Sei sulla pagina 1di 4

publications in the eld of South Asian dance.

path for dance as a ne art in the eld of analytic

In my conclusion, I should emphasize that aesthetics.1 His 1992 book, Understanding
these two texts are outstanding monographs, Dance, following Francis Sparshotts 1988 book,
not just in the specic area of South Asian or Off the Ground: First Steps to a Philosophical
Indian dance scholarship, but because they also Consideration of the Dance, was a signicant intro-
produce knowledge that has far-reaching impli- ductory step toward situating dance in a eld that
cations for the wider academic discipline of has traditionally focused primarily and nearly
dance research. Srinivasan and Sonejis detailed exclusively on painting, sculpture, literature, and
archival work and analyses offer a fresh perspec- (more recently) music.2 In general, dance has
tive on the past, and also suggest new possibilities not been taken seriously as a legitimate art form
and directions for research on dance through the by the philosophic academy; indeed, it was orig-
lenses of citizenship, immigration, belonging, and inally excluded from Hegels system of the ne
embodied memory. Both demand that dances arts (see Sparshott 1983). Analytic aesthetics has
past be reread in order for its present-day practice yet to fully recover from this historical exclusion.
to be rediscovered. Their interventions in histor- The articles and books on dance in the eld have
iography are timely, necessary, and invaluable. been sporadic, often ad hoc, and dance has yet to
attract enough scholars of analytic aesthetics to
Prarthana Purkayastha sustain a robust dialogue on what counts (or
Plymouth University, United Kingdom should count) as the key features of dance as art.
In light of this background, it comes as
Works Cited no surprise that The Philosophical Aesthetics of
Dance, McFees follow-up to and extension of
Kersenboom-Story, Saskia C. 1987. Understanding Dance, draws heavily on the lar-
Nityasumangali: Devadasi Tradition in South ger body of rigorous literature that exists in
Asia. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. the analytic aesthetics of both the concept of
Meduri, Avanthi, ed. 2005. Rukmini Devi art in general and on music, the art that is per-
Arundale (19041986): A Visionary Architect haps closest to dance given its performative,
of Indian Culture and the Performing Arts. non-clearly-text-based, and often abstract
New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. nature. Although he avoids one traditional
OShea, Janet. 2007. At Home in the World: focus of analytic aesthetics by refusing to pro-
Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage. vide a denition of dance as art, eschewing the
Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. philosophical practice of constructing de-
Srinivasan, Amrit. 1985. Reform and Revival: nitions that requires dance to be dened in
The Devadasi and Her Dance. Economic & terms of its necessary and sufcient conditions
Political Weekly 20(44): 186976. (those conditions without which dance could
Srinivasan, Priya. 2007. The Bodies Beneath not be what it is and that distinguish dance
the Smoke or Whats Behind the Cigarette from all other forms of art), his book does
Poster: Unearthing Kinesthetic Connections cover a large portion of the other categories
in American Dance History. Discourses in under which art is discussed analytically (see
Dance 4(1): 748. 270). Its strengths for analytic aesthetics lie in
his detailed and in-depth discussions of what
should count as a dance work of art (what
The Philosophical Aesthetics McFee calls a dancework) for purposes of
numerical identication, appreciation, and his-
of Dance: Identity, Performance,
torical preservation. Particularly helpful is his
and Understanding discussion of how a dancework should be con-
strued as (1) neither autographic nor allo-
by Graham McFee. 2011. Binsted, Hampshire, UK:
Dance Books Ltd. xvii + 342 pp., appendix,
graphic under Nelson Goodmans categories
bibliography, notes, index. $34.95 paper. in Languages of Art, but a performable and
doi:10.1017/S0149767713000077 re-performable artwork with a certain history
of production (see Part One); (2) an abstract,
Graham McFee is one of the few philosophers who structural type for which subsequent per-
can be credited with helping to pioneer and forge a formances are tokens (see Part One, Part

