Racism and Social Space in Canadian Dance: Actants, Structures, and Dancing Differently


  • Erin Silver The University of British Columbia


In February 2015, on a panel entitled “Experimental Dance: Histories, Politics, Presence” at the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto Scarborough, panel participants Seika Boye, Jacob Korczynski, Brendan Fernandes, and taisha paggett were asked to consider their practices in relation to genealogies of modern and contemporary dance practice and discourse. What transpired was a recounting of a series of encounters and experiences that accentuated a bodily specificity based in racialized and gendered orderings in the dance world, and how pushing up against barriers to access and visibility informs, and forms, distinct embodied practices and politics. In this paper, I consider Fernandes and paggett’s choreographic practices, among others, in relation to these barriers, and how the seemingly benign physical structures of the dance world enforce dominant social structures, delineating a margin but also making visible historically marginalized subjects. I argue that Fernandes and paggett’s choreographic practices foreground aspects of dance practice typically theorized as “backspaces” to more “central” objects, experiences, performances, or spaces, reconstructing these backspaces (which include the call, the audition, and the rehearsal) not only as “foundations” but also as crucial disruptions that open up considerations, both imagined and actual, of the marginalized bodies that support now-canonical histories of dance since the 1960s. Overall, my paper forms part of my broader research project: a critical exploration of the join of the phenomenological and sociopolitical dimensions of the role of the “support,” opening up to a consideration of how the “support role”—a role historically and typically relegated to women and people of colour—as well as various articulations of the supplemental, the marginal, and that which spills out of the frame, can also be positioned as carrying radical emancipatory potential.

Author Biography

Erin Silver, The University of British Columbia

Assistant Professor

Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory