Anna Pakes

Crossing Borders 2017 | 3 October, 7 - 8.30pm | Is Choreographic Authorship Dead?

The idea of authorship gets a bad press in contemporary performance practice and theory. Thinking of dance works as the authored creations of individual choreographers has become problematic at least since Judson – and since Roland Barthes proclaimed the “death of the author” in 1967. The concept of authorship seems complicit with outdated ideas about singular genius and with bourgeois (or, more latterly, neoliberal) capitalist ideologies of property, ownership and control. Similar political issues are engaged by debates about the collaborative nature of dance-making and about whether dancers are always co-authors of the works they perform. It is often assumed that acknowledging a dancer’s substantive contribution to dance works challenges a “traditional” framework of exploitation of others’ labour. In this talk, I want to examine these assumptions from a philosophical perspective, exploring whether dance authorship should be characterised in terms of relations of power, economic or ideological. I will focus particularly on solo dances choreographed by one person on or for another and consider a range of historical and contemporary examples. We will explore some different ways to think about authorship, co-authorship and the relations between dancer, choreographer and dance work.


Anna Pakes is reader in dance studies and director of the Centre for Dance Research at University of Roehampton, London. She was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, the Centre National de la Danse Contemporaine in Angers (France) and Laban Centre London. Anna’s research and teaching now focuses on philosophy of dance, with a particular interest in analytic aesthetics. She has published on a range of philosophical themes as they relate to dance, including the mind-body problem, Husserlian phenomenology, the epistemology of practice as research, dance historiography and performance re-enactment. She co-edited the volume Thinking through Dance: the philosophy of dance performance and practices (published by Dance Books, 2013) with Jenny Bunker and Bonnie Rowell. Her translation of Frédéric Pouillaude’s book Unworking Choreography was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Her own monograph on the ontology of dance works is forthcoming also with OUP.