Book Review

Choreographies: Tracing the Materials of an Ephemeral Art Form

Jacky Lansley
Intellect 2017

A window into the processes of choreographic practice, here opened through detailed description of a career spanning more than 40 years. Lansley seeks to make accessible the choreographic act via examination/exposition of the tools, approaches, and materials she and her numerous colleagues have utilized during that span.  Those seeking a connection with the concept of “dancer-citizen” may trace Lansley’s deliberative selection of works, and read them as inflected by “the changing cultural and social forces that have influenced me” over these years.

Certainly, Lansley’s work provides grist for many mills:  as she says, she engages with questions of aesthetics, context, training, research and “survival” as she explores her process, connecting with ideas and events beyond of her home discipline.  Her journey through this archive is loosely organized into 3 periods: early works, from the 1970s, emerged out of “radical cultural backdrops”; and continued through years of deepening artistic development in the 1980s and 1990s; after which the establishment of her London base, Dance Research Studio, began to define Lansley’s practice.  There is extensive description of pieces and process (often using a form Lansley terms “writing choreography”) throughout, and lengthy interviews from her contemporaries and collaborators.  Finally, “Onward” looks both toward immediate challenges in place, and from there on to the future.  It isn’t surprising, says Lansley, that “as an older, more experienced artist, I find myself challenging the myth that all young people have to break free from the certainties of previous work, which is assumed to be more complacent than their own.  I suggest, rather, that those of us who are exploring dance as a progressive art form, at whatever age, should stick together in the face of a growing social conservatism.”

Copious photos, original notes, diagrams and illustrations round out a wide-ranging and meticulously detailed description of a very individual process and oeuvre, one which may be read for insight into any of the various aspects of dance practice, including an engagement with social concerns.

-Jane Alexandre