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Current Issue, Vol. 31 No.3

Introduction: Embodied Arts

by Lezlie Cross and Ariel Nereson
The Journal of American Drama and Theatre
Volume 31, Number 3 (Spring 2019)

ISNN 2376-4236
©2019 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center

This American Society of Theatre and Drama special issue of JADT offers four essays that reconsider the contours of the study of U.S. American performance through centering embodiment as the site where aesthetic values are developed, mobilized, and contested. Though all of the arts are arguably embodied, this special issue, by isolating “The Embodied Arts,” features scholarship about forms that foreground the body as the primary meaning maker.

Our CFP was inspired by Nadine George-Graves’s proposal in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater (2015) that performance research might productively adopt an overarching rubric of “performative embodiment” to explain performance phenomena.[1] In coining this phrase, George-Graves sought to bridge what Kate Elswit calls “[t]he artificial divisions between the thing most often called ‘theatre’ and the thing most often called ‘dance’ in both academic and artistic spheres.”[2] Drawing on current scholarly energies around this interdisciplinary (or in George-Graves’s essay, “intradisciplinary”) concern, one of our central questions was: What might emerge as a coherent area of scholarly inquiry were disciplinary divisions forsaken in favor of metrics of legibility that arise not from genre but from the materials of performance phenomena themselves? The four essays featured in this issue demonstrate the efficacy of performative embodiment as a new metric to understand a diversity of performance events.

The resultant collection of essays does much more than probe or surmount the generic academic divide between dance and theatre studies; it also offers a breadth of methodologies drawn from dance, theatre, and performance studies. The sites investigated by these four authors — Broadway, vaudeville, pageantry, and music videos — have historically incorporated both choreographed movement and mimetic action. As such, these sites are situated in the center of a proverbial venn diagram of performative embodiment.

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