Bodies and Machines foregrounds the issue of physical ability in dancing bodies, exploring the spectrum of aesthetic possibilities from the greatly challenged body to the extraordinarily skilled body, integrating diversities of ability in dance with social and cultural ideas about physical skill, relationships between machines and the body, kinds of ability and disability, cultural stereotypes associated with physical abilities, and issues in Disability Rights legislation.
The purpose of this section of Accelerated Motion is to explore the interconnections between bodies and machines in contemporary dance. We will look at a variety of choreographies that incorporate machines or devices of various sorts in order to extend the movement capacities of human bodies. We will also investigate how we use machines in our daily lives, culling movement possibilities from these interactions. Most importantly, however, these discussions will lead us to reflect on the myth of the dancer’s body as a perfect, well-oiled, and efficiently working machine. This, in turn, will help us understand how physical limitations, rather than restricting our access to dance, might inspire new movement possibilities, leading us to re-imagine which bodies can be seen as dancing bodies.
All human bodies share an extensive number of similarities, yet individual bodies vary widely in movement capacity, including such factors as size, strength, and flexibility among others. Some bodies are severely limited by specific physical restrictions in motion while others are maximized through the practice of a variety of training systems. Moreover, the same body undergoes changes in capacity throughout the life cycle. Dancing bodies come in a range of sizes, shapes, ages and skill levels, an important notion to consider in a democratic society whose constitutional values espouse egalitarian ideals regarding inclusion and access.
- What is a “normal” body?
- How can bodily capacities be altered by machines?
- Do gender and age play a role in the kinds of skills or capacities a body can have?
- Do physical abilities determine or influence an individual’s social value?
- How are bodies with specific physical challenges valued and/or restricted from participation in public life?
- How are bodies with extraordinary physical skills valued and/or restricted from participation in public life?
- How does the U.S. government address public rights for persons with varying physical abilities?