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Social Choreography network

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)


Nicolas Salazar Sutil; University of Leeds (PI)
Centre for Dance Research: Sarah Whatley (Co-I)

What does social choreography mean today, and to what extent can this field provide new frameworks to help address the issue of cultural stereotyping of refugees?

Violent military conflict, environmental crises, breakdown of social, racial or ethnic integration, are some of the many reasons why millions of peoples are being displaced across the world. Immigration is regarded today as arguably one of the most pressing political issues by voters and the wider public, and not only in a post-Brexit UK. Whilst the problem of forced migration is typically addressed from within the social sciences (e.g. migration and diaspora studies, sociology, political science, or development studies), little is known about the way in which the movement arts and bodily perspectives are responding to such crises. The gap in knowledge that the network is aiming to address concerns a lack of understanding of embodied socio-choreographic practice at a regional and cross-national level. There is no existing platform that has developed a framework devoted to movement as the chosen medium, nor a project that has mapped movement-based practices, models or methods dealing with refugee crises.

There is a gap in the ethical understanding, which is why we need to ask ourselves what constitutes "good practice" across different regional and national contexts in social choreography, especially in relation to pressing issues such as forced migration.The network also seeks to build upon a current interest in expanded choreography. In recent years the term "choreography" has been used in an ever-widening sense, becoming synonymous with specific structures and strategies disconnected from aesthetic bodily expression, style and technique. The function of choreography as an expanded trope has shifted from a set of protocols or tools used primarily in dance (or applied dance), to an open cluster of knowledge production concerned with the organization of bodily movement in social, political and even economic contexts. Our network is clear about its focus on non-stage practices.

We have decided not to focus on the treatment of migration within aesthetic choreography (e.g. Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, etc.) but to foreground work that is being carried out more directly with local communities and through motor activity that is not typified by technique or style.. What kind of ethos and theoretical discourse is emerging from such practices, and what kind of synergies can be leveraged across projects in different geopolitical contexts? 

Beneficiaries of this project include the wider public, creative industry network members, and Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs). Project participants have been identified in each beneficiary group to maximise impact. All participants are heavily invested in community work involving integration of displaced groups through movement and embodied practices.

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