Moving Without the Colonial Mirror: Modernity, Dance, and Nation in the Works of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho (1985-97) - Chapter 1

Chapter 1. Introduction: Outlining Positions

Sarma 20 Jan 2004English

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Contextual note

This is chapter 1 of André Lepecki’s doctoral thesis in performance studies (New York University, January 2001), Moving Without the Colonial Mirror: Modernity, Dance, and Nation in the Works of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho (1985-97), of which chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6 were prepublished on Sarma. 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 Lourenço’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.

The new political situation in Portugal brings hope for an enlarged [sic] support for the arts, but dance has still to learn how to get its due. Most of the future of dance here depends on the good sense and courageous vision of the dancers, but judging from the small number of performers available and the way they are biased by their former, frustrating past, any prevision of what is going to happen is hazardous.

José Sasportes, writing on the Portuguese dance scene six months after the revolution of April, 25 1974

Today, one can say that the dance scene has reached its highest point in this century, or in any other century; dance is clearly acknowledged as integral to the cultural practices in Portugal…

José Sasportes, June 13, 1998



Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho are two of the most productive and compelling choreographers of the emerging Portuguese independent theatrical dance scene of the last decade. Both were born in the second half of the 1960s, during the period of highest political repression in the dictatorial, fascist regime of chancellor Oliveira Salazar.(1) They were born in the decade that saw the beginning, intensification and consolidation of the colonial wars in three of the five Portuguese African colonies at the time -- Angola, Mozambique, and Guiné-Bissau.(2) They were born in a country controlled by censorship of the arts and of the press, ravaged by the highest level of illiteracy in Western Europe,(3) as well as by acute economic and social underdevelopment.(4) In regard to the art-form they would both pioneer, and in which they would both excel in the 1990s, Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho had been born in a country marked by the absence of any national tradition of theatrical dance.

Indeed, theatrical dance, and particularly, independent theatrical dance, is a very recent cultural phenomenon in Portugal. Its short history (or lack thereof) is traced in the second chapter of this dissertation. What should be noted from the beginning, however, is the fact that while emerging from a barren cultural landscape and from an even more barren dance scene, Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho were considered, by the mid-1990s -- after roughly a decade of producing group and solo works -- important references in the European dance scene, particularly in the avant-garde scene. To this day, both continue to produce ground-breaking work, to generate polemic as well as followers amongst European presenters, critics, dancers and audiences. This dissertation traces the intricate paths of their choreographic works as they weave through recent Portuguese history. Through the choreographies of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho, this dissertation narrates the simultaneous emergence of Nova Dança Portuguesa (New Portuguese Dance) and of a new subjectivity in a particularly charged social, political and artistic context – that of a country arising from its isolated, underdeveloped, colonizing past and invested in creating a new identity in its search for a place within an idealized “European modernity.”

Why the focus on choreography, and why the focus on these two choreographers in particular? To answer the first part of the question is to introduce the major premises of this dissertation, namely 1) that major historical shifts necessitate a re-configuration of the body and its expressivity, and 2) that choreography is an art-form that constantly theorizes, experiments with, and probes the forces shaping subjectivity, ideology, and embodiment. In thinking about the impact of major historical changes in Portuguese society on dance, I partake of the position formulated by recent dance scholarship (5) that has shown how the formation of modern dance is an important aspect of the formation of nationalist discourses. Indeed, nationalism in the 20th century and dance share the same generative problem -- how to control the processes that generate both embodiment and subjection, how to render body and subject in the choreography of the state and the choreography of the stage.

Ramsey Burt outlined quite clearly in his book on the formations of alterity in modernist dance the problem that traverses this dissertation.(6) Burt wrote that “the subjective experience of embodiment is also conditioned by ideologies of national identity.”(6) Burt argues, throughout his book, that this conditioning of the subjective experience of embodiment under the ideologies of the nation is reflected in modernist avant-garde theatrical dance which either served or resisted those same ideologies and experiences. I believe we can expand Burt’s contributions beyond the scope of historical modernism and apply them to contemporary dance. Under this perspective, choreography can still be seen as a two-sided ideological mechanism -- it can serve as an art-form that defines actions suitable for an idealized body to perform while it strives to maintain a subjective integrity attached to a recognizable body-image (this would be choreography’s subservient function to power, including nationalism); or it can serve as a resistant metamorphic device, the art-form that explores and proposes new forms of agency and empowerment through otherwise unthinkable corporealities.

I am concerned with how the dance of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho (particularly between 1987-1996) responsed to the experience of colonial debacle, the end of fascism, and the pressures of modernity and of modernization -- particularly the metamorphic drive at the level of the society at large for the Portuguese body to become a “modern, European body.” Modernity, modernization, the modern are three terms that emerge throughout the dissertation. They emerge as reflection of an insistent governmental discourse that promotes “modernity” as national project; and that sees “culture” as way to achieve such modernity. In this sense, modernity is intimately, and problematically, tied to contemporary Portuguese dance.

Choreography tells us about the invention of the subject and the rehearsal of possible body images for that subject to incorporate and move in. It also tells us of the ways discursive, symbolic and political fields are reified and then imprinted onto the body. Throughout this dissertation, I interpret the new discursive fields that are reshaping “Portugal” as I read Camacho’s and Mantero’s choreographies; I also interpret their choreographies as I stumble through signs and icons of this new “Portugal.” The dissertation weaves between stage and state, moving back and forth through collective and personal memory, traces of gestures and of words, missing clues, social theories to create a composite, dynamic image of the ways dance interacts with the social. I am proposing that the choreographic work in question illuminates the tensions currently exerted upon the Portuguese body, and proposes a counter-discourse. This illumination, however, is not direct, but requires labor, that is, it requires a certain way of moving between signs and sights and bodies and images.

I would like to emphasize this word: image. Perhaps more than dance, image is instrumental throughout my argumentation -- both for the understanding of innovative choreographic strategies present in the work of Camacho and Mantero, as well as for the understanding of their relevance for, and impact on, Portuguese society. The quite dramatic social changes in Portugal in the past twenty five years (to the already mentioned end of fascism in 1974 with the subsequent fall of the colonial Empire [1975], one must add the revolutionary turmoil of 1974-77, the end of the colonial wars [1974] with the return of war veterans as well as new flux of immigration of African population into the ex-Metropole, and the adhesion to the European Union [1982]), can be viewed as comprising and provoking an unprecedented crisis of and in representation. Mostly, this crisis is evident in ways of representing the “nation,” its ethos, and its “people.”

The first Portuguese cultural critic to advance such reading was philosopher Eduardo Lourenço, in his influential book O Labirinto da Saudade. (7) For Lourenço, this representational crisis operates on two levels, symbolic and political, both of which implicate the production of imagery; namely, the image of the collective self (what can also be termed as “nation”), and the image of the nation’s Other. Lourenço argues that the sudden end of the Empire provoked not only a reshuffling of power relations, but also, and importantly, a deep disturbance in the symbolic relations between the colonial metropole and its colonies and within the metropole. This line of analysis, in which images are endowed with historical and mythical power, is encapsulated by Lourenço under the neologism “imagologia” (literally, “imagology”). For Lourenço the central problem of Portuguese culture has been, and continues to be, that of its “self-image” (7) and he proposes that only through a structural-dynamic analysis of Portuguese image production (i.e., through, “imagology”), can we asses the particularities put into play by Portuguese cultural production. Imagology is defined by Lourenço as "a critical discourse on the images that we (Portuguese) have been forging about ourselves."(8) This approach will be instrumental in my argumentation and analysis of the choreographic work in question, given the additional problem that in the “images Portuguese have been forging about” themselves the body is conspicuously absent.

This point is analyzed more thoroughly by Portuguese art critic Alexandre Melo. Melo has noted that the works of Mantero and Camacho share a common concern: both are engaged in imagining possible con/figurations of a Portuguese body struggling for self-image and identity in a present perceived to be in crisis. I will discuss this at length in chapter two, where I will relate how their works are seen by Melo as rare exceptions of a public imagining, problematizing, and politicizing, that which remains a ghostly lack in Portuguese cultural production: the bluntly physical body -- desiring, sexualized, visceral, carnal.

