‘Closely watching moving bodies. Micropolitics of choreographic address in choreographies of Trisha Brown and Meg Stuart’

PhD research Jeroen Fabius – Utrecht University Graduate School of Humanities

What is the political significance of minimalist approaches in dance? This is the central question that I aim to answer. Minimalist dances work with reduced means and rather seem to avoid any possible explicit political connotation. They seem to offer the spectator no other choice than to closely observe every movement of the dancing bodies on stage. I argue that the political significance of minimalist dance lies precisely in how they make us look at moving bodies. This political significance is not a matter of what the bodies on stage represent, but how the works address the viewer and this address destabilize conventional modes of looking at moving bodies. This has less to do with ‘what’ the bodies (re)present, and more with ‘how’ the bodies are shown to be moving.

Minimalist dance can be considered as the deliberate challenge for conditions of perceptual learning, creating conditions through the use of scores for unpredictable outcomes through the dancer’s embodied response to the choreographic score. As such minimalist choreography can be considered to seek micropolitical effects (Masssumi, Deleuze), and to propose a ‘politics of perception’ (Copeland, Lehmann) or ‘politics of collective attention’ (Laermans), setting up tensions between transparent presentation and score on the one hand and unpredictable forms and developments in the bodily actions on the other. Lambert-Beatty (2008) describes the deliberate accentuation of the theatrical condition by Yvonne Rainer as ‘sculpting spectatorship’.

This research proposes to extend the concept of sculpting spectatorship to include a more detailed analysis of the movement material as micropolitical explorations of kinesthesia, the experience of the moving body by the dancer, contributing to what can be called a politics of address. Politics of address can be understood as a deliberate oscillation in the performer’s address to the spectator between facilitating and challenging the perception of the dance. The micropolitical effects of the modes of working can be analyzed with more specificity than Lambert-Beatty’s concept has formulated it. I extend her concept in two ways, first to describe in more detail the specific choreographic techniques of organizing bodily movement, and second, to describe the bodily triggering of attention, in terms of attunement, the synchronization of attention at the level of sensation.

Minimalist work, Trio A (1967) by Yvonne Rainer, Set and Reset (1983) by Trisha Brown (1935) and a work from a later generation, Disfigure Study (1991) by Meg Stuart (1965), working with similar techniques and concerns but with different aims, are analysed in depth in relation to basic categories of attunement, time, shape and intensity as formulated by Daniel Stern (1985, 2010). For each of these categories I will look at the techniques that contribute to a specific politics of address.

A more detailed analysis of the challenges to the spectator is possible in terms of an analysis of the bodily triggers of attention, attunement of time, shape and intensity. Making use of the articulation of Brian Massumi and Erin Manning of the concept of the micropolitical, the choreographic works will be used to develop further theorizing of the micropolitics of choreographic address. The analysis of address requires to look the way address is organised through specific choreographic techniques and scores to stimulate the production of difference, from convention, but also the production of surprise, as ways to invite the spectator to experience the theatrical gap between spectator and performer. I analyse the way that the choreography works from immanent specific bodily qualities that contribute to the construction of the movement material, like sensorial qualities, motor coordination, skeletal motion properties and others. Thus, what will need to be established is how the politics of address can be analyzed in relation to the specific performative bodily techniques that are applied, and in what way these techniques refer and make use of specific bodily characteristics. And as well, how politics of address can be analyzed in relation to bodily aspects of perception, in which way are bodily limits of perception challenged.


  1. The ambivalent reception of minimalist dance
  2. Micropolitics of choreographic address
  3. Disrupting milliseconds of anticipation
  4. The body as the stage of abstract space
  5. The proliferation of gazes of affective choreography

The PhD research is undertaken at the University Utrecht, Graduate School of Humanities, promotor Prof. Dr. Maaike Bleeker and Dr Evelyn Wan.

Jeroen Fabius currently artistic leader of DAS Choreography, master of choreography at the Academy of Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam. He has been teaching Dance History and various theory courses since 1991 at the School for New Dance Development. He is currently Research Fellow with the Art Theory and Research and Art Practice and Development Research Group, Amsterdam School for the Arts and is doing his PhD with the University of Utrecht. He graduated in Communication Studies and Anthropology in 1985 at the University of Amsterdam and as choreographer at the SNDO in Amsterdam in 1990. He is the editor of the book Talk / SNDO 1982-2006 (2009) about the history of the School for New Dance Development.


2022 upcoming

J.Fabius. “Van dans naar choreografie en performance: het ontwikkelen van artistieke vrijheid SNDO 2007-2022”, interviews met artistiek leiders Gabriel Smeets en Bojana Mladenović. In: Toneelbibliotheek, redactie Fransien van de Putt



J.Fabius. “The cynical (F)aura of art – a bittersweet history of collective joy and queer failure.” In: Discozombie, Pere (Gay) Faura (Catalan), Mercat de Flors, Paragrafías, Bàrbara Raubert, Barcelona


J.Fabius. “Re-entering the theater.” In: and then the doors opened again. David Weber-Krebs (eds), Onomatopee Z0024, Eindhoven 2020



J.Fabius. “The body as the stage of abstract space: sculpting of spectatorship in Meg Stuart’s choreography.” In: Routledge Reader in Contemporary Choreography. Revised 2nd edition Joanne Butterworth, Liesbeth Wildschut (editors). Routledge on the Theatre and Performance Studies. London. 2017


S. Doruff and J. Fabius. “Meta-choreography, theory and practice as praxis”. Published in: Theory Arts Practices. Marijn de Langen, Peter Sonderen (Ed) Artez Academia nr. 14, Artez Press 2017



J.Fabius. “All of the person. Kinaesthetic explorations of the dancer’s gaze.” In: Hanneke Koolen, Jochem Naafs, Ruth Naber en Liesbeth Wildschut. Danswetenschap in Nederland, deel 8. Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek, 2015