Chapter 14 The Fragmentary Monumental: Dancing Female Stories in the Museum of Archaeology

In: Choreonarratives
Marie-Louise Crawley
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The aim of this chapter is to examine from an artist-researcher perspective the durational dance work Likely Terpsichore? (Fragments) that was created for and performed at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology (UK) in 2018. By shining a light on my solo dance practice in the Ashmolean Museum, this chapter considers the bigger picture—that is to say, dance’s place in how we both remember and construct the past as artists and scholars, and as a society as a whole (through our cultural heritage institutions, such as museums). How might the medium of dance in the museum contribute to disrupting received narratives about the past? How might dance add new dimensions to these narratives by enriching the very ways in which we construct them? Might dance’s presence in the museum allow an alternative visibility, a hyper-visibility, for those ancient female bodies previously rendered invisible—or, indeed only partially visible—by history?

The chapter also interrogates the ‘re-imagining’ of the narrative text (selected episodes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses) that underlies the living archive of the choreography (itself a ‘reimagining’ of the ancient Roman dance-theatre form, tragoedia saltata). As an example of how the choreographic work responds to, and disrupts, Ovid’s narrative, this chapter will closely examine Myrrha, one of the four dance fragments comprising the wider durational work. Finally, through its consideration of a dance practice that examines processes of dismembering and remembering ancient history and performance, and that also explores the dislocation of tenses and temporalities that occur when the present, embodied moment of performance is also a living archive for an ancient classical text and an ancient theatre form, this chapter will begin to make a claim for live dance in the museum as the ‘fragmentary monumental.’ I assert this as an action that might be able to resituate women on the inside of power but on their own terms, and, eventually, to enable an alternative means of viewing history.

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Dancing Stories in Greek and Roman Antiquity and Beyond

Series:  Mnemosyne, Supplements, Volume: 439


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