Ungoverning Dance: Contemporary European Dance and the Commons.




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Oxford University Press



Peer reviewed



Ungoverning Dance examines the work of progressive contemporary dance artists in continental Europe from the mid 1990s to 2015. Placing this within its historical and political context – that of Neoliberalism and austerity – it argues that these artists have developed an ethico-aesthetic approach that uses dance practices as sites of resistance against dominant ideologies, and attests to the persistence of alternative ways of thinking and living. In response to the way that the radical values informing their work are continually under attack from Neoliberalism, these artists recognise that they effectively share common pool resources. While contemporary dance has in effect been turned into a market, these artists nevertheless value the extent to which it functions as a commons. These artists make works that ungovern dance. Theoretically, Ungoverning Dance begins with a discussion of dance in relation to Neoliberalism and post-Fordism, and then develops an account of ethico-aesthetics in choreography drawing in particular on the work of Emmanuelle Levinas and its adaptation by Maurice Blanchot. It also explores ethics from the point of view of affect theory drawing on the work of Erin Manning and Brian Massumi. These philosophical ideas inform close readings of works from the 1990s and 2000s by two generations of European dance artists: the generation that began showing work in the 1990s such as Jérôme Bel, Jonathan Burrows, La Ribot, and Xavier Le Roy; and those appearing in the 2000s including Fabián Barba, Faustin Linyekula, Ivana Müller, and Nikolina Pristaš. Topics examined in Ungoverning Dance include dance and precarious life, choreographing friendship, re-performance, the virtual in dance, and a dancer’s experience of the Egyptian revolution. Ungoverning Dance proposes new ways of understanding recent contemporary European dance works by making connections between cultural and aesthetic qualities and their social, political, and theoretical contexts.



contemporary dance, ethics, neoliberalism, postfordism, Blanchot, Levinas


Burt, R. (2016) Ungoverning Dance: Contemporary European Dance and the Commons. Oxford University Press


Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies