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Title: The Language of Dance
Author: Bennett, Karen
Keywords: dance
intersemiotic translation
kinetic sign system
Issue Date: 2008
Citation: Bennett, Karen. ‘The Language of Dance’, Textos Pretextos 11: Coreo-grafias, Lisbon, 2008
Abstract: Dance, like most other art forms, is not intrinsically representational. In fact, the expressive, ritualistic or aesthetic dimensions have often had primacy over the referential over the course of its variegated history, and in much modern and contemporary dance, the representational element is sometimes deliberately suppressed as part of a reaction against the romantic ballet tradition. However, the fact that dance events have so frequently been conceived on the back of literary works in Western culture indicates that some level of semanticization of movement is not only possible but also widely recognised. Indeed, some dances are so closely bound to a preceding literary work that they may be considered as “intersemiotic translations” (Jakobson 1992), i.e. rewritings of a verbal text in a kinetic sign system. This is particularly the case with ballet, as we see here. There have been a number of theories put forward as to how dance represents elements from the outside world. The earliest analyses assumed that it acquired its signifying potential from the way in which human beings physically relate to each other and to their environment in everyday life, thereby positing something inherently ‘natural’ and universal about the kinesthetic code. More recent commentators, on the other hand, emphasise the importance of culture in determining not only the semiotic significance of particular movements but also the way in which those movements are conventionalised into genres. The aim of this paper is to examine the semiotic code that is the Western dance tradition in order to try to isolate some of the ‘signs’ that may be mobilised by choreographers and performers for the purpose of intersemiotic translation. These are exemplified with reference to different ballet versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
ISSN: 1645-6017
Appears in Collections:FL - CEComp - Artigos em Revistas Nacionais

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