Anna Leon

TQW Theory – new perspectives


TQW Theory – new perspectives

Tanzquartier Wien is rare among contemporary dance institutions to have an in-house role exclusively dedicated to theory, that I take on with a mix of excitement and responsibility.

Dance theory instigates modes of engagement: modes of seeing, sensing, understanding, relating with dance. It is itself developed by a vibrant community of researchers working both with dance-specific methodologies and in exchange with fields including anthropology, philosophy, media, cultural and gender studies. I see the theory programme of Tanzquartier first and foremost as a public platform for the dissemination – and recognition – of this work. Through monthly dance theory lectures, focusing on current and emerging topics – from the application of digital humanities in the study of dance to the affective politics of care enacted through choreography – it will make manifest the variety of contemporary dance-theoretical research, while framing it by interdisciplinary perspectives provided by Thomas Edlinger and Janine Jembere’s curated events.

Beyond disseminating academic research, the theory programme will present the constellation of voices gravitating around or across the university realm, triggering and interrogating it. Focussing on work by independent researchers and culminating in bi-annual events – at the intersection of conference, workshop and public forum – that will turn the contemporary dance institution into a space for research, it will interrogate how shifting the frameworks where theory is practiced can multiply its insights.

Dance theory is a generative, constantly evolving toolbox, its malleability persisting despite unequal distributions of epistemic power, validating and entrenching certain forms and sources of knowledge production over others. Mediating exchanges between theorists, practitioners and dance (studies) students, the theory programme will support knowledge flows and encounters – and, therefore, transformations. Through a continuation of the Labs interdisciplinary research residencies and new collaborations with universities, it will incite the creation of ephemeral communities of diverse agents, bearing witness to the unpredictable forms of thought that can spring from their being-together.

While the interrelation of theory and practice has long been accepted, and while artistic research is widely recognised, entrenched demarcations are slow to dissolve: it is still crucial to interrogate what theory can do in practice; it is still crucial to insist that choreography does – embodied, experiential, performative – theory; it is still crucial to trigger permeabilities between them. To open cracks and leeways, I will be working closely with Bettina Kogler, Christa Spatt and Linda Samaraweerová to make crossovers between the performance, body & performance practices and theory domains; and will focus on practice-based research, integrating lecture performances and other boundary-indifferent formats in the theory programme.

Dance theory is a lens through which one can look at dance, corporeality, motion, performance; but what lenses one chooses influence how one will see. A curatorial role entails the responsibility of choosing some of these lenses and I will require of myself constant engagement with and awareness of the Tanzquartier’s role as filter and – albeit unintentionally – validator of certain theoretical practices rather than others. The theory programme will aim to integrate various situated perspectives and positionalities and will oscillate between different scales: from theorists working locally in Vienna/Austria to extra-European voices. It will put a particular accent on research emanating or relating to South-eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, contributing to countering the effects of Eurocentrism within Europe itself. Explicitly drawing from the field of critical dance studies, I will remain attached to a variation on a question posed by Amanda Piña at a recent TQW event: what (dance)world-making do our (dance) theories incite? History has a crucial role to play here: the stories we tell of the past, how we tell them – and even more so those we don’t tell – are inevitably ingrained in our present and future world-making. The theory programme will engage with history, interrogating the imbrications of historical and contemporary practices, with the explicit goal to multiply our sense of our pasts as they feed into our futures.

These shifts in the theory programme will be implemented from January 2022 onwards. Until then, the axes and directions I have sketched out here will be brought into dialogue with the views and needs of those they directly concern: over the course of the autumn I will seek the input of researchers, students, as well as artists and policy makers in order to share and transform with them the presence of theory at Tanzquartier Wien for the four coming years.