As for the question why these two choreographers in particular, it is certainly not merely the case of an economy of argumentation, of strategically considering their work as synedochically “representative” of the remainder of the contemporary Portuguese independent theatrical dance scene. Nor is it, as I will show throughout this dissertation, that the works of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho are thematically, choreographically, or even dramaturgically similar, imposing a methodological need for hermeneutic coupling. What I am suggesting in this dissertation is that the body of work of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho contains an underlying, subterranean set of concerns, a root structure that demands a dialogical interrogation and interpretation. That root structure, may be characterized by what I will call an iconoclastic drive aimed towards the figurations of Portuguese national identity. I will develop this point throughout the dissertation, and illustrate its emergence and development in each choreographer’s solo and group work. For the moment, I will characterize this iconoclastic drive as a profound political statement bound to a deeply felt desire to reconfigure and re-create the ways in which identities and behaviors are prescribed by state, ideological and performative apparatuses.

I invoke Louis Althuser’s well-known terminology on purpose. In his classic essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Althuser analyzes the ways by which subjects are “interpellated” by specific agents of power which identify and circumscribe them within a certain discursive force-field of identity, subjugation, and often, abjection.(9) What I see as an unifying force in Mantero’s and Camacho’s works is their drive to pragmatically identify, and then expose and undermine, precisely those interpellative exterior forces that create and encapsulate subjectivities and behaviors within the ideology of the inevitable and the natural.(10)

It is in this sense also that the term “dialogical,” when applied to the works of Mantero and Camacho, acquires full epistemological capacity and quite corporeal subversive agency. In The Dialogic Imagination , Mikhail Bahktin suggested that every utterance is dialogical in that it anticipates the response of an addressee.(11) Thus, on one level, each of the works by Mantero and Camacho can be seen as a dialogical utterance -- each provoking and awaiting (impatiently, most of the time) a response from the other (as if with each new piece another line were added to a silent, on-going, and recently antagonistic, series of calls and responses, creating throughout the past decade a living, choreographic, cadavre exquis ). This is the level of a (quite literal) silent anticipation. But it is on the Althusserian “interpellative” level of dialogism that their work unquestionably stands out in the current Portuguese dance panorama. For, no matter under which guise -- solo performances, group works, improvisations, manifestos and happenings --, their choreographies always seem to have a targeted addressee – their art provokes (strongly), and awaits (impatiently), direct responses from the society at large, that society awakening from the slumber of fascism, the nightmare of colonialism, the violence of war, and the backwardness of censorship and social repression. It is Portuguese society in its most minute mannerisms, obsessions and acts of violence that ultimately occupies the place of the dialogical other, a place Mantero and Camacho keep excavating and provoking and interpellating in each new dance, in each new rebellious word uttered on the stage, in each lingering, powerful body image, each fleeting step and gesture. Chapters three and four specifically address Mantero and Camacho’s interpellation of Portuguese denial of its colonial violence.

Finally, another level of dialogism intersects the biographies of each choreographer, but also my own biography, destabilizing any hopes for an epistemic field informed by what Lévi-Strauss once called “the look from afar.” This is the level of friendship, which must be foregrounded immediately, so that a better picture of the “dance scene” in Portugal be visible to foreign eyes. A less Bakhtinian and quite literal, direct dialogue between Mantero and Camacho, about their respective work, was initiated by the choreographers themselves, who befriended each other in the early 1980s in Lisbon. This dialogue informed most directly the first few years of their productions (until 1992), and has subsided ever since, as each one’s style and concerns evolved in different directions. After meeting in the studios of the Gulbenkian Ballet(12) -- where Mantero was a dancer for a few years and Camacho an apprentice --, they co-founded a dance ensemble in 1989 (along with choreographer João Fiadeiro, dancer/designer Carlota Lagido, video-maker Paulo Abreu, and myself). The most visible outcome of this open dialogue, friendship, and collaboration happened in 1990 when Mantero performed in Camacho's group-piece Quatro e o Quarto (Four and the Room) and when Camacho co-created and performed with Mantero the duet Blá-Blá-Blá.

