Emily Labhart

thinking about dance, arts management and cultural representation

Dancing, Thinking, Sensing, Feeling: Corporeal Practices and Discourses on Decolonisation – Dr Melissa Blanco Borelli

Hips as a source of power. A decolonial gesture. Contesting notions of power, tragedy and embodied knowledge. The historical silencing of women of colour.

Dr Melissa Blanco Borelli opened her lecture at The Showroom on 15 June, by playing us the above music video by Arca. Borelli discussed the concept that bodies make declarative statements regardless of what they are doing, but in order to have agency over how our bodies are perceived, our bodies must know their geopolitical practices.

In ‘Thievery’, Arca has created a female version of himself (with a small waist, large hips and buttocks) using mainly Jamaican Dancehall vocabulary, whining and isolating the pelvis facing away from the camera. This, from a gay, white (in appearance, he’s actually from Venezuela) male music producer, who has worked on tracks for the likes of Kanye West, Kelela and FKA Twigs.

How then, has Arca (real name Alejandro Ghersi) been able to recreate himself in this way?

Without giving too much away, Borelli discussed the body as relational – something that changes meaning wherever you put it. At the same time, asking how we become literate in something beyond our geopolitical experience. Considering identity, cultural shifts and what Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano calls the ‘coloniality of power’, she argued that it is impossible to root ourselves in authenticity, because we are all so creolised, and that movement is learned, not innate.

Dr Melissa Blanco Borelli is Senior Lecturer, Dance in the Drama and Theatre Department at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has a BA in International Relations and Music (double major) from Brown University, an MA in Communications from the Annenberg School at University of Southern California, and received her PhD in Dance History and Theory (now Critical Dance Studies) from University of California, Riverside.

She is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (OUP, 2014) and  She Is Cuba: A Genealogy of the Mulata Body (OUP, 2015) which won the 2016 De la Torre Bueno Prize for best book in Dance Studies by the Society of Dance History Scholars. Other publications include chapters in Black Performance Theory (Duke University Press, 2014), Zizek and Performance (Palgrave, 2014), The Oxford Handbook of Screendance (OUP, 2016), the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Competition (OUP, 2018), and journal articles in International Journal of Screendance, and Women & Performance.

Read more about Borelli here or click here to stay up to date with future presentations.

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