Dancing politics


In memory of Jean Babilée, dancer and combatant of the French resistance, and who resisted always through creation, died on Thursday, January 30, at the age of 90.

…[Dance] improvisation most closely resembles a grammatical category found in the verb forms of many languages … known as the middle voice.  With this particular kind of verb – and verbs are the closest of all linguistic elements to dancing – events occur neither in the active nor passive voice.  The subject does not act nor is the subject acted upon.  A close equivalent in the English language (which does not have a middle voice) to this nonactive/nonpassive voicing is the phrase “shit happens”.

Susan Leigh Foster

Dance itself is thoughtless.  It is its own event.  It doesn’t follow anything and it doesn’t lead anywhere.  It is not about gain or absolution.  Dance dances itself …

Ruth Zaporah

When we linger in the borderland on purpose, we become our own experiment.

 Steve Paxton

Giorgio Agamben once wrote that "Politics is the sphere of pure means", that is, of absolute, integral human gesture.  Understood as gesture, it stands between making (“poesis”), in which the act has an end beyond itself, a purpose, and practice (“praxis”), in which the action is an end in itself.  Most politics, past and present, has moved between making and practice, sometimes opposing one to the other, sometimes shifting indifferently between the two; an indetermination reflective of the very nature political sovereignty, the power of simultaneously including and excluding within/from the domain of law, the power of making “subjects”.  To speak of gesture, as Agamben does, is to conceive of a third type of action, one which frees itself from the logic of means and ends.  The gesture is a means, without ends, a pure means unconcerned with the posterior legitimacy or justification of ends.  “The gesture consists in displaying mediality, in making visible a means as such”.  It is no longer a question of making or practicing, but of assuming and supporting.  The gesture reveals a human action always in-between, and as such, expressive of an openness; a form-of-life that is the very essence of ethics and of the very possibility of becoming other, always.

Agamben offers dance as an example of an action as means without ends.  “If dance is gesture, it is … because it consists entirely of supporting and exhibiting the medial character of bodily movements”.  A politics as gesture is then the politics of the collective expression of a form-of-life, as a pure means.  What it is, is as it is; an assuming and supporting of free and equal ways of being.  It is politics as dance.   

To end with Jean Babilée:  Ephémère, immortelle, versatile, la danse est le seul art qui, ne laissant aucun déchet sur la terre, hante certaines mémoires de souvenirs merveilleux.


Jean Babilée dancing Le jeune homme et la mort …


Jean Babilée dancing Life …


Jean Babilée in Le Musicien dans la Cité …

This entry was posted in Commentary, News blog, Poiesis and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.