When thinking of the London School of Economics and Social Sciences, one usually does not think of dance! However, on February 12th, as part of the  Space for Thought Literary Festival LSE hosted renowned dance scholar Prof. Helen Thomas and innovative choreographer Jasmin Vardimon for a discussion about the intersections between dance and text.

First, the question of writing about dance was explored; Prof. Thomas illuminated the difficulties concerning moving dance from a three dimensional activity to a two dimension medium; Vardimon noted that for her in many ways dance is untranslatable thus she wishes writers would focus on the essence of the work rather than using descriptive language. Then Jasmin talked about a text she finds inspirational, Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and showed its correspondence to her work, Lullaby. The question of notation was then raised, and Thomas claimed she doesn’t see it as a key tool in the world of dance. Vardimon stressed the importance of individuality and personality in dancers she works with, and the fact that notation tends to force conformism rather than enable creativity in movement and to encourage personal interpretations.

Bringing the discussion to an end, the question of new technologies and their merit in this dialogue between dance and text was discussed. Prof. Thomas claimed that she doesn’t see a deep potential in dance blogs, youtube etc. to take over the textual- choreographic relationship with all its difficulties. Although this may democratize dance, it does not, to Thomas’ mind, take the place of live interaction between performer and audience. Varidmon agreed but added that she tries to explore how new technologies can be another creative element; for instance in the segment shown from Lullaby scanning and imaging (through medical technologies) functions as another spectator, able to unravel the dancer’s body, and make it visible to a different gaze.

The dialogue was followed by a vibrant Q and A session with the audience, in which both speakers were encouraged to elaborate on the questions asked previously, and also to comment on the relationship between dance and physical theatre; dance and gender, and the relation to the ideal body in dance (from the pre-pubescent ballet body to the strong muscular modern body); the relationship between age and dance was discussed, in which both discussants reflected on the need to include “older” dancers in the dance world; and the question of form and movement in which Prof. Thomas mentioned her admiration to Mulliphant and Balanchine, whereas Vardimon stressed how important to her was the dimension of the dancer’s individual growth and involvement with the piece.

The event was eye- opening and the dialogue formed between these two dance personas vivid and fascinating. Here’s to hoping this is a door opened in the LSE for future dance- related events!

The event “Dance, Text and Translation” was organized by Prof. Luc Bovens of the LSE, Dr. Jeniffer Tarr of the LSE, and Dana Mills from the University of Oxford. The event was funded by the Forum for European Philosophy and the Department for Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the LSE.