142 DRJ 45/2 AUGUST 2013

Four, and Appendix); (3) an authored work cre- aesthetics more than it serves the interests of
ated by a choreographer that has a historical dance as it is actually practiced and enjoyed.
identity, meaning, and continuity that should Perhaps there is something to be celebrated in
depend in part (although not exclusively) the personal, communal, and tribal practices
upon what the choreographer intended (see of dances being taught and conveyed
Part Two and Part Four); (4) a work whose per- person-to-person in a way that is admittedly
formances are performed and interpreted by often messy, disorganized, and performer-
(but not created by) dancers (see Part Three); inuenced. And perhaps just as much is gained
(5) an object with perceptual artistic properties as lost when translations and retellings are not
that is to be understood appreciatively and con- duplicated exactly but embellished, tweaked,
ceptually (see xii, 150, and Part Four); (6) an and changed with each new version of a dance
intentional object that exists in a broadly insti- that emerges.
tutional context under a concept of art (see Another possible problem is that even if
xiv, 1502, 1678, 2728); and (7) an object one accepts the connes of the analytic aes-
that can be reconstructed and re-performed thetics terms of this discourse, it is not clear
under certain conditions (see Part Four). that McFee is correct to hold that dance as a
Despite this heroic attempt, one might ne art produces only works that are created
wonder whether an analytic philosophy of to be performed and re-performed (1603).
dance as ne art construed under the traditional One might hold, as David Davies does, that a
categories of analytic aesthetics (constructed one-time improvised dance performance, or
primarily with the creation of enduring entities part of a performance, even though it was not
such as paintings, sculptures, and poems in conceived in advance as performable, or
mind) is adequate to tell us something impor- recorded later to be re-performed (what
tant, even metaphysically important, about Davies calls a work-performance), can still
dance qua dancean art form that McFee be what he calls a performance-work of art
would undoubtedly admit is as much character- rather than a non-art happening, as McFee
ized as being an ephemeral art as it is by the his- characterizes it (see Davies 2011, 189 and
tory of its enduring works (see 96). Further, it 13743 and McFees The Philosophical
could be suggested that it is precisely this ephe- Aesthetics of Dance, 160). If so, then there may
merality that provides an exciting, immediate, be a repertoire of truly ephemeral danceworks
have-to-be-there temporality to dance as art, or parts of danceworks that were intended to
and that it is this, perhaps, rather than the vanish as soon as they were performed that
enduring works, that accounts for dances McFees theory does not address. One can
unique character (see Conroy 2012). McFees only presume here that he would nd these
book, in contrast, suggests that ephemerality works to be even more problematic than those
in dance is primarily a problem responsible that were intended to be re-performed and
for causing works to vanish from the repertoire were lost to dance and art history. Again there
and that this problem ought to be corrected is missing a sense of any possible artistic and
through broader adaptation and use of dance aesthetic virtue that might attend these
notation. Indeed, he goes so far as to suggest even-more-deeply ephemeral features of some
that dance would benet from teaching all its dance performances.3
dancers and choreographers to learn and use A related criticism of McFees account of
dance notation in their dance-making and dance as ne art is that perhaps there is art in
-learning practices; the score could then, the performance of dance, even in those cases
McFee posits, be treated as a normative recipe where there is an underlying and continuing
that provides constraints on which perform- structure that can be properly credited to the
ances (and features of performances) count as choreographer as author. Here I am envisioning
tokens of the type (see 97, 1015, and 1603). the case where there is such a degree of expres-
Notwithstanding the very real preservation sive or stylistic features that are imputed to a
problem involved in dances ephemerality, one performance by a particular dancer that we
might question here whether this enhanced may want to consider that contribution to be
focus on work identity and history is something creative, imaginative, thoughtful, and originat-
that serves the categorizing interests of analytic ive in the way we construe art-making to be,
DRJ 45/2 AUGUST 2013 143
rather than merely the skilled application of division McFee attempts to draw between artis-
dance as technical craft. Indeed, in many cases tic (creative) and non-artistic (interpretive)
there are features of danceworks that are practices must line up with which features
appreciated by dance critics, in practice, as rel- numerically identify a dancework according to
evant to understanding a dance as a form of its essential, rather than manifest, properties
art that are not attributable to either creation (see Van Camp 1980, 30). Art may lie in
by the choreographer or interpretation by the whatever activity creates properties in the work
performer but that can instead be viewed as a that can be critically appreciated as artistically
sort of artistic making by the performer. As relevant (e.g., expressive, stylistic features). In
Julie Van Camp has pointed out: this way a dancework may contain properties
that we want to call artistic in order to identify
Dance has no standard division them as creative rather than interpretive that do
of labor. The choreographer not belong to the underlying structure of the
can provide more or less of the performance that continues in subsequent
design details through individual performances.
coaching. Every dancer necess- The nal issue to be raised here by the
arily creates when he [or she] approach taken by McFee in The Philosophical
adds details not designed in Aesthetics of Dance is whether dance (even as a
advance by the choreographer. ne art) is best understood through the heavily
If the choreographer does not cognitive and conceptual sort of appreciation
indicate placement of the head that McFee prescribes (see 23841). McFee dis-
or the ngers, for example, the misses all other ways of accessing dance, for
dancer must choose their place- example, eschewing subjective, experiential,
ment consciously or unreec- bodily, and kinesthetic methods as either
tively. When a dancer destructive or not relevant to the philosophic
substitutes his [or her] own understanding of dance as ne art (1837). If
complete movement design for phenomenological approaches are not relevant
a certain passage instead of just to dance, and if attempts to use research from
adding details to the choreogra- cognitive science in efforts to characterize the
phers design, the dancer is experience of dance are not relevant either
even more clearly acting as the (see McFees dismissal of attempts to incorpor-
creator of the movement, though ate proprioception, the mirror reex and mirror
this still misleadingly might be neurons into our appreciation of dance at 188
considered interpretation. (Van 205), then the approach that McFee suggests
Camp 1980, 30) seems narrow indeed. Even in the analytic aes-
thetics of literature and music, there is work
In this case, it might be that much of what we being done to recognize the ways that the arts
care about in a dance, and focus on for purposes affect us in emotional and in non-purely
of artistic judgment and appreciation, is part of rational ways (see, e.g., Robinson 2007). Here
either a one-time performance of a dance, or of someone who is interested in dance in cognitive,
the way that a dance performer conveys the appreciative, and experiential ways (from both
piece, that may not be merely an interpretation the studio point of view and the audience
of what the choreographer has envisioned but point of view) might ask whether the benets
something creatively new that the dancer has of viewing dance in McFees way outweigh the
added. cost of giving up focus on emotional responses,
In short, it may be the case that a distinc- visceral reactions, and a full understanding of
tion can and should be drawn (and indeed is what is felt as well as cognitively apprehended
drawn in critical and appreciative practice) in our encounters with dance.4
between artistic contribution for purposes of Notwithstanding the criticisms above, The
assignment of authorship to a work, and artistic Philosophical Aesthetics of Dance can still be
contribution as a matter of attributing credit to viewed as successful when understood on its
who has contributed what to any given per- own terms and for what it tries to do, which
formance. It is by no means clear that the is to show how dance can be construed in a

