Dialogic Performance


While reading through Profeta’s book Dramaturgy in Motion, the term dialogic performance really caught my attention. According to The SAGE Handbook of Performance Studies, this term is defined as “a way of having intimate conversations with other people and cultures” (340). It is a kind of performance that demands empathy and a will to speak to and learn about other people (from different cultures) instead of simply speaking of them. This kind of performance does not have to be a dialogue through words, but it can also be made possible through art and motion.

In the fifth chapter of her book, Profeta plays around with the idea of interculturism in the world of movement and she discusses the challenges choreographers face due to increasing xenophobia in this globalized world. To put forward a way to make peaceful communication and acceptance possible between two different cultures, she discusses the thoughts of an ethnographer, Dwight Conquergood. Conquergood has developed four categories which he regards as “ethical pitfalls” that lead to a failure in communication between different cultural groups through performance (179). These pitfalls are as follows: performance of someone’s culture against their will probably for financial benefit (Custodian’s Rip Off), stereotypical presentation of one’s cultural (Enthusiast’s Infatuation), presenting one’s culture for the sake of “wonder” and “spectacle” (Curator’s Exhibition) and completely abandoning any kind of presentation of one’s culture (Skeptic’s Cop Out). Through Profeta’s text, it could be seen that Conquergood is a strong supporter of dialogic performance and he seems to believe that such a performance can be regarded as successful if it manages to escape these four pitfalls. She deeply goes into Conquerwood’s view of the last pitfall “Skeptic’s Cop Out” which he regards as the most unacceptable one as it takes away the opportunity of having this dialogic performance at all (180).

The reason why this term really attracted me was because it made me think of Crystal Pite’s work that we observed in the video today in class. I was able to see why it can be seen to be not a very successful attempt of dialogic performance. I think it touched down the category of “Curator’s Exhibition” as the choreography seemed to be an exaggeration of the real situation of the refugees. It also made me think of the current situation of the refugees. It is possible for the them to fall into the “Skeptic’s Cop Out” situation because of their week position in a foreign country. It is very likely that they do not get enough opportunity to share their own culture with the nationals and choose to remain silent. I made me wonder if we can take on the role of “choreographers” who help the refugees in Greece to re-explore and present their cultural expression through movement along with sharing with them what we have learnt so far. We have been hovering over the idea of what remains when we leave the refugee camps. I think if we can just trigger and support this idea of discovering a way of presenting one’s culture through dialogic performance, we can make a difference.

Works Cited

Madison, D.S.. The SAGE Handbook of Performance Studies. ed. Judith Hamera. -: SAGE, 2006. Profeta, Katherine. 2015. Dramaturgy in Motion: At Work on Dance and Movement Performance. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, The Literary Pensieve "Performing Difference: Dialogic Narratives of People and History." Accessed 8 Jan 2018. https://literarypensieve.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/performing-difference-dialogic-narratives-of-people-and-history/.