Improvised forms of life: Negotiating ideological formations within contemporary dance
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Can dance improvisation be cast as a site for the production of concepts and practices supportive of contemporary forms of life? In this thesis, I start with an acknowledgement of both the promises and pitfalls of lives lived in an open relationship to form—liberated from normative ideas about what a life should or can be, but precarized by the techniques of neoliberal governance—and investigate the potential of dance improvisation in relation to negotiating the conditions of collective ongoingness in the face of material and epistemological uncertainty. To do so, I begin by mapping a critical discourse within dance studies which problematizes the ideological trappings of contemporary dance improvisation, framing dance improvisation as a biopolitical mode of subjection. Normative understandings of movement, essence, and therapy cast dance improvisation as a field which is, according to the biopolitical critique, not yet an adequate site of support for collective ongoingness. However, by showing that the clusters of concepts which define dance improvisation as an ideological assemblage take on alternative meanings in other fields, I demonstrate a certain flexibility within dance improvisation. Acknowledging and enacting this conceptual flexibility frames dance improvisation not only as a possible source of support for the complex challenges of the present, but indeed as an object with the potential to continue to adapt to the critical demands of the future.