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date: 22 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates the experience of being moved by a theater or dance performance. It explores the possibilities of an affective relationship with the audience that engages neither a direct psychological identification with the protagonist(s) onstage, nor a conventional notion of empathy, but rather prioritizes other kinds of exchanges, bringing attention to corporeality as encompassing both an emotional and a visceral responsiveness to the world. Being moved by a performance represents an intertwining of somatic feeling and political urgency that characterizes much of contemporary performance work. There is something vital in these works that transforms the audience from passive spectators into active witnesses, raising the stakes of the viewing experience. This sensibility departs significantly from two classic theories of audience reception: the Aristotelian notion of catharsis in the theater and the modernist concept of kinesthesia in dance most fully articulated by mid-twentieth century dance critic John Martin.

Keywords: reception, spectator, dance, theater, kinesthesia, catharsis, somatic, corporeality

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