“Digging up the past: Some thoughts about preserving or reconstructing dance works” is from the Document(s) series, a library of commentary on people and issues in the dance field. This repository of essays includes interviews by writers and thinkers on dance, as well as “dance discursions,” which offer opportunities for reflection on the field of dance commissioned by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
During the 2005–06 season, Philadelphia company Dancefusion reconstructed choreographer Mary Anthony’s Women of Troy (1954) and, as part of the process, hosted a five-day dance workshop with Anthony and Donald McKayle. Dr. Linda Caruso Haviland prepared this essay for the accompanying symposium on dance preservation, organized by Dancefusion in partnership with Drexel University.
From the essay:
“Every dancer at some time has practiced the preservation of dance. Whether by entering into the process of accumulating the detailed or qualitative elements of a technique, or in repeating a sequence of movements for class, rehearsal, or performance, we have all engaged in recalling, remembering, reconstructing, and preserving dance…
“But beyond the stage and studio, there are also philosophical issues that attend these processes of reconstruction and that are often inextricable from aesthetic and practical problems. Whether a dance was first made five minutes, five months, five years, or five centuries ago, all present some similar challenges. Although a full discussion of these issues could occupy a much larger space, here are eight questions or problems—and few answers—for your consideration.”