Deconstructing the staged death in 20th and 21st century concert dance: a phenomenological investigation of choreographic potentiality

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amy C. Smith (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Larry Lavender

Abstract: This study investigates choreographic and performance decisions and philosophies of performing death onstage in four distinct concert dance works: Michel Fokine's The Dying Swan, Vaslav Nijinsky's The Rite of Spring (and other recreations), Angelin Preljocaj's Blanche Neige, and Maureen Fleming's Nude Descending Stairs. I analyze the imagistic and symbolic representations and embodiment of death presented in all of these works through personal observations as well as research of choreographic intention and critical and scholarly reviews. My experiences with these distinct choreographies unearth five perpetuating themes related to philosophical and psychological interpretations of death's social and physical presence: the dramatic death; becoming and transformation with a focus on a shared performance experience; the life/death/rebirth cycle; sacrifice; and gendered portrayals of death. To gain further knowledge of these themes, I created my own performance of death in a piece titled Elementary Cycles, which directly involves choreographic ideas and symbols previously explored by other choreographers. This phenomenological approach to danced death not only gave me greater bodily knowledge of the five themes but also reveals the choreographic potentialities, or future choreographic possibilities of staging a dying body, imbedded in this study of performing death.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Birth, Choreography, Cycle, Dance, Death, Performance
Death in the theater
Choreography $x Psychological aspects

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