Interweaving Performance Cultures
Fellow 2014/15, 2015/16
A dance dramaturg by training, Dr. Guy Cools is Associate Professor for Dance Studies at the Arts in Society research institute of the Fontys School of Fine and Performing Arts in Tilburg, Holland, and at Ghent University. Having previously worked as a dance critic, artistic programmer and policy maker for dance in Flanders, he is now engaged in production dramaturgy and in collaborating with choreographers from all over Europe and Canada, including Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Belgium), Danièle Desnoyers (Canada), Lia Haraki (Cyprus), Akram Khan (UK), Arno Schuitemaker (Netherlands) and Stephanie Thiersch (Germany). He has developed a series of workshops that aim to support artists and choreographers in their creative process. His most recent publications include the Body:Language series (published by Sadler’s Wells, London) and The Ethics of Art: Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts, co-edited with Pascal Gielen (published by Valiz, Amsterdam).
The Creative Con-Fusion of the Postmigrant Body: On the Work of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Akram Khan
Most of the writings in dance studies on the subject of intercultural exchange still deal with the geographical spread of movement idioms and the necessary translation process implied by it, often within the postcolonial context of a political and economic imbalance of power:
Although the latter is indeed highly relevant, very little attention, at least in Europe, has been given to the position of artists who are either second-generation immigrants (hence the present-day discourse on postmigrant theatre), such as Akram Khan, or born into mixed ethnic families, such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. For both of these groups the position of being in between cultures is not so much a negotiation between places but between different traditions and value systems. In my research and the book that will result from it, I want to explore how they formed and created their artistic identity out of a con-fusion of the body, growing up in between cultures and consciously nurturing this con-fusion by interweaving different dance traditions and languages.
One of the focal points throughout my career as a dance dramaturg and scholar has been the reflection on how an individual artistic identity dialogues with a geographical context, and how the status of the artist as ‘stranger’ (Kristeva, 1991) or the experience of ‘border crossings’ (Rushdie, 2002) is formative for that artistic identity.
Through this research, I want to widen and deepen my understanding of this relationship between artistic identity and geographical context(s), and how the somatic con-fusion of the body is both a creative and an identity-forming principle.
- Cools, Guy, Body:language #1 Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. London: Sadler’s Wells, 2012.
- Cools, Guy, Body:language #2 Akram Khan. London: Sadler’s Wells, 2012.
- Pontbriand, Chantal (ed.), Dance – Distinct Language & Cross-Cultural Influences, Montréal: Editions Parachute, 2001.