Maurice Blanchot, at the end of a book of essays written under the shadow of his lost friend Georges Bataille, tells us that “Friendship, … passes by way of the recognition of the common strangeness that does not allow us to speak of our friends but only to speak to them, not to make them a topic of conversations (or essays).”(13) In this dissertation I transgress Blanchot’s words. The other friend in this already complex dialogical scene (between Camacho and Mantero and each of them with a Portuguese audience) is me. And, because of friendship (not to mention Blanchot’s sound advise), I never thought to make Francisco (Camacho) and Vera (Mantero) the topic of my doctoral dissertation. For once, the question of affective proximity was one that appeared to me as an insurmountable barrier to assess their work. Was I “too” close to them?

Closeness is a very good word to characterize the dance community in Lisbon, the city where I grew up and spent most of my life. Lisbon’s dance scene basically comprises (and more so, in the decade this dissertation considers, from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s) the overwhelming majority of Nova Dança Portuguesa . Dancers shift back and forth between a reduced number of choreographers, who sometimes also appear as dancers in other choreographers’ works. Collaborators such as composers and designers also work on numerous productions from very different choreographers as well. Quite simply, it is a small community, moreover, one marked by a remarkable sense of union, and it was within this community that I first entered the world of dance. In 1987 Francisco Camacho expressed the desire to found a working group, not necessarily a dance company, but a multi-disciplinary ensemble to maximize production resources and explore common interests in performance, and to experiment with alternative ways of creating dance and inserting it within the broader arts community. He invited two very young choreographers at the time to be part of this group, Vera Mantero and João Fiadeiro. He also invited Carlota Lagido, dancer and costume designer for almost every production by Camacho since 1985. The videographer Paulo Abreu completed the artistic core. Then, Camacho approached me, and asked me to be part of the art-coop Pós d’Arte.I remember being utterly surprised by the invitation. I did not know what I could possibly offer. Francisco said: “You are graduating in anthropology. You can help us out in our conversations and research.”

Thus, I started my very first professional contact with dance by conversing, and ended up in the studio, dramaturging, first for João Fiadeiro and Vera Mantero, later on (and until quite recently) for Meg Stuart and her Belgium based company Damaged Goods. Curiously, my only collaboration with Camacho happened in 1997, when I dramaturged his epic dance theatre production GUST. Soon after being invited to join Pós d’Arte, I was asked to fill in a vacant position as a dance critic in the weekly Lisbon rock paper Blitz. I had barely stepped into the world of Nova Dança Portuguesa, to suddenly see myself working on both sides of the fence -- I was collaborating in productions, participating of the creative process, working in the studio with dancers, choreographers, designers, composers, while, at the same time, being one of the few full-time dance critics in Lisbon at the time (along with critic Cristina Peres – whom I had replaced when she moved to the more prestigious weekly Sete --, António Pinto Ribeiro, António Laginha, and Maria José Fazenda). The problem of “proximity” and “objectivity” was immediately one I had to grapple with. It was clear to me that I had, from the start, to strategize my position as critic as someone who would write from within the fourth wall. I had to dismantle, with my writing, and within my writing, the somewhat dubious homology between (personal) distance and (critical) objectivity.(14)

