Susan Manning

Susan Manning

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2013/14

Susan Manning is an internationally recognized historian of modern dance who has presented her research in Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, and Argentina as well as in the United States.  A professor of English, Theatre and Performance Studies at Northwestern University, she has authored Ecstasy and the Demon: the Dances of Mary Wigman (1993, 2nd ed. 2006) and Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion (2004); coedited New German Dance Studies (2012); and curated Danses noires/blanche Amérique (2008) at the Centre National de la Danse in ParisFrom 2004 to 2008 she served as President of the Society of Dance History Scholars, and she currently serves as Principal Investigator for the Mellon-funded initiative, “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities.” In 2013 she received the Outstanding Scholarly Research Award from the Congress on Research in Dance.

Research Project

Reggie Wilson and the Traditions of Modern Dance

Manning will complete a series of essays on choreographer Reggie Wilson, with whom she has worked for the last two years as dramaturge. In addition to an extended interview with Wilson, the series will include “Notes from a Dramaturge’s Journal,” explaining how Manning assisted Wilson with the creative research and documentation of Moses(es), his latest work, which premiered at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2013. Through travel and ethnographic research, Wilson incorporates performance practices of the African diaspora into his choreography, and in so doing updates the mid-century research-to-performance methodology of Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus. At the same time, he freely borrows movement material and compositional devices from a wide range of sources, blurring the distinction between black dance and modern dance and challenging spectators to recognize the global circulation of American and African cultures. Wilson pushes us to reconsider the transnational circulation of modern dance, for his encounters with Phyllis Lamhut, Ohad Naharin, Noble Douglass and Andreya Ouamba call for a global dance history rather than histories premised on a single nation-state or subculture. In a final essay, “Reggie Wilson and the Traditions of Modern Dance,” Manning reflects on how her encounter with Reggie Wilson has compelled her to see dance history in new ways.

Recommended Publications

  • Thompson, K., “A Sidelong Glance: The Practice of African Diaspora Art History in the United States.” Art Journal 70:3 (2011): 6-31. 
  • Brown, J., Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
  • Edwards, B.H., The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. 
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung