I’m Your Private Dancer: Pop Culture in Choreographic Practice | Szymajda | Polish Theatre Journal

ISSN 2451-2966


'Make Yourself', concept and choreography by Marta Ziółek, premiere: 20.05.2016. produced by Komuna//Warszawa. Photo: Bartek Stawiarski.
Joanna Szymajda

I’m Your Private Dancer: Pop Culture in Choreographic Practice


The text attempts to analyse the nature of the relationship between popular culture and contemporary dance, both of which are an inherent part of the turmoil of the modern social revolution, and which have remained in symbiosis since their earliest days. The first part of the article presents examples of early Modernist practices, where popular culture was a natural component (as it were) of new strands of contemporary dance; on the other hand, some modern dance artists aspired to make theirs into a mass art. Section two portrays artists who deliberately include popular culture inspirations into their style, referencing the carnivalesque origins of dance practice. A further part takes an analytical, meta-discursive approach to the theme of popular culture as a feature in the critique of contemporary society – an approach characteristic of the youngest generation of choreographers. A summary of the above analyses presents modern dance as at once restoring culture’s critical and emancipatory potential – and struggling in vain to entirely avoid the danger of objectifying the body.


circus; contemporary dance; choreography; modernism; music-hall; hip-hop; pop culture; voguing; Marta Ziółek

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Joanna Szymajda

holds a Ph.D. from Université Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle and the University of Lodz; and a Master’s degree in psychology and theatre studies from the University of Lodz and Université Lyon II. Her book Estetyka współczesnego tańca europejskiego po 1990 was published in 2013 by the Polish academic outlet Księgarnia Akademicka. She has edited the anthologies European Dance Since 1989. Communitas and the Other (Routledge / Institute of Music and Dance, 2014) and Polskie artystki awangardy tanecznej. Historie i rekonstrukcje (Institute of Music and Dance / Adam Mickiewicz Institute, 2017). Her scholarly and critical pieces on contemporary dance have appeared in journals including Dialog, Kultura współczesna, Teatr, Didaskalia and Opcje, as well as in several collective volumes. She lectures at the University of Lodz and the Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw. She co-founded the Institute of Music and Dance, serving as its Deputy Managing Director between 2010 and 2017. In addition, she has worked as a curator of dance projects (including those shown as part of the Łódź of Four Cultures Festival) and artistic co-ordinator of the Ciało/Umysł (C/U) International Contemporary Dance Festival.