Editorial Note

Ever Changing Dancescapes

Savas Patsalidis*

The world is in crisis at all levels, a crisis which is not abating but rather increasing in intensity. Problems such as poverty, climate change, destruction of the ecosystem, military confrontations and full-fledged war exacerbate threats to social and economic welfare, individual and group identity and democracy. The world as system of interacting communities has become increasingly difficult to conceptualize, much less manage.

As for theatre, it is fighting its own battle to survive economically in the harsh conditions of neo-liberalism, while at the same time struggling to keep up with events that threaten the very survival of the planet. The changes are so rapid and abrupt that there is little time left to record and understand what has happened and then convert the results into useful art.

The texts chosen for publication in this issue of Critical Stages/ Scènes critiques share the common theme of struggle, as authors explore this fluid world and its arts through different channels of thought and means of creation. A quick glance at the table of contents confirms the breadth and depth as well as the diversity of the authors’ efforts, a diversity which corresponds to the diversity of the world and its constituent parts.

In the course of preparing this issue of theatre and dance, we lost three important figures: Steve Paxton in dance, Edward Bond in playwriting and Elinor Fuchs in theatre scholarship. In losing these leaders, the field of theatre and performing arts has surely experienced a deep and irrecoverable loss.

In May 2024 the International Association of Theatre Critics held its World Congress in Brno, Czech Republic. The theme of its conference “’Truth’ in the Kafkaesque World of Theatre: Tragic or Comic,” was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Kafka’s death, a theme chosen to reflect the concerns of this Journal as well. In a world so multi-layered, multifarious, confused and confusing, one wonders where truth is, who defines it, and how theatre deals with this dizzying “post-truth” quest. Obviously there is no single, exclusive answer, yet many answers are possible, some of which were addressed in the papers presented at the conference, scheduled to be published in the Winter issue of Critical Stages/ Scènes critiques,  in a reworked and expanded version.  During the conference, the Thalia Prize was awarded to the renowned German scholar Erika Fischer-Lichte for her contribution to world theatre.

Part II

Among the arts that have experienced a boom in recent years, is dance, contemporary or postmodern, a largely hybrid art form that borrows freely from various styles, including ballet, jazz, and classical dance, and from traditions of Africa, Japan and China, as well as Europe, North America and South America.  The fact that dance is not based on a static text, but rather on the text produced by the body, explains why its popularity is constantly increasing. Critical Stages/ Scènes critiques has participated in this boom with this special issue, very professionally assembled by two hard working dance connoisseurs, Margareta Sörenson and Steriani Tsintziloni.

Is dance an art that can survive across time, the two editors wonder? How, why and for whom does dance matter in our current era?

The goal of this special issue, the two editors explain, is to recognize dance as a diverse and complex practice with a multiplicity of histories, meanings and aims: it cannot be contained within a monolithic definition or tradition.  For example, Lyudmila Mova et al, authors of the article “Art Therapy in a Country at War,” examine the therapeutic potential of contemporary dance, using the war in Ukraine as their field of research. They discuss the significant rehabilitative capabilities inherent in contemporary dance and explain how they help the military exercise self-control and protect their bodies in combat conditions.

In “Communal Choreographies,” Susanne Foellmer explores how expanded conceptions of choreography in dance scholarship can enhance the understanding of topical social movements such as those undertaken by the activist group Letzte Generation in the urban embodied public sphere.

Also related to space is Maria Konomi’s contribution, in which she examines how “situating choreographies in real sites of the public realm are practiced and analysed as a complex and deeply engaging contemporary performance strategy with regard to form, content, context, as well as artistic methodologies, design, production and spectatorship frameworks of the site-specific dance performance.” 

In his article, Johannes Birringer explores the relationship of dancing bodies and technology, identifying blind spots and shifts occurring in this relationship during the last years.  Princewill Chukwuma Abakporo et al, in their co-authored work, claim that if indigenous dances are to survive beyond this millennium, the concept, context and content of African dance must be rethought, since the aesthetic, functional, and ideological platforms that have engendered the pure forms are changing, if not completely eroded. The writers argue that as a matter of urgency, indigenous dance choreographers must begin to engage African dance creations from the points of critical syncretism, thus allowing the choreographer sufficient flexibility to align indigenous dances to the realities of contemporary society. The researchers note certain areas which are critical to this transition.

Deanne Kearney argues that ChatGPT will initiate a new age of dance criticism that differs from scholarly approaches which focus on the transition to digital criticism.  Her research explores the extent to which biases in training data can impact the quality and objectivity of ChatGPT’s output in relation to dance and movement.

Jonas Schnor considers what dance can do in the present to generate new potential for the co-existence of multi-species in the future. Zhao Yang interviews Ma Jiaolong and Zhao Zhibo, two acclaimed dancers, and shares valuable insights on bridging cultural divides and challenging stereotypes through the art of Chinese dance. Maina Arvas talks with Cristina Caprioli, recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of Biennale Danza 2024, whose work ”quietly and substantially influenced multiple generations of choreographers during her three decades of provocative physical research.”  In her interview with Maria Martha Gigena, Halima Tahan Ferreyra discusses the current role of dance in Buenos Aires.

