Activating Dance Records. Conceptualizing research into the Swedish, Nordic and global archives pertaining to the Russian dancer Anna Robenne

  • Astrid von Rosen Art History and Visual Studies, Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg
Keywords: Anna Robenne, dance archives, archival multiverse, archival activation, imagined records, impossible archival imaginaries, body as archive, records continuum, practice as knowledge, digital archives

Abstract

This article explores the following research question: In what ways can activations of dance records (archived materials and other recordings of activities) be conceptualized to contribute to the making of a critically productive dance history in the digital age? Drawing on an extensive study of the Russian dancer Anna Robenne, the article focuses on the archival explorations (or road trip) as such, and in particular the multifaceted ways in which the records themselves can be active agents in processes of memory making and history production. Adopting recent theoretical developments concerning the concept of pluralization in archival studies, the exploration discards the conventional and rather static understanding of records as neutral containers of facts to emphasize instead an inclusive and infinitely evolving process. Working within an interdisciplinary archive-oriented realm, the author reflexively makes use of practices and methods belonging to both art history and classical and contemporary dance tradition. The article first maps recent pluralizing approaches within archival studies including re-theorizations of the key concepts records, provenance, value and representation. It then conceptualizes archival activation through examples from the archival road trip. The article concludes by offering the reader clear arguments for archival pluralization in the form of intimate, invasive, and imaginary activation, and demonstrates the importance and relevance of closely, critically and imaginatively engaging with records. The article highlights the role the archive can play in breaking down cultural barriers and re-evaluating notions of dance historiography, heritage and cultural identity.

Author Biography

Astrid von Rosen, Art History and Visual Studies, Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg

Astrid von Rosen is an associate professor (Swedish “docent”) in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She is also a research coordinator for the Embracing the Archives cluster within the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies at the University of Gothenburg and University College London. A former classical and contemporary dancer, her research interests include historiographical and participatory approaches to expanded scenography, dance community archives and archiving, the power of images in relation to social change, and transboundary methodological development. Her recent publications include “‘Dream no Small Dreams!’ Impossible archival imaginaries in dance community archiving in a digital age”, in Rethinking Dance History (second edition, Routledge 2017). She is currently exploring radical empathy in archival relationships within the collaborative project Dance Archives and Digital Participation funded by Vinnova, Sweden’s innovation agency.

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Published
2018-01-27
How to Cite
von Rosen, A. (2018). Activating Dance Records. Conceptualizing research into the Swedish, Nordic and global archives pertaining to the Russian dancer Anna Robenne. Nordic Theatre Studies, 29(1), 117-137. https://doi.org/10.7146/nts.v29i1.103312