Conceptually, it was my own field of expertise that helped me articulate my position. Since the late 1960s at least, some post-structuralist anthropology and sociology had been theorizing the artificiality of the cleavage “observer” / “observed” in the social sciences. These critics were particularly concerned with how the ethnographer in the field could never aspire to a position of neutral distancing, and even less to “objectivity” (perceived as a term homologous to “distance”). I was particularly fond of the uses by French sociologist Edgar Morin (whose writing was, at the time, a major influence at Lisbon’s Universidade Nova’s Department of Anthropology) on “commensality” as an epistemological device in field research, and of his ideas regarding “affect” and “sympathy” as emotive-epistemological grounds for a participatory sociology.(15) I hoped my position as critic could negotiate and bring forth those ideas, most notably in what was so clearly (and quite literally) an independent dance community composed in its entirety by no more than two dozen individuals (including critics!), whose roles as performers, teachers, choreographers, composers, critics, promoters, and producers were, to say the least, highly interchangeable. The major difference between the anthropological and ethnographic practices upon which I was modeling my own approach and standard dance criticism lies in the immediate impact of reviews regarding the market-value of the productions under scrutiny. With this in mind, I tried more and more to produce “reviews” in which my focus was not so much in the work’s “aesthetic excellence” but on its discursive position within a certain social and political field. (It was only later, that Cynthia Novack would tell me that this particular critical practice had a name – “Performance Studies”). The political field that preoccupied me was that of the stately pressures to transform Portugal’s self-image in order to conform with an “advanced, modern Europeanness” and the Portuguese State’s uses of art (particularly dance, and particularly its avant-garde) to show off this so much desired modernity.

Even with all these “safeguards” (which I can only hope did convey my “good intentions”) I kept one unbending rule: not to review works by the three Pós d'Arte choreographers, even after the dissolution of the group in 1991. I felt that the proximity was still too vivid. By 1993, and for many different reasons, of which my decision to become a professional dance dramaturg was a significant one, I had given up dance reviewing in Portugal altogether. However, my close knowledge of the work of the Pós d’Arte choreographers generated invitations to write about their work. I started to write about Francisco Camacho and Vera Mantero first for catalogues and programs, mostly for international venues that needed an introduction to their work. It wasn’t until my departure to New York in 1993, and the resulting onset of an almost pathological saudade (a Portuguese word collapsing nostalgia, mourning, and longing -- all laced with love) that the possibility of writing “something big” on the work of two choreographers came to my mind.

My departure from Portugal coincided with the period of high production for Camacho and Mantero, and, for the first time, upon every return, I would experience their work as a “normal” member of the audience – that is, with a distance: without inside information, without recognizing some idea or scene that I might have suggested in the studio, while watching a rehearsal. It was also at that moment that I started to experience a transformation in my own relationship to Lisbon, to Portugal, and to Portuguese culture. Displacement had forced a reconfiguration of my perceptual and intellectual attachments to the city, a sort of Brechtian alienation effect towards an estranging reality that once used to be familiar.

Something else happened from 1992 on. It was a period of high-gear metamorphosis of a country looking desperately to become (an)other. Portugal was going then (as it still is now) through a crisis of post-colonialism, and through a fast-paced assimilation into the social, political and economic directives of the European Economic Community (now European Union). As the country struggled for economic, industrial and educational development, it also struggled (and with great force) to transform its self-image of a backward, fascist, colonialist, peasant country, into a full-fledged “modern,” democratic and “European” nation.

Within this drive towards modernity (that I discuss at length in chapters four and five), the creative explosion of Camacho and Mantero, and my experiential vertigo regarding a country that I once had casually called “mine,” a vision forced itself with crystal clarity. The works of Mantero and Camacho seemed to be, in the entirety of Nova Dança Portuguesa, the only ones sensing and undermining the new collective forces pushing the Portuguese towards a metamorphosis into modernity. Camacho and Mantero also seemed to be the only ones possessed by a cruel, raw gaze upon a variety of discursive “ticks” plaguing the field of cultural production in Portugal. The significance of their work was that of a mystery and of a provocation. I knew then I had to write about them.

The dissertation thus probes the ways in which the choreographic work of Mantero and Camacho is forcing the Portuguese spectator (perhaps for the first time in history) into a critical, sensorial, and semantic re-evaluation of his or her surrounding culture, history, and self-image. In this sense, my interpretation of the work of Mantero and Camacho as cultural critique is largely based on the foucauldian insight that moments of historical and cultural change in the West are isomorphic to a reconfiguration of the body, and to the proprietary relations between self and body, subjectivity and body-image. With this approach, I am also proposing an operational definition of dance as an historical force-field – as both an agent of bodily re-configuration as well as an attractor of images and imaginations streaming through the social surface.