The texts described above can provide a representative overview of this issue of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, yet it is not possible, unfortunately, to mention all nineteen texts from this special and rich volume, which includes two performance reviews and a book review, as well.  However, seen together, the  selected texts provide a clear and well substantiated view of the field and especially of the new areas where dance is now active and open to experimentation.

For her “Essay” section, Yana Meerzon has selected and edited with great care and expertise nine texts, by scholars based in China, Canada, Latvia, Belaruse, Finland, and Bengal, all different in terms of their subject matter and approach; among this collection are two texts related to dance which enrich this special issue with additional perspectives.

In the section “Inter/National Reflections” one text focuses on the ETC festival held in Nova Gorica, while another provides a broader commentary on the showcase program organized by the National Theatre in Sofia (both texts by Savas Patsalidis). Kalina Stefanova’s essay describes the renewed BeSeTo festival in its first post-pandemic edition in Shenzhen, China. Finally, the section features an article by Maria Kastrinou et al which explores the creative process of performing The Price of Water, a play based on ethnographic research with Syrian refugees in Greece during the so-called refugee crisis as the EU Hotspot approach to migration was being implemented.

The “Interview” section includes four  interviews with renowned theatre professionals representing a range of cultures and fields: one is from Japan, with the playwright Misaki Satoyama, two  from the United States, with the director Mark Russell and the director and producer Roberta Levitow, and the  fourth  is from Brazil, with the director Christiane Jatahy. In the “Performance Review” section, Matti Linnavuori hosts nine reviews from eight different countries, and Don Rubin in his “Book Review” section features four contributions, thus significantly broadening the scope and interests of the journal.

The issue also includes the laudation speeches in honor of Erika Fischer-Lichte, the winner of the Thalia Prize, as well as the obituary of Elizabeth Sakellaridou for the death of a great playwright, Edward Bond.

As I have stated many times, the organization and operation of a journal of the size of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques cannot be the work of one person: it takes teamwork and team spirit to make it function properly.  That said, I would like to thank the section editors for their enthusiasm, commitment and hard work, the authors who entrust us with their texts, our external peer reviewers whose opinions help us immensely and of course our language readers, namely Ian Herbert, Linda Manney and Michel Vais, who ensure that every issue is free of errors and problems. All these people make Critical Stages/Scènes critiques what it is today: an inclusive and democratic publication devoted to quality in each and every issue, as it strives to be close to theatre communities around the world and to the realities that shape the theatre.

I would like to encourage those interested in having their articles, performance and/or book reviews, interviews, case studies and empirical research considered for publication to contact the editor of the respective section (click here).

Once a manuscript has been peer-reviewed and recommended for publication, it undergoes further language copyediting, typesetting and reference validation, following the latest guidelines of the MLA style sheet, in order to provide the highest publication quality possible.

Submissions should not be published earlier or be under consideration for publication elsewhere while being evaluated for this journal. They must also adhere to the style and ethics of the journal (for more on the journal’s Publication Ethics/Procedure please click here).

If you have any other queries about the journal, or if I can be of help with anything, please do not hesitate to contact me (spats@enl.auth.gr).

NOTE: The Special Topic of our Winter issue (#30) is: “‘Truth’ in the Kafkaesque World of Theatre: Tragic or comic?Eds. Zuzana Ulicianska, Hanna Strejckova, Savas Patsalidis.

Publication date: Late December 2024. 

Please forward the link (www.critical-stages.org) to anyone who may be interested. Thank you.

Our doors are open to all. Please join us as we continue producing new ideas for the ever-evolving theatre arts around the world.

PHOTO: Station 02/Episode 02: Polluted – Don’t look! Conception – Choreography – Interpretation: George Papadopoulos. Costume design: Ioanna Chrysomalli.  Photo: John Kouskoutis (from Maria Konomi’s article included in this issue:  “Situating Choreographies of the Real in Elefsina: Mystery 59 U(R)TOPIAS Academy of Choreography: dance MyS+eries / Season 2”).

*Savas Patsalidis is Professor Emeritus in Theatre Studies at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He has also taught at the Drama School of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, the Hellenic Open University and the graduate program of the Theatre Department of Aristotle University. He is the author of fourteen books on theatre and performance criticism/theory and co-editor of another thirteen. His two-volume study, Theatre, Society, Nation (2010), was awarded first prize for best theatre study of the year. In 2022 his book-length study Comedy’s Encomium: The Seriousness of Laughter, was published by University Studio Press. He is a member of the Executive Committee, Hellenic Association of Theatre and Performing Arts Critics, a member of the curators’ team of Forest International Festival (organized by the National Theatre of Northern Greece), and the editor-in-chief of Critical Stages/ the journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics.

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