Conversation #3:

Dance and Activism


© Photos: Marc Domage

10/26, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Stony Island Arts Bank 
6760 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago
Free Tickets
Followed by a performance by Trajal Harrell

A conversation with Elisabeth Lebovici and Tara Aisha Willis


Dance performance has a long history of being discussed as a very rich social practice in the realms of embodiment, race and representation. Beginning in the 1980s in the United States and the United Kingdom, the academic turn in the humanities toward cultural studies, critical theory, and identity politics informed the study of dance as a network of social structures. Particularly in the context of Chicago, performance and dance have contributed to establish how bodies participate directly to political resistance.  

In the juncture between dance and activism, this panel is due to take a side lane. It entirely focuses on two ‘case studies’: one, around a choreography by Will Rawls in collaboration with poet Claudia Rankine, the other around a choreography by Alain Buffard. Together, the two cases form an emotional kinship, raising issues about race, gender, ableism, and about living and moving with the lived experiences of a ‘situated’ body. 


Elisabeth Lebovici (PhD in Aesthetics), has been the chief editor of Beaux-arts Magazine and, during 15 years, an arts and culture editor for the daily newspaper Libération. Since 2006, she writes a blog: An AIDS activist, Elisabeth was the inaugural president of the Paris LGBT film festival, and is currently a founding member of the LIG/ »Lesbians of General Interest » fund She has been involved since the 1990’s into writing and lecturing on feminism, activism, queer politics and contemporary arts. In 1998, she edited « L’Intime » (Paris, ensb-a). She is the author, together with Catherine Gonnard, of a history of women artists in France between 1880 and nowadays :  « Femmes/artistes, Artistes/femmes, Paris de 1880 à nos jours (Paris, Hazan, 2007).  With Catherine Gonnard, she is currently involved in a research on lesbian culture in the francophone media in the 1950’s-1960’s. Her latest book : « What AIDS Has Done To Me . Art and Activism at the End of the 20th C »,(Ce que le sida m’a fait. Art et Activisme à la fin du 20è siècle. Zurich : JRP Ringier, « lectures Maison Rouge » 2017) has received the Prix Pierre Daix 2017 in art history. Elisabeth cocurates (with Patricia Falguières and Natasa Petresin-Bachelez) a weekly seminar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris titled: « Something You Should Know :Artists and Producers ».

Tara Aisha Willis is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at NYU and Associate Curator, Performance & Public Practice at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She has worked on programming and diversity initiatives at Movement Research in New York, held editorial positions for Women & Performance and TDR/The Drama Review, and co-edited with Thomas F. DeFrantz a special issue of The Black Scholar. In addition to those journals, writings appear in Movement Research Performance Journal, The Brooklyn Rail, Magazin im August, Voices from the Bush, Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance, Performance Research, and Performa Magazine. Willis recently danced a collaboration between Will Rawls and Claudia Rankine, and in works by Kim Brandt, Anna Sperber, Ivy Baldwin, and Yanira Castro. She danced in the 2016 "Bessie" award-winning performance by The Skeleton Architecture, a collective of black women and gender-nonconforming improvisors.