Klimczyk, Wojciech, Wirus mobilizacji. 1-2

Home / Journal EASTAP numéro 1 – 2018 / Klimczyk, Wojciech, Wirus mobilizacji. 1-2

Wirus mobilizacji. Taniec a kształotwanie się nowoczesności (1455–1795), vol. 1–2, by Wojciech Klimczyk

Agata Chałupnik, University of Warsaw


Full text

Wirus mobilizacji. Taniec a kształotwanie się nowoczesności (1455–1795), vol. 1–2, by Wojciech Klimczyk

Kraków: ‘Universitas’, Warszawa: Instytut Muzyki i Tańca, 2015
ISBN: 97883–242–2724–2 (print), ISBN: 97883–242–2582–8 (ebook)

The book Wirus moblizacji. Taniec a kształtowanie się nowoczesności (1455-1795) [The virus of mobilization. Dance and the development of modernity (1455-1795)] by Wojciech Klimczyk is a very ambitious project. One can describe it as the history of dance in the West between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, or the history of European culture seen through the medium of dance, or – last but not least – as the history of modernity itself, presented via changing attitudes towards human movement and the human body.

This very comprehensive and utterly fascinating book (2 volumes, almost 900 pages, 272 illustrations) gives the reader a deep insight into the history of hidden assumptions and currents of the centuries discussed. The author focuses on court culture and its performances in Italy, France and England from the waning of the Middle Ages until the French Revolution, and shows the growing role of the middle class and the emergence of its self-consciousness through the lens of dance – understood both as the stage genres, and social practices. In his analysis Klimczyk refers to historical dance handbooks and theoretical treatises, always considered in their social, political, philosophical and esthetic context, and juxtaposed with the most important movements of art and literature of the period. Therefore, in his first chapter, interpretations of treatises by Domenico di Piacenza, Antonio Cornazano and Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro are accompanied by analyses of Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris, the poetry of Francesco Petrarca, and Il Principe by Machiavelli.  History of dance in Tudor and Stuart England is accompanied by inspiring analyses of Shakespeare’s plays, especially The Tempest.  In Klimczyk’s last chapter, the French Revolution is interpreted through not only the philosophy of the French Enlightenment, but also through the literature of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, painting of Jacques-Louis David, and revolutionary choreographies by Pierre Gardel, and the famous ballet La fille mal gardée by Jean Dauberval. The book testifies to the profound erudition of the author, and his competence in different fields, and may offer deep satisfaction to the reader. But what makes it most inspiring is, in fact, its theoretical impact.

The most important intellectual masters and guides of Klimczyk are Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Rancière, Peter Sloterdijk, Jean-Marie Pradier and Andre Hewitt, author of Social Choreography. Ideology as performance in dance and everyday movement. In his theoretical narrative there are several key words: ‘kinesis’, ‘the movable’, and the title notion of ‘the virus of mobilization’. Kinesis is defined as the cultural frame of the movement and mobility of the body (both in its everyday and esthetic dimensions), or the social mode of experience of the body in movement. The notion of ‘the movable’ is constructed on the basis of Rancière’s term ‘sensible’, and may be understood again as the social and cultural dimension of movement: the movement we can make or imagine only within a certain social frame – cultural definitions of the body and its possibilities, obligations and rights. Thus ‘the movable’ is embodied kinetic imagination. To comprehend the title term of ‘the virus of mobilization’, we have to reconstruct Klimczyk’s interpretation of the history of modernity.

The development of modernity in Klimczyk’s book rests on the transformation from a static to a dynamic mode of experience and being in the world. Our contemporary kinesis may be described as compulsory activity. We are mobilized, agitated, always ready to move, to work, to act. Always ready and always all by ourselves, lonely, if not alienated. In the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, an individual was still perceived and understood as part of a community. The revolution of modernity gave birth to the modern Self, a modern subject proud of its agency and taking fate into its own hands. These two modes of being and states of mind Klimczyk discovers in different types of dance. If in earlier centuries the role of dance in society was to celebrate community and strengthen it, now the role of dance is to express the unique individuality of each of us. In the past, individuals were defined by the community they belonged to, so the function of dance was to ground them, and thus in dance, legs were the most important parts of the body. Therefore, the old dance treatises focused on the steps of the dancer. Klimczyk stresses that with the onset of modernity, gestures replaced steps; modern dance handbooks focus on the torso of the dancer and on their hands, as they are closer to the heart. Nowadays, to dance means to express one’s sensibility and emotionality. The same process has given birth to the modern choreographer – an artist able to express emotions through dance – and has led to the decline of the social practice of dancing, once dance became defined as a form of art, something to be seen, not to be a part of.

Coming back to the title ‘the virus of mobilization’, this is Klimczyk’s interpretation of la maladie du siècle, the cultural force that makes us living, moving and dancing so fast, and which has significantly contributed to the rapid development occurring in the last two centuries, but at a certain price.