Likely Terpsichore?: Dancing in the Museum of Ancient History and Archaeology

Marie-Louise Crawley


This article looks at shifting experiences of temporality when choreography ‘performs’ as museum exhibit, most specifically when these performances occur within the museum of ancient art and archaeology. I am interested in how we might consider the dancing body in the archaeological museum as a counter-archival object or, to use performance theorist Rebecca Schneider’s reworking of Michel Foucault’s term, as a site of "counter-memory" (Schneider 2011, 105). If and when the dancing body in the archaeological museum becomes a site of counter-memory, might it allow new visibility for those bodies - most specifically those female bodies – previously unrepresented, misrepresented or rendered invisible by history?  

This discussion is grounded in an analysis of my current practice-as research choreographing in and for the archaeological museum, specifically the durational Likely Terpsichore (2017) performed in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (UK) in the context of an artistic residency in the Archive of Performance of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD), University of Oxford. This practice in the museum builds on the potential of principles from the ancient Roman solo pantomime form, tragoedia saltata, for creating emotionally resonant dance-theatre performance. Here ancient sources are ‘re-imagined’ in order to find new possibilities for twenty-first century performance. I ask how choreography, like archaeology, allows us to excavate the body and the past. What happens when this excavation is put on display and exhibited in the museum?


choreography; Classics; museum; practice-as-research; temporality

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