The Dance of Affect in Contemporary Irish Dance Theatre

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This chapter examines how dance theatre choreographers are engaging with a “terrible inheritance” of corporeal oppression in Ireland, through an investigation of the choreography of affective encounters in their work. Building on the Spinozan notion of “affectio”—the impact the affecting body leaves on the affected—the chapter analyses moments in dance performance in which the sensing, exchanging and imprinting of affect takes place between dancers, and between dancers and spectators. Considering works by Junk Ensemble, Fearghus Ó Conchúir and Emma Martin, the chapter discusses how these pieces highlight the control and policing of corporealities in Ireland, making visible the resultant oppression of those deviant to desired norms. Yet, within the confinements of this regimentation, the interactions and affective encounters of dancers with each other, and with the objects and spaces containing their movements, cause transformations in the affective environment to materialize for the spectator. In Junk Ensemble’s The Falling Song (2012), Ó Conchúir’s Tabernacle (2011) and Martin’s Dancehall (2015), imposed external societal values and ideals are shown to reduce agency and capacity for action and change. However, in their rehearsal and repetition of affective encounters within oppressive social constructs, these works also show how affect accumulates, and how the imprint experienced through affective encounters generates change, suggesting possible future transformation. In the wake of a period of economic and social collapse in Ireland, and the attendant danger of a petrification of movement for change, the choreography of affective encounters in dance performance can highlight both the experience of oppression, but also a space for imagining possible future, collaborative and emancipatory moves.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Irish Theatre and Performance
EditorsEric Weitz, Eamonn Jordan
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-58587-5
Publication statusPublished - 07 Oct 2018

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