144 DRJ 45/2 AUGUST 2013

coherent and well-supported way that ts the Dance (2011), and we cannot presume that
ne art model as it has been conceived by ana- McFee had access to his argument.
lytic aesthetics. Even if one chooses to approach 4. The studio point of view is the term
dance in another way, it is certainly of some used by Susanne Langer in Chapter 2 of
value to consider how dance might belong not Feeling and Form (see 15) to characterize the
just in our social lives, our tribes, our temples, point of view of the artist making the artwork
and our communities, but as a ne art of the a view that is often opposed to or in conict
eighteenth-century, Western European sort. with the critics point of view.
There should be room in dance theory for an
analysis like this of dance as part of high culture
that can be analyzed in cognitive, abstract, and Works Cited
intellectual ways as well as felt and experienced
in our blood, bones, sinews, nerves, and hearts. Conroy, Renee. 2012. Dance. In The
Continuum Companion to Aesthetics, edited by
Aili Bresnahan Anna Christina Ribeiro, 15670. New York:
University of Dayton Continuum International Publishing Group.
Davies, David. 2011. Philosophy of the Performing
Arts. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Langer, Susanne K. 1953. Feeling and Form: A
Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a
1. By analytic aesthetics I mean the meth- New Key. New York: Charles Scribners Sons.
odological tradition that is practiced in Western McFee, Graham. 1992. Understanding Dance.
philosophy departments that focuses on dividing London: Routledge.
broad areas of inquiry into discrete categories Robinson, Jenefer. 2007. Deeper than Reason:
that allow for focused, specic, and in-depth Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music
analysis within and between these categories. and Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Others who can be credited with bringing a Sparshott, Francis. 1983. The Missing Art of
discussion of dance to the notice of analytic Dance. Dance Chronicle 6(2): 16483.
aesthetics include (and this list is by no . 1988. Off the Ground: First Steps Towards
means exhaustive) Susanne K. Langer, Monroe a Philosophical Consideration of the Dance.
C. Beardsley, Nelson Goodman, Adina Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Armelagos with Mary Sirridge, Joseph Margolis, . 1995. A Measured Pace: Toward a
Francis Sparshott, Arnold Berleant, David Best, Philosophical Understanding of the Arts of
David Carr, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Nol Dance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Carroll, Julie Van Camp, Renee Conroy, David Van Camp, Julie. 1980. Anti-Geneticism and
Davies, and Anna Pakes. Other dance philoso- Critical Practice in Dance. Dance Research
phers, historians, and anthropologists, most Journal 13(1): 2935.
notably Selma Jean Cohen, Sondra Horton
Fraleigh, Alfred Gell, Judith Hanna, Sally Banes,
and Susan Leigh Foster, have also inuenced Urban Bush Women: Twenty Years
how analytic aesthetics views dance, as have of African American Dance
many prominent dance critics. Theater, Community Engagement,
2. Francis Sparshott followed this with an
and Working It Out
extensive and comprehensive attempt to exhaust
the eld of analytic dance aesthetics in his giant by Nadine George-Graves. 2010. Madison, WI: The
tome, A Measured Pace, published in 1995. No University of Wisconsin Press. vii + 230 pp.,
similar attempts have been made since then photographs, notes, index. $29.95 paper.
to provide a dance text for use by analytic doi:10.1017/S0149767713000089
3. McFee does not address Daviess In 1984, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar founded the
account here, but he is not to be faulted for Urban Bush Women, which has since become
that given that Daviess book was published in an important part of the American dance land-
the same year as The Philosophical Aesthetics of scape. For Zollar, dance is a powerful means of
DRJ 45/2 AUGUST 2013 145