Queer and Lesbian Aesthetics in the Late Twentieth Century

Teaching is Leading: Embracing our Impact and Opportunity as Dance Educators

National Dance Education Organization’s 2023 Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado

September 29-October 1, 2023

How might lesbian aesthetics, identities and affects be traced through dance archives? How do these aesthetics and relationships continue to shape the work of current choreographers?

This session retroactively centers lesbian dancemakers in the 1980s and 1990s, and locates traces of queer intimacy in personal and institutional archives. The research and scores I will present have grown out of an archival faculty research fellowship at Jacob’s Pillow. My work in the Pillow’s archives animates the spatial and temporal silences between queer women who have performed there (Paula Josa-Jones, Lucinda Childs, Ann Carlson, Jennifer Monson, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth Streb, and others), bringing them into relation with each other, modern and post-modern dance traditions, and present-day choreographers. Adopting a queer lens creates space for lesbian narratives to enter the discourse and claim relevance to current practices.

I call on queer theorists like Sara Ahmed, Ann Cvetovich, Jean Besette, and Jack Halberstam to help contextualize my understanding of lesbian aesthetics, affect, and queer theory. Additionally, I am drawing from over 70 hours of performance, rehearsal, and interview footage that I reviewed at Jacob’s Pillow from February 6-February 20, 2023. Through this theory and footage, I create interventions and counternarratives that challenge the overwhelmingly male “canon” of western concert dance performance.

In this session, I will briefly lay out my research, provide a sample lesson plan for creating interventions in our notions of the dance “canon” in the 1980s and 1990s, and then offer several scores I developed with my collaborators to experience the research at the level of the body.

This research has a companion in my choreographic project Lexicon, which is currently in development.

American College Dance Association

2024 Annual Northeast Regional Conference, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

March 7-March 10, 2024

Jacob's Pillow

2023 College Partners Convening, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, Massachusetts

October 21, 2023