Embodied Spectatorship? Interpreting dance reviews around 1900

  • Lena Hammergren Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University
Keywords: Embodied responses, kinaesthesia, dance reviews, Isadora Duncan, Loïe Fuller, female spectatorship, amateur dancing


The article intertwines historiographical analyses with research methods focusing on embodied responses to performances. It argues that dance reviews can be interpreted from a sensorial viewpoint, analyzing ways in which language articulates so-called kinaesthetic, or affective responses. The argument is based on theories of agency and embodiment (Noland). Swedish reviews from performances by Isadora Duncan (Stockholm, 1906), Artemis Colonna (Stockholm, 1903), and Loïe Fuller (Gothenburg, 1907) are investigated, and it is concluded that these kinaesthetic sensations are visible mainly in the language of female writers and spectators. Moreover, in arguing that an embodied spectatorship is important in order to understand the view of the period as a turning point in dance aesthetics, an emphasis is put on the importance of including the practice of dancing by both professionals and amateurs in this historical narrative. Besides embracing the emergence of the professional dance avant-garde, the interpretation focuses on the importance of a corporeal education of the audience. In particular, female audience members seem to, via a dance performance, identify with forms of sensory experience in tandem with visually evaluated objects of art. It is argued that the change in the female viewers’ perceptions had a potential political effect in that it gave voice to both corporeal sensations and women’s experiences in ways new to the public arena. Thus, it is in these experiences the important turning point in dance history emerges, rather than merely in the performances themselves.

Author Biography

Lena Hammergren, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University
Lena Hammergren, Professor in Theatre Studies at the Department for Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, and professor in Dance Studies, School of Dance and Circus, part of Stockholm University of the Arts. Her research focuses are dance history, and dance and cultural theory. Her list of publications in English include chapters in e.g. Choreographing History (1995), Corporealities (1996), Europe Dancing: Perspectives on Theatre Dance and Cultural Identity (2000), Rethinking Dance History (2004), and Worlding Dance (2009). She has also published articles on dance in the Nordic region, e.g. ”Dance and Democracy in Norden” (2011); ”Spaces of Encounter: Dancing Democracy in the Nordic Region” (2012); ”Dancing African-American Jazz in the Nordic Region” (2014). Between 2007 and 2011, she was a board member of the Society of Dance History Scholars (today Dance Studies Association).


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How to Cite
Hammergren, L. (2018). Embodied Spectatorship? Interpreting dance reviews around 1900. Nordic Theatre Studies, 29(1), 8-24. https://doi.org/10.7146/nts.v29i1.103305