Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Theater and Dance Dept.


Ann Marie Kloppenberg


This research examines a slice of American contemporary dance artists and their audiences. American postmodern choreographers such as David Dorfman, Heidi Henderson, Sara Hook, and Paul Matteson use what I am calling the aesthetic of failure as a method to punctuate their work, momentarily blur clarity, steer the viewer’s gaze, make space for live choice making, and in some cases draw laughter. Almost any emotion can be associated with failure: anger, grief, hilarity, absurdity, etc. The underpinning of failure in live performance is the medium of the craft, human bodies. Consider the phrase “humanly possible:” jump as high as humanly possible, run as fast as humanly possible, or step as far as humanly possible. All of these phrases assume there is a line between possible and impossible, and, therefore, a line between success and failure. If a dancer jumps as high as he can, what he cannot do is what he failed to do. Failure in all instances defines limits and defines what is possible, not unlike gravity. Failure in dance has many faces, most of which portray either legible awkwardness or bare the realities of physical impossibility.


performance, choreography, postmodern dance

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