A dancer and scholar, Ann Cooper Albright is Professor and Chair of Dance at Oberlin College and President of the Society of Dance History Scholars. Combining her interests in movement and cultural theory, she is involved in teaching a variety of courses and workshops that seek to engage participants in both practices and theories of the body. She is the author of Engaging Bodies: The Politics and Poetics of Corporeality (2013), which won the Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize from the American Society for Aesthetics; Modern Gestures: Abraham Walkowitz Draws Isadora Duncan Dancing (2010); Traces of Light: Absence and Presence in the Work of Loie Fuller (2007); Choreographing Difference: The Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance (1997) and co-editor of Moving History/Dancing Cultures (2001) and Taken By Surprise: Improvisation in Dance and Mind (2003). The book, Encounters with Contact Improvisation (2010), is the product of one of her adventures in writing and dancing and dancing and writing with others. Ann is founder and director of Girls in Motion, an award-winning afterschool program in the Oberlin public schools and co-director of Accelerated Motion: Towards a New Dance Literacy. Her new book, Gravity Matters: finding ground in an unstable world will be out at the end of this year.
Partnering Difference: Politics, Perception and Disorientation within Capoeira, Contact Improvisation and Queer Tango is an auto-ethnographic project that investigates the theoretical potential dwelling behind the physical practices of Capoeira, Contact Improvisation and Queer Tango. Although they come from distinct historical and cultural contexts, all three of these forms now circulate globally and there are a number of very intriguing similarities between their training and performance cultures. For instance, all of these forms take place in social situations (the contact jam or round robin, the capoeira roda and the Queer tango milonga) in which there is a circle of participant/observer witnesses that provide a focused energy and sacred empty space that individuals enter to move with an “other.” In addition, they all incorporate a context in which disorientation, alterity and intimacy is accepted as part of the exchange between partners. Although they each teach a specific set of movement skills, these forms are more concerned with the improvisational dialogue between two people than the iteration of steps per se. Capoeira, Contact and Queer Tango can be thought of as “folk” movement forms that encourage any body to participate, and at any given event there is a continuum of amateur and professional dancers/movers present. Deeply democratic, Capoeira, Contact Improvisation, and Queer Tango teach cooperation across individual differences, not as an academic possibility, but as part and parcel of their corporeal training. I believe that these forms offer us a model of embodiment that can help us navigate the complex and often uncomfortable moments of intercultural exchange.