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Repetition as a methodology: Costumes, archives and choreography

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This article considers how costumes contribute to choreographic aesthetics through their capacity to be repeated. I develop different conceptions of repetition – replication (copying); representation (appearance within a frame that represents an image); and reproduction (as construction or manufacture) of costume objects and ideas over time. Being interested in the material process of making and wearing costumes, it also investigates how repetition leads to the possibility of invention. Using Walter Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image to discuss costumes as objects within a dance archive and within live choreography, it examines an early modern dance form called Natural Movement (NM) as well as seminal postmodern works from the 1970s. It elaborates on the iconic functions of costume in contemporary choreography in relation to Roland Barthes’ writings on the ‘fashion system’, and considers how the costume becomes a sign of its own history. Part of this project to understand repetition requires recognition that the movement quality of texture in a garment, actualizes the experience of affective work taking place in choreography. The experience of repetition in the costume-object therefore leads to a more critical response towards the role of costume in dance and performance.
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Keywords: Walter Benjamin; affect; archives; choreography; costume; dialectical image; pattern; repetition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Melbourne

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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