The Choreographic

The Choreographic

By Jenn Joy

An investigation of dance and choreography that views them not only as artistic strategies but also as intrinsically theoretical and critical practices.





An investigation of dance and choreography that views them not only as artistic strategies but also as intrinsically theoretical and critical practices.

The choreographic stages a conversation in which artwork is not only looked at but looks back; it is about contact that touches even across distance. The choreographic moves between the corporeal and cerebral to tell the stories of these encounters as dance trespasses into the discourse and disciplines of visual art and philosophy through a series of stutters, steps, trembles, and spasms.

In The Choreographic, Jenn Joy examines dance and choreography not only as artistic strategies and disciplines but also as intrinsically theoretical and critical practices. She investigates artists in dialogue with philosophy, describing a movement of conceptual choreography that flourishes in New York and on the festival circuit.

Joy offers close readings of a series of experimental works, arguing for the choreographic as an alternative model of aesthetics. She explores constellations of works, artists, writers, philosophers, and dancers, in conversation with theories of gesture, language, desire, and history. She choreographs a revelatory narrative in which Walter Benjamin, Pina Bausch, Francis Alÿs, and Cormac McCarthy dance together; she traces the feminist and queer force toward desire through the choreography of DD Dorvillier, Heather Kravas, Meg Stuart, La Ribot, Miguel Gutierrez, luciana achugar, and others; she maps new forms of communicability and pedagogy; and she casts science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany and Kim Stanley Robinson as perceptual avatars and dance partners for Ralph Lemon, Marianne Vitali, James Foster