Finally, a word should be added about my uses of the terms “dance” and “choreography” in regard to the specific body of work of Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho. Both choreographers came into authorship in a context of wide-spread post-Bauschian tanz-theatre. The second wave of European dance theatre of the late 1980s and early 1990s, mostly initiated by the Flemish choreographers Win Vandekeybus, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Jan Fabre, and Alain Platel, certainly had their impact upon the choreographic thinking of Camacho and Mantero.(16) Bauschian methodologies of composition were the current compositional and rehearsal methodologies in Europe in the early 1990s and were at the time being rapidly revised and expanded. This fact is extremely important to clarify what is meant by “dance” in the work of Mantero and Camacho. It is not only the composition of bodily movements within certain techniques, and according to rhythmic distributions of partners and patterns in time -- it is a particular form of choreographic imagination, bound to a crisis of the image and of subjectivity in charged historical contexts, which uses the expressivity of the body to theorize the body’s relationship to subjectivity, to culture, and to an economy of body-images. Such is the definition of choreography posited by dance historian Susan Foster' when she says that choreography is a "theorization of embodiment."(17) If that is so, then dance pieces constitute privileged sites for the cultural critic to scrutinize shifts in representations of the body and of moments of historical, cultural and societal changes. This point is instrumental for my reading of Camacho’s and Mantero’s choreographies.


(1)António de Oliveira Salazar (1900-1970) ascended to power in 1928, as Minister of Finances. In 1930, Salazar assumed the presidency of the Council of Ministers, thus taking virtual control of the country’s administration. He ruled Portugal under strict dictatorial (and in the 1930s until the last years of World War II, openly pro-fascist guidelines) until 1968. He was succeeded by Marcelo Caetano, who kept the main ideological, repressive and colonial policies outlined by Salazar. Salazar and Caetano’s regime, known as Estado Novo (literally, the “New State”), was overthrown by a military coup on the 25th of April, 1974. The Estado Novo constitutes the longest dictatorship in Western Europe (1928-1974).

