he last decade has seen an explosion in critical dance scholarship.
New work addresses issues of ideology, subjectivity, social categori-
zation, representation, the production of "value" through aestheti-
cized practices, and the disciplining of the body. This type of work represents a
significant shift in the dance field. Up until the mid-
980s most dance scholar-
ship consisted of historical narratives, aesthetic valuations, or auteur studies of
great dancers or choreographers.! Many of these works are highly respected,
indeed invaluable, contributions to dance history. But their main goals were to
articulate aesthetic categories, to describe an ephemeral art form, or to pro-
vide a sense of the historical context in which certain forms flourished, not to
investigate the operations of social power. Recent work, however, is beginning
to foreground theoretical concerns which do focus on the ideological under-
pinnings of aesthetic practices. This work is engaged in dialogue with more
established cultural studies scholarship on literature, popular culture, visual
representation, and the media.
My immediate goal in bringing these essays together in one place is to
facilitate and enhance the visibility of critical dance studies within the wider
field of cultural studies. At the same time, I hope to make the increasingly
influential cultural studies approaches within the dance field more easily avail-
able to dance scholars, thus encouraging further development of critically
engaged scholarship.2
My longer-range goal is to put on the cultural studies agenda new questions
and approaches regarding key concepts of embodiment, identity, and repre-
sentation. Not only can the judicious adoption and adaptation of critical the-
ory enable increasingly sophisticated and complex analyses of dance as a social
practice; at the same time, the investigation of dance as an extremely under-
analyzed bodily practice may challenge or extend dominant formulations of
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