Hidden Narratives: Dancers’ Conceptualisations of Noncharacter Roles in Leotard Ballets by George Balanchine and William Forsythe

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The study of dancers' relationships with their noncharacter solo roles in leotard ballets by George Balanchine and William Forsythe reveals a dynamic cluster of flexible and multifaceted conceptualisations. Performers' process includes a range of abstract images, nonfictional and docufictional ideas, metaphoric allusions and storyboarding constructions. Drawing upon Michael Kirby's concept of non-matrixed performing (1987), as well as on ideas from dance aesthetics, narratology, theatre and film theories, noncharacter roles are understood as partly flexible, diverse performing frameworks that contain ambiguity but do not promote characterisation. The findings suggest that the dissolution of character traits in plotless choreography often serves as a catalyst for the performers' polyvalent expressions of their artistic identities, value systems and agency. Observation of performances, in conjunction with direct interviews with expert dancers from several international ballet companies, brings to light the links between the performer's ideas and the effects observable in the dance. Attention to the performers' approaches and aspects of the work which they wish to emphasise reveals less observed aspects of dance texts and illuminates the nature of the ballet dancer's qualitative contribution in non-narrative choreography.

© 2016 Society for Dance Research. The attached document (embargoed until 01/11/2017) is an author produced version of a paper published in Dance Research, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/pdfplus/10.3366/drs.2016.0158. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170–201
Number of pages32
JournalDance Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

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