(2) The wars reached their bloodiest moments in the early 1970s, precipitating the military coup of 1974, and the instauration of democracy.
(3)A fourth-grade reading book of the early sixties, “officially approved by Ministerial order on 6-1-1961,” starts its first lesson with the following sentence: “I have just enrolled in the fourth-grade class. This will be the last year of my school life.” See Machado, Adolfo. Livro de Leitura para a 4ª Classe do Ensino Primário. Porto: Editora Educação Nacional, 1961, p.3. Indeed, in that year of 1961, and according to official data, 40.3% of the population of continental Portugal “does not read or write,” and 21,1% “read or write but have no school degree” (another way to say that this fraction of the population could barely sign their names in official documents). This means that a few years before Mantero and Camacho were born, 61.4% of the country was technically illiterate. By 1970, those figures had dropped to 33,6% and 4,5%. For a thorough review of the statistical data, see Barreto, António. A Situação Social em Portugal , 1960-1995. Lisboa: Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, 1997, p.89. Although these figures kept falling consistently from 1960 until the present day, it is worth noticing that by 1991 –- the year that Mantero and Camacho exploded onto the international dance scene – 30% of the population was technically illiterate. Moreover, in 1991, for 50 % of the country’s population, the fourth grade had indeed been their “last year of school life.”
(4) The concept of “underdevelopment” is problematic -- particularly within a global capitalist ideology of geo-political dominance by nations self-described as “developed.” I use it strategically at this point, mostly to underline, from the start, the peculiar position of Portugal within Western Europe -- a position of economic “subalternity,” and of cultural isolation, crucial to understand future developments in the country’s economic and cultural policies in its post-fascist era (from 1974 to the present day). Regardless the concept’s ambiguities, some of the standard indicators of “underdevelopment” are worth quoting: in 1961, the infant death rate in Portugal was a staggering 88,8‰. By 1984, this rate was still a very high 16,7‰ . Also in 1961, the Portuguese Gross Domestic Product was about one third of the Western European average. Economists agree that from 1960s on, the Portuguese economy started to close the gap with Western Europe. See Barreto, 1997, p. 237. Thomas C. Bruneau writes on the country’s economic situation in the mid 1980s, when the boom of independent new dance of which Mantero and Camacho were central initiators, took place: “Portugal remained the most underdeveloped country of Western Europe as defined by most indicators. For instance, the per capita income was behind other less developed countries such as Ireland, Greece, and even Yugoslavia and ahead of only Turkey among the OECD countries.” See Bruneau, Thomas C. Politics and Nationhood. Post-revolutionary Portugal. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984, p. 29. By the time of this writing, Portugal remains the last economy in the Eurostat economic index listings.
(5) See, Burt, Ramsey. Alien Bodies. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.; Franko, Mark. Dancing Modernism / Performing Politics. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995; Manning, Susan. Ecstasy and the Demon: Feminism and Nationalism in the Dances of Mary Wigman. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1993; Martin, Randy. Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
(6)See Burt.
(7) Ibid., p., 6.
(8) Lourenço, Eduardo. O Labirinto da Saudade. Psicanálise Mítica do Destino Português. Lisboa: Dom Quixote, 1991. (The title could be translated into English as The Labyrinth of Longing).
(9) Ibid., p.30-32.
(10) Ibid., p.12. Translation mine. Throughout this dissertation, all further quotations from Portuguese originals have been translated by me.
(11) Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an investigation).” In Mapping Ideology. Ed. Slavoj Zizek. London and New York: Verso, 1994, p. 100-140.
(12) As I will show later on, their most recent work gestures towards a more “foucauldian” approach regarding sources of power and mechanisms of subjugation, in which “interpellation” happens also, and most fiercely, outside identifiable super-structural “state apparatuses”. In these works, the iconoclastic drive remains fierce, subtle, and unrivaled in the Portuguese stage.
(13) Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. edt. Michael Holquist. trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.
(14) The neo-classical repertoire company based in Lisbon almost single-handedly started to train dancers professionally and create a choreographic repertoire in the early 1970s. I will discuss the impact of the Gulbenkian Ballet in the recent fabrication of a Portuguese dance tradition in chapter one.
(15) Blanchot, Maurice. Friendship. Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997, p.291.
(16) I had the chance to expose my views on the politics of dance reviewing and the ethics of “proximity” on two occasions. See Lepecki, André. “O Crítico Critica-se?” Forum Dança Revista, vol.1, n.1, January 1991, p. 11-12; and Lepecki, André. “Rethinking Words. A Field Trip to Dance Criticism.” Contact Quarterly, vol.19, n.2, Summer/Fall 1994, p. 23-27.
(17) Economist Albert Hirschman shows how the uses of “commensality” in sociology can be traced to Georg Simmel’s 1910 article “Die Soziologie der Mahlzeit,” in which Simmel discusses the meal as bridge between the private and the public spheres. On the epistemic and ethic implications of Simmel’s essay for economic theory see Hirschman, Albert. Crossing Boundaries. New York: Zone Books, 1998. p. 17-21. Edgar Morin suggested commensality as a methodological tool that erases the sanitary barriers sociology erects between researcher and social group. See Morin, Edgar. Commune en France, la métamorphose de Plodémet. Paris: Fayard, 1967. More recently, Nadia Seremetakis proposed commensality as a practice of sensorial interchange, through which participants literally exchange body experiences. See Seremetakis, Nadia. “The Memory of the Senses, Part II: Still Acts.” In The Senses Still. Perception and Memory as Material Culture in Modernity. Ed. Nadia Sermatakis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996, p. 37-39. It is important not only to emphasize these scholarly aspects of the term, but also to call into attention the symbolic place of commensality within Mediterranean culture, in which Portugal participates. In Portugal, there is no group affiliation (therefore no identity formation) outside the performance of commensal experience (of which this dissertation undoubtedly takes part).
(18) Francisco Camacho danced with Alain Platel’s Les Ballets C. de la B. in the 1994 production Bonjour Madame, comment allez-vous. Vera Mantero spent the year of 1992 with the dance-theatre company of French choreographer Caterine Diverres, herself influenced by Pina Bausch but also by the Butoh dance of Ijikata.
(19) Susan Foster, oral communication, Department of Performance Studies, New York University, December 1997.