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date: 30 March 2017

Abstract and Keywords

“Improvised Dance in the Reconstruction of THEM” analyzes the 2010 re-creation of a 1986 performance conceived by Ishmael Houston-Jones, Chris Cochrane, and Dennis Cooper, which critics often cite as one of the earliest performance art responses to the AIDS crisis. Given that the work consists entirely of scored improvisations, this essay considers the politics of reconstructing an improvised dance. Drawing from dance studies as well as recent queer theory that focuses on temporality, the essay attends to the specter of the original cast from the 1980s. It argues that improvisation enabled the dancers, many of whom weren’t alive during the piece’s premiere, to explore a past that they didn’t entirely understand, while also demanding that they place themselves, literally and figuratively, in relation to that past.

Keywords: improvisation, dance, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dennis Cooper, Chris Cochrane, queer, temporality, AIDS, performance reconstruction

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