While the Paris Olympic and Paralympic games are set to begin in 2024, the Centre national de la danse’s international conference ‘Competing?!’ (28-30 September 2023) wishes to interrogate the history and practice of dance competitions, in connection to competitive sports events. If much has been written on competing, especially in an Olympic setting, dance has received less critical attention when it comes to its physical, artistic and social dimensions.
What does competing involve? If the verb ‘to compete’ in its most common meaning conveys a sense of challenge, of competing against one another, its Latin origin was understood in the Renaissance period to refer to ‘coming together’, and ‘agreeing’. In mathematics, ‘competing’ means ‘converging’, therefore referring to the Early Modern meaning of the term and to the idea of ‘converging at the same time and place’.
The notion of competition structures the choreographic and performing life of dancers around the world, from the Archives internationales de la danse competition in 1932 or the ‘Un ballet pour demain’ Bagnolet dance competition in the 1980s, to local, regional and national events sponsored by the French Federation of Dance or the Youth America Grand Prix, from the BOTY (Battle of the Year) to the ‘Dance élargie’ events or the African Rencontres chorégraphiques, the Yokohama Dance Collection, the battles between samba schools during the Carnival period… All these events take place in diverse contexts and settings, with different parameters.
Bringing together the knowledge of different fields in the humanities and the practical experience of dance-makers, this conference aims to outline a history of competing in dance and to highlight individual and collective stakes as moments where effort, innovation, emulation, distinction and confrontation are combined and encoded. It aims at identifying diverse forms of competitions, questioning how and why they were created, how they work, at what pace and frequency, the shapes and forms they can take, as well as their functions and meanings, to emphasise the diversity of competing practices as well as their aesthetics. Both their receptions in the public space and their material or immaterial dynamics will be examined, as well as their institutional and symbolic roles.
The conference organisers seek contributions that can take a number of formats – from paper presentations to dance performances, videos and panels.
Financial support is available to the presenters of the conference except for colleagues already in tenured positions. Subventions can also be awarded to help pay for transportation and housing, and priority will be given to presenters who have no institutional support.