Dancing, Discipline and Death Denial: Michel Foucault Meets Ernest Becker in the Ballroom

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There are striking similarities between learning a partner dance form and the existential psychology that Ernest Becker develops in his book The Birth and Death of Meaning. Specifically I’m interested in how Becker’s ideas of “the Oedipal transition,” the period of time when children are first encouraged toward mastering symbols, is analogous to the practice of learning ballroom dancing. And finally, I’d like to share how it has been through dancing that I’ve come to a greater understanding of Ernest Becker’s ontology of the human condition whereby the necessity and consequences of death denial are intimately entangled with the social and creative process of constructing identity.


Keywords: Foucault, Ernest Becker, Virtuosity, Meaning, Death, Partner Dancing
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Eric Handman

Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Dance, University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Hailing from New York City, Eric Handman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah's Department of Modern Dance. He is a choreographer, performer, dance filmmaker and educator. Prior to receiving his MFA from the University in 2003, he earned a bachelor's degree in English from Skidmore College in 1991. He spent much of the Nineties as a professional dancer in New York City as a member of such companies as Doug Varone and Dancers, Joy Kellman & Company and Nicholas Leichter Dance. He has also danced for choreographers David Dorfman, Lisa Race, Stephen Koester, Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Pooh Kaye, Wendy Perron, Simone Forti, Debra Fernandez, Tim Harling & Lisa Giobbi, Eun Me Ahn, and Koosil-ja Hwang. He teaches domestically and internationally and specializes in technique, improvisation, contact improvisation, composition, qualitative research methods, dance filmmaking, aesthetics, criticism and theory.

Ref: A09P0589