Susan Leigh Foster, choreographer and scholar, is Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. She is the author of Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance; Choreography and Narrative: Ballet’s Staging of Story and Desire; Dances that Describe Themselves: The Improvised Choreography of Richard Bull; and Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance. She is also the editor of three anthologies: Choreographing History, Corporealities, and Worlding Dance. Three of her danced lectures can be found at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage website: http://danceworkbook.pcah.us/susan-foster/index.html.
My current research focuses on the changing discourses around labor and dance. Recently, analyses of labor have begun to address non-material and affective forms of work, while at the same time, dance is increasingly referred to and offered up to viewers as a form of work that results in a product. What theories of economic transaction might illuminate dance’s current role as a globally circulating form of entertainment? How do current practices for training dancers resonate with neoliberal ideologies and global capitalist circuits of exchange? How does dancing compare with domestic labor which is un-ending yet produces no tangible commodity? What are the languages and tropes that characterize dance as either a form of labor or as transcending in value the physical labor put into it? In what ways can dancing offer a different paradigm for thinking about what labor is? The purpose in bringing these two discourses into dialogue is to examine the politics underlying and embodied within each practice in order to assess the changing values around the corporeal in our current world.