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date: 08 July 2020

(p. xi) Preface

(p. xi) Preface

The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies would not have been possible without the efforts of an extended, intergenerational, and global family of similarly inclined thinkers and makers. I am grateful to all of you.

Until recently, imagining a future for screendance was purely aspirational. Imagining a future in which there would be international festivals dedicated to the form, and literature to contextualize its practice and its relationship to other fields of inquiry, was a kind of fantastic dreaming. When I began teaching courses in “video dance” at The American Dance Festival in 1986, I had already been making work that combined media and dance for some time, often in collaboration with choreographers who were gracious enough to let me experiment with the form and content of their work. However, there was little evidence to suggest that there might be a community of like-minded colleagues beyond the small cohort I knew through a loose network in San Francisco and New York or from the catalogs of a few festivals or other exhibitions that I would come across now and then. In those early classes at The American Dance Festival, I had dozens of students who were a generous audience for my nascent and evolving ideas about dance and the screen; they filled the space with energy and with an openness to the ideas I was only just working out—ideas about an imagined history of the relationship between dance and the screen and a future in which the boundaries between the two would be porous and malleable, synthesized into some new hybrid form. In that new space, the aspirational space, neither dance nor media would be in service to the other. Certainly documentation and documentary would still exist to meet the needs of historicization and archiving, but this new space would supersede that model. It would be the offspring of experimental film, video art (Figure P.1), narrative fiction, performance art, dance (Figure P.2), feminism, and all of the practices and theories that had generated the complex and intertwined discourses of the twentieth century; it would vault us into the twenty-first.


Fig. P.1 Documentation of Suitable For Framing, choreography and performance by June Watanabe, visual design/video installation by Douglas Rosenberg, performed by June Watanabe and Sharon Kinney, 1987.


Fig. P.2 Frame captures from the screendance Periphery, performed by Li Chiao-Ping, directed by Douglas Rosenberg, 2000.

The points of tangency that would form the basic map of screendance were always there. Connecting them was the task. How might one create a nexus between Dada, Maya Deren, and Merce Cunningham? Or, between Eadweard Muybridge, Yvonne Ranier, and Bruce Nauman? Or, between feminist theory, the visual arts, and film history? How might such connections form a narrative that would support both the (p. xii) making and theorizing of an art form that was yet to be articulated? Such rhetorical questions have occupied the thinking of the thirty-six authors in this book (and myself) for some time, and the results of such pondering have yielded a broad and provocative set of results. This book maps a terrain out of which is evolving one of the most thrilling dialogs in contemporary art.

(p. xiii) This book would not have been possible without two propitious meetings. The first was with Oxford University Press Editor Norm Hirschy (who was the editor for both my previous book and this one as well) in 2009 at the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) conference “Topographies, Site, Bodies, Technologies,” at Stanford University. I was introduced to Norm by the dance scholar Ann Cooper Albright. Norm asked if I would be interested in editing a screendance reader for Oxford University Press. I already had a book in the works, but was thrilled by the idea; after finishing Screendance: Inscribing the Ephemeral Image under Norm’s guidance, now, these many years later, The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies is a reality. The second important meeting was between me and Nathan Jandl, at the time a PhD candidate in the English Department at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nathan is an immensely talented, thoughtful writer and scholar who has been my editorial assistant through two books and four issues of The International Journal of Screendance, as well as numerous articles, chapters, and conference papers. I am exceedingly lucky to have had the benefit of his rigorous eye, keen intellect, and impossibly diligent work ethic since the beginning of this journey. I owe much to his graciousness and patient assistance.

I wish to acknowledge the members of the Screendance Network, an international group of scholars and practitioners, founded in 2009 with a three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research grant with the mission of advancing the interdisciplinary theoretical and practice-based discourse of screendance. The members include Claudia Kappenberg (University of Brighton, United Kingdom), Sarah Whatley (Coventry University, United Kingdom), Ann Cooper Albright (Oberlin College, Ohio, United States), Harmony Bench (Ohio State University, United States), Simon Ellis (Roehampton University, United Kingdom), Marisa Zanotti (Chichester University, United Kingdom), and Chirstinn Whyte (writer and filmmaker, United Kingdom). I must also note the contributions of Katrina McPherson and Simon Fildes, whose advocacy for the field cannot be understated.

I have been lucky to have had opportunities to present papers and lectures at numerous festivals and symposia around the world. To the curators and presenters who hosted me, I owe great thanks. My research would not have been possible without support from a number of sources; particularly, my work on this book was made possible by a Kellett Mid-Career Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I must also acknowledge the assistance of Jerri Hurlbutt, who helped with a number of editorial tasks. Finally, I must mention the authors in this book. They are, collectively, some of the most rigorous thinkers I have ever worked with. They are all deeply passionate about their scholarship and about screendance. Together, in these pages, they frame a discourse that greatly extends the possibilities of screendance. It is my hope that The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies will become a valued resource for all those interested in a truly interdisciplinary art form. (p. xiv)