained rethinking of the possibilities of choreographic form and of dance’s potential for social critique. Examining choreographic pieces from Burrows’ 30-year repertoire, the book argues that they articulate a poetic language that, through strategies that involve an engagement with rhythm, gesture, relationality and laughter, reach towards an otherwise – an alternative way of thinking and practising codes and rules. A form of travelling from within, of reimagining conventions to account for alternative positions: a choreographic strategy that, it seems to me, has something important to say about how we might reimagine practising rules more broadly – from rethinking moving and travelling during a pandemic to reformulating structures that celebrate plurality and account for otherness and in-between spaces.
Daniela Perazzo Domm is Senior Lecturer in Dance at Kingston University London. Her research interrogates the intersections of the aesthetic and the political in contemporary choreography. She writes on the ethical, po(i)etic and critical potentialities of experimental and collaborative dance practices. Her research has been published in Dance Research Journal, Performance Philosophy, Performance Research, Choreographic Practices and Contemporary Theatre Review. She is co-convenor of the TaPRA Theatre, Performance and Philosophy working group, Events Secretary of the Society for Dance Research and a long-time collaborator of Triennale Teatro dell’Arte (Milan, Italy). Her book Jonathan Burrows: Towards a Minor Dance (Palgrave, 2019) is her first monograph.