I am a dance historian and theorist and my work is concerned with understanding twentieth and twenty-first century dance within its social, historical and political contexts, particularly focusing on gender issues. This is my Professorial Lecture which I gave at De Montfort University on 27th May 2010.
Questions about the expression of freedom and individuality, that are popularly associated with modern dance, began to take their current form around the beginning of the twentieth century. This was a time when exponents of 'natural dancing' were arguing for a return to nature, while British suffragists were campaigning for the freedom to participate fully in national political life, the militants almost literally throwing their bodies into the fight. In this lecture I apply ideas about corporeality, developed by dance scholars, to analyse the treatment of suffragette hunger-strikers. What this reveals about the embodiment of freedom at that time is then used to analyse two contrasting examples: the sometimes conservative values underpinning the development of 'natural dance'; and the radical innovations introduced in Nijinsky's controversial 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring.