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Published in: September-October 2017 issue.

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Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings
Edited by Clare Croft
Oxford. 315 pages, $35.


This book is an amalgam of academic analysis, artists’ manifestos, and personal essays seeking to upend the heteronormative and Euro-centric paradigms prevailing in dance and performance scholarship. The collection grew out of a dance festival curated by the editor, Clare Croft, in 2015, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Complementing the book is a website featuring videos of performances and interviews with contributing writers. Transgressive improvisers, a country western cowboy, hip-hop, street and erotic dancers, clubbers, drag kings, and performance artists are among the outlaws tackling artificial binary notions of gender, sexuality, and desire in performance. Transcultural perspectives are added by a Bollywood drag queen, a kathak dancer, a taiko musician, and an Irish step-dancer. Balletic and modern classics from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s are examined through a revisionist queer lens for their innuendo and latent coded references. While the anthology promises an expanded discourse for dance and queer studies, ultimately it is too insular for that, with artists, scholars, and theorists speaking primarily to each other. Academic arguments obfuscate and hyperbolic jargon loses the reader. Unfortunately, promising theses don’t always translate into compelling narrative.

John R. Killacky