Reconstructing the Dance: In Search of Authenticity?

  • Helen Thomas


The history of western theatre dance can be seen, in many respects, as a history of ‘lost’ dances. As the above quote from Marcia Siegel suggests, dance, unlike other arts, does not leave a record of its existence in the form of a tangible object, like a painting, a script or a musical score. Rather, as it comes into being in performance, so it is gone. In recent years, with advances in film and video technology and dance notation, there has been a growing interest in resurrecting some of these lost dances from the early period of modern dance and modern ballet. The aim of this was to ‘fill in the blanks’ of the (hi)story of dance and provide some continuity to the tradition (Kriegsman, 1993; Morris, 1993). This quest for a ‘retrievable past’ (Copeland, 1993b) has also given rise to a variety of questions that centre around the complex relationship between ‘authenticity’ and ‘interpretation’ in the context of the politics of reconstruction (Marion, 1990; The Drama Review, 1984; Berg, 1993; Jordan, 2000). With this in view, this chapter will explore a range of theoretical and practical issues surrounding the concepts, processes and products of dance reconstruction. The exploration of the problematic issues that the desire to generate a ‘usable’1 or ‘retrievable’ past raises begins, in a sense, where the last chapter left off.


Cultural Theory Musical Score Movement Style Technical Reproducibility Notate Score 
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© Helen Thomas 2003

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  • Helen Thomas

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