Re-imagining: A Case Study of Exercises and Strategies (2019)

Hanna Järvinen

About this exposition

Exploring a case of a historian collaborating with dance makers on the contemporaneity evident in a past work, this exposition outlines how the corporeal methods of dance practice can assist a historian in their archival inquiry just as the historian's methods can subvert dominant ways of understanding re-performance of past dance. Interest in how past performances survive and are made to re-signify in the present and what is the role of the archive in a performing art are growing trends in both dance and performance scholarship and in performance practice. Drawing from this scholarship and critical performances, I distinguish between reconstruction (re-creation of dance from the archive) and re-imagining (working from the present practice towards corporeal relationship to past dance) to argue that any performance holds potential to uphold and conserve as well as question and subvert predominant histories of the art form. In contrast to theories of performance that juxtapose performance with history, repertoires with archives, I argue that it is possible to perform the epistemological questions through emphasis on what is not known. The practical exercises used in the studio and the strategies in the performance of Jeux: Re-imagined (2016) offer one example of destabilizing earlier claims to knowledge about a historical work. The seven pages of this exposition follow the structure of the seven events of the performance.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsepistemology, contemporary dance, studio research, dance history, archive, repertoire, scenarios, re-performance, reconstruction, re-imagining, re-making, not-knowing
last modified23/05/2019
share statusprivate
affiliationAcademy of Finland/Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki
licenseAll rights reserved
published inRUUKKU - Studies in Artistic Research
portal issue11. How to do Things with Performance

Simple Media

id name copyright license
520086 Jounin_soolo Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
520147 Maijan_soolo Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
520151 Maijan_soolo Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
520153 Annan_soolo Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
520160 Jeux_8 Hertta Kiiski All rights reserved
520166 Screenshot_part_Jeux_Atski Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
520227 piirrossarja Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
520231 Kutomo_curtain Hanna Järvinen All rights reserved
520234 Kutomo-rehearsals Hanna Järvinen All rights reserved
520239 Kukkapenkki Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
521495 Varjo Liisa Pentti + Co. All rights reserved
524408 Jeux_Comoedia_cover_pose gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524410 Jeux_programme_enlarged gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524417 Jeux_Comoedia_Karsavina_and_Schollar gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524419 Jeux_Comoedia_Nijinsky_with_racket gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524431 Jeux_Comoedia_all_three_lying_down gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524434 Jeux_Comoedia_girls_in_unisono_with_Nijinsky gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524459 Jeux_Comoedia_sulking gallica.BnF.fr (réutilisation non commerciale) All rights reserved
524486 Jeux_Ehkä screenshot of www.ehka.net website, used with permission All rights reserved
576441 Jeux_Comoedia_all_three_standing courtesy of Gallica.bnf.fr All rights reserved

RUUKKU portal comments: 2
Emma Meehan 21/05/2019 at 12:35

The following peer review was presented to the author during the process and has influenced the final exposition. It is here presented in a slightly edited form.


Emma Meehan:


The author is knowledgeable about archives in performance and asks interesting questions along with making engaging proposals.


Artistic research occurs in the studio and performance practice exchange between historian, choreographer and dancers, in their play with the archives. The author could make more of their approach to artistic research and how the process fits within the field, maybe with an additional paragraph/comparison with other projects. This is because usually artistic research is led by the artist but in this case, the historian appears to be writing up the outcomes? I think it is an interesting collaborative example therefore.


This exposition fits within the field of dance studies and concerns with reimagining archival performances. It proposes a new approach through focusing on the unknown. It is a small- scale project so significance is in line with that but the thinking behind it connects to the broader concerns in the field.


This submission is strong on research content but raises interesting questions about artistic research. The process engages with artistic research but is the written output engaging with the artistic contribution to practice as much as the research interest? Does this matter? As mentioned earlier, I think a short case can be made for this approach if it is explained why.


I felt the author could have used the exposition format more to share the artistic research practice/process. Some images and videos were included, as well as scroll bars which didn’t always work (sometimes I could not read text as the scroll bars over lapped). I wondered about bringing in the choreographer and dancers to help with the layout. How could the contribution be formatted to share something of the practice? Is there something about the spatial layout which could be explored? There is a lot of linear text which is useful but seems more suited to a more traditional journal format. Could it be broken up with notes from the dancers/choreographer’s diaries? Or audience responses? How can the reader be led from one thought to the next through placement of images and text in a more dispersed way rather than in chunks together? What productive gaps might be left like the performance which allow the reader to engage with the artistic practice?


I think a revision of the language would help as there are many long sentences – if broken up this would help the reader with the flow of the argument.


Overall, this is an interesting case study written up by someone who has knowledge in the field of archives and performance. I think a short argument can be made for this approach as a method for artistic research and any shortcomings (e.g. writing as the historian rather than the choreographer etc.) The language does not always support the reader – I think sentences can be broken up a bit and made clearer to help with the flow for the reader. The exposition is the main area for development – some thought can be given to the sharing of creative material, breaking up chunks of text, fixing scroll bars, to help with organisation and presentation to make more use of the format.

nimetön/anonym/anonymous 21/05/2019 at 12:36

The following peer review was presented to the author during the process and have influenced the final exposition. It is here presented in a slightly edited form.


Anonymous Reviewer


At the core of this essay, the author is hinting at a complex and interesting problem, one which she would be uniquely positioned to extend existing discussions, which is the relationship of the canon to the contemporary practice of performing archives. I would greatly appreciate seeing a much more detailed explication of this throughout, rather than introduced separately and abstracted from the practice that follows. The part on Re-imagining is clear and exciting in terms of the problem of reinforcing Nijinsky and the gendered use of power, and could be pushed further with the discussion of canons and archives could be woven in, rather than separated out up front. It would also further support the later discussion of reconstructions to more clearly situate those within the many scholars writing about alternate practical approaches to dance archives and the unknown, in order to contextualize statements such as “Whereas ‘reconstruction’ implies that dance can be recreated from its documentation, from precisely the written and the archival, I wanted to move towards re-imagining, in which the archive is like a framework upon which to build the creative practice and understanding of the past of the art form.”


The connection between history and practice is offered as productively multi-directional: both the historian pushing the practice and also the practice pushing the historian in terms of how the persistent historical problem of fragmentary evidence is negotiated through practice. However, it is also worth being careful regarding overstating the manner of working and certain comments are unnecessary, such as: “Aside from the rarity of a choreographer asking a historian to participate in their studio practice” (since this is not rare nowadays in a broad European context). It would also be useful to understand more clearly what the other two referenced texts by Järvinen & Pentti cover by contrast to this essay. The author cites Franko’s 1989 essay on reconstruction, but the recent Oxford Handbook on Dance and Reconstruction could be vital to making sure this essay is recognizing the vast landscape of such practices, and thereby also situating its own contribution (not Taylor and Schneider but the many artists working through these questions in practice).


This is some good work and interesting thinking here in terms of the ways in which questions of history can continue to be thought in conjunction with practice. I believe this would be specifically more useful as a contribution to the field if the problem of the canon is kept as central to the focus of the writing.


The section on exercises and strategies is not as strong as what has preceded it. In part, this has to do with the choice of what is explicated. For example, I am unclear how much of the thinking that is elaborated was shared with the audience or not and in what ways through the dancers’ verbalizations. But part of it also has to do with the ways in which the number of examples results in a superficial treatment of the practice. It would be better to have fewer examples that more clearly show the ways in which the practice is working through and also producing the historical thinking that precedes it. In addition, the extent of choreographic reliance on task-based improvisation in the staged production only emerges late, but should be critical – it casts a completely different light on the work that has to be foregrounded, because the work of rehearsal is then about training thinking, and so the discussion of the performance must then account for choice making in light of historical canons, etc. (If I’ve misunderstood this last point, please clarify in the text). Beginning with the exercises led by the writer and then following them through to the stage might be helpful in this regard.


The video embedding works well. I would really have appreciated an obvious NEXT link at the end of each section, rather than having to return to the navigation bar at the top. The text is also too wide to read comfortably (and does not adjust when the browser window is scaled). On the Re-imagining section, the scrolling has issues in how the parts overlay.

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