Things taken as obvious... distort. The speaking dancer and the Question of Being




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Peer reviewed


What do we see when we see a dancer dance? It seems obvious that we see a body moving. But what if the dancer speaks? The animation of the body alone should have told us that we are not only looking at a body. That words are also spoken reinforces the fact that we are looking at a being, a thing-in-animation, and that the pro-duction of movement and word is not reducible to body but is concealed in un-say-ability. How might we say the unsayable being?

This speaking dancer, this living combination of speech and gesture, may also be taken as a paradigm for the problem of considering what we see when we see any human being in its process of being. As Heidegger has observed, ‘things taken as obvious […] distort beings’. When we see and hear the dancer we think we perceive a body that is living. But what we really experience is the living itself in its essence of animation: the human being in the process of its being. How does the obvious presence of the body as the means by which words and gesture are expressed distort the essential being of the dancer? Does the body imply a being that is not there? And if so, is this unsayable being still a being? Does body distort being by obscuring soul?

Flesh is flesh. Space is space. Time passes. Or so it seems. Here, in this room, we experience a dancer who moves and speaks. What can this tell us about the being of human being? We will explore this question through the format of a performative essay involving movement, speech and intervention. We will attempt to disrupt the obvious in order to expose ways of thinking about the question of being through the paradigm of a dancer that speaks.


First performed at conference: Dance Fields: Staking a Claim for Dance Studies in the 21st Century (19-22 April 2017) University of Roehampton. Further developed and performed as part of the Cultural Exchanges Festival (26 February - 2 March 2018) DMU.




Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies