Moving Without the Colonial Mirror: Modernity, Dance, and Nation in the Works of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho (1985-97) - abstract

Abstract and table of contents

Sarma 1 Jan 2004English

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A dissertation by André Lepecki submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Performance Studies, New York University, January, 2001. Advisor was prof. Barbara Browning.

Sarma prepublished chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6 in January 2004.


The dissertation analyzes the work of Portuguese choreographers Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho as cultural interventions into Portuguese national identity after the loss of the colonial Empire (1975), the end of fascism (1974), and the inclusion of Portugal in the European Union (1986).
Through Michael Taussig’s notion of the “colonial mirror of production of reality,” the dissertation locates dance as instrumental for an understanding of post-colonial Portuguese society. Through Eduardo Louren�o’s notion of “imagology,” the dissertation identifies the works of Camacho and Mantero as unique critiques of the images generated by the Portuguese about their own cultural and political identities.
Section I, “Outlining Positions,” shows how the history of Portuguese theatrical dance in the twentieth century failed, until the mid-1980s, to generate an avant-garde movement. It locates this failure in the history of Portuguese fascism, its colonial policies, and their impact on the arts, particularly in dance. It discusses how Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho’s choreography was immediately perceived as exceptional, particularly by their innovative uses of the body as a positive point of departure for a critique of contemporary Portuguese culture.
Section II, “Mirrors,” analyzes a solo by Mantero and a group piece by Camacho as choreographic deconstructions of colonial desire. When discussing Mantero’s solo, it introduces the notions of “cultural anesthesia’ (Allen Feldman) and of “still acts” (Nadia Seremetakis) to show how memories of the colonial war (1961-1974) are inscribed into everydayness. Through the Derridian notion of “adieu,” it identifies in one of Camacho’s group pieces a critique of colonial nostalgia.
Section III, “Agents,” reads contemporary Portuguese society as politically driven by the desire to attain modernity. Modernity is described as a amnesiac, metamorphic, and choreographic Sate project. Three solos by Mantero are analyzed in terms of their critique of gender and race within this drive for the modern. Two solos by Camacho are analyzed as critiques of the forced sexual identities modernity seems to bring to the contemporary Portuguese body.

Table of contents

Part I. Contexts/Shifts
Chapter 1. Introduction. Outlining Positions
Chapter 2. Missing Body/Missing Dance/Missing Country
Part II. Mirrors
Chapter 3. The Shattered Mirror. The dance of existing
Chapter 4. The Prostitution of Time
Part III. Agents
Chapter 5. Experiments on the Subjectivity of Modernity, I
Chapter 6. Experiments on the Subjectivity of Modernity, II
Chapter 7. On Methods. Theirs, Mine