The “unlimited” self: staging bodies for spectacular experiences

How have marketplace spectacles shaped bodily boundaries historically? How do social, cultural, economic and political forces influence, and possibly, shape, augment and mediate bodily transformations within the context of a creative economy? How does the presentation and representation of bodily capability impact the subject/object on stage as well as the consumer in the auditorium? What is the role of the market in processes of body presentation, representation and transformation?

This project examined whether performative bodily practices, such as the ones used for the production of professional ballet spectacles, can be considered as socio-cultural mechanisms that humans develop to transform, emancipate and free themselves from limitations - physical, institutional and structural - or, if these practices, when commodified and/or institutionalised, stagnate, dominate and imprison human potential.

Looking at commercial dance performances as a manifestation of staged embodied self-expressive practices, the aim of this project was to explore how the body is used in the cultural marketplace, to examine the role that cultural market-based institutions play in humans’ experience of physical, social and cultural limitations, and to investigate the relationship between spectatorship, bodily expression and self-transformation.

To study this topic, a genealogical analysis of the transformations of the staged ballet body was attempted. Furthermore, existential phenomenological interviews with professional ballet dancers from elite international companies as well as with audience members were conducted to enable us to explore dancers’ and spectators’ embodied experiences and personal myth narratives.