Dance and uncertainty are no strangers, congregation and movement when responding to personal and collective crises: a dance of urgency. Such a dance aims to empower individuals and groups to build communities of resistance, coping and catharsis—becoming a powerful agent of urban renewal. From cultural spaces reinvigorating decaying neighborhoods to international protests against gentrification and fascism—dance is the weather of the cultural and political climate. Blending pedagogical, documentary and poetic frameworks, No Dancing Allowed (2022) curated by Bogomir Doringer, showcases artworks investigating movement, bodies and space as they are shaped by global restriction. How does the dance of urgency continue to manifest over distances? What did it mean once dance was gone?
In a classroom setting, Jeremy Deller’s Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain, 1984–1992 educates a new generation about rave culture’s socio-political history. Using rare and unseen archive footage Deller recounts instances of state violence on sonic sub-cultures, tying together historical examples of dance spaces empowering marginalized communities. How does this operate when we’re forced apart? From Britney Spears’s SOS encoded dance feeding the #FreeBritney movement to Colectivo Lastesis’s rhythmic protestation of violence against women, which drastically increased during lockdown—dance (newly determined a health hazard) seemed to re-materialise online. Zoom, virtual reality, TikTok and an assembly of social media platforms became vital means of cultural participation.
For Liam Young’s Choreographic Camouflage, he developed bodily motions to crash the gait-identification technology that replaced facial recognition during the pandemic. Did lockdown stimulate such digital production? Migrating online, groups such as Escape 010101, Shanghai Community Radio, Nude Robot and United We Stream demonstrated how gathering spaces can survive digitally. Seizing similar opportunity, Gabber Modus Operandi & Rimbawan Gerilya collaborated remotely, creating GMO Video Mixtape—a bombastic vision of utopia soundtracked by music influenced by a mix of modern rave, punk, metal, experimental noise and traditional Javanese music.
The pandemic granted governments new powers of surveillance. Some exploited these measures to crack down on protest under the guise of national health measures, threatening vulnerable communities’ right of assembly. Many spaces were left without financial support, deemed “non-essential” or “culturally insignificant.” In response, communities rallied to self-organize online and eventually—in public space. Anton Shebetko’s Brave embodies this void, asking club-goers in Kyiv to remain still, Shebetko films what emerged from the silence—their fate unclear in light of the Russian invasion. In I forgot my mother tongue Natalia Papaeva repeats the only two lines of song she remembers in her native Buryat language, steadily breaking down into rage. Together, they expose the emotional wounds of losing one’s connection to history and community. Some violated the rules—illegal raves becoming a “danse macabre” in acceptance of risk and death, seeing escapism as emotional self-care and seeking the same pre-pandemic refuge that artist Adriana Knouf seeks in the stars: escape from a planet, inhospitable to unconforming identities.
Almost entirely produced during the pandemic, No Dancing Allowed integrates recent history with these last three years. Superimposing grief atop celebration, it proclaims dance spaces as transformational, allowing us to thrive in times of adversity—and bravely reemerge.
Accompanying the exhibition is a comprehensive supporting programme, developed in collaboration with frame[o]ut Festival, MU Eindhoven, Vienna Art Week, Sandberg Institute, and others.