Book Review

Jane Alexandre

Dance, Place, and Poetics: Site-specific Performance as a Portal to Knowing

Celeste Nazeli Snowber

Palgrave Macmillan, 2022

“I was raised between the sea and a field of blueberries in an island town on the edge of the wide-open Atlantic.”

What it can mean to be fully in relationship with the world, in all the mundane and spectacular places we inhabit is here explored and demonstrated by Snowber through prose, poetry, photographs and video.  Those familiar with her work will welcome this ongoing account of her explorations in embodied enquiry.  Those new to Snowber’s scholarship will gain from her conviction and understanding of the interweave of what is within and without, the knowledge and riches to be gained through full immersion and movement in that which surrounds us.

Snowber here names as her starting point a childhood that allowed freedom to run, explore and move: “My relationship to ecology, art, place, site-specific work, and being a place-based artist began long before I would articulate, dance, or theorize on the land and share site-specific performance with others,” in that place between “the sea and a field of blueberries”. The daily practice that ultimately developed from her beginning continues today: walking, dancing, moving through the landscapes where she is located defines Snowber’s exploration of inner and outer landscapes.  “The space between my spiritual and physical terrain” leads to her exploration of myriad subjects that might be seen as far-flung, and indeed are—but are brought together through the portal that is her body.  Spiritual and practical concerns are interwoven: how to allow time the developing practice and ideas to fit with family and work demands; the meaning of one’s work in the face of a pandemic; how sone’s sense of proprioception responds to shifts in the weather and humidity.  Snowber’s counsel and example brings far flung musings and daily concerns into a unified vision, a vision that abandons the notion of constraints to accept circumstances as truths of our selves’ place in our environments.

From “Coming to Our Senses:  The Body’s Capacity for Creation” through “Water, Wind, Tides, and Heron Lessons” and more, to the summing up of “The Body as Portal”, Snowber offers a living example of embodied inquiry and arts-based research. 

“The invitation is to be receptive to what is before us and within us.  This is the portal to seeing, listening, perceiving in new ways.  Open to the unexpected.”


-Jane Alexandre