Dramaturgy, Colored Bodies, Cultural Hybridity, and Katherine Profeta

Thursday, August 18 and Friday, August 19 – “Dramaturgy in Motion” by Katherine Profeta

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On Friday, I went for a run and then to Metropolis Coffee Company in Edgewater (they have Hoosier Mama quiche so…) before having a wonderful flat tire journey with Meg (but now I know how to change a tire!). On Saturday I went to Cafe Jumping Bean (a little bit more of a restaurant than a cafe, and Obama’s been there so you know it’s worth it) and then went to La Catrina Cafe (really great tea and a nice atmosphere).

Katherine Profeta was Ralph Lemon’s dramaturg, and this book is about her experiences with him and also about dramaturgy and dance in general. First and foremost, it was awesome to get to read about those experiences from her point of view.

She starts by going through a history of dramaturgy, which is really important if you’re like me and are completely ignorant of dramaturgy and its origins. Her five chapters work through five “potential registers of the dance dramaturg’s engagement in the working process”–text and language, research, the dramaturg as the “advocate for the audience,” the art of attending to the movement, and interculturalism in performance (22-23).

One thing that Profeta is keenly aware of, which I appreciate, is her experience as a white woman and how that affects her dramaturgy. She acknowledges that she can’t separate her experiences from the way she looks at Lemon’s work, and that that is potentially problematic because of the nature and content of Lemon’s work. At one point, she notes how transferring the actions of a white body onto a collection of mostly black bodies completely alters their nature, and how a white body is considered “neutral” but a black body will always have other underlying meaning attached to it.

Profeta’s last chapter is all about interculturalism in performance, which is a really intriguing notion. Essentially, Lemon wanted to incorporate elements of other cultures into his dances, and part of Profeta’s job as dramaturg was helping him to figure out how to do that in a way that was not appropriative, but also not imitative. They had to walk a line of incorporating elements that allowed for the original culture to exist without being erased, but not so many elements that it turned into a mythological version of that culture. These notions, I think, are much more widely applicable than just in dance–they apply to all forms of art, and I think some even reach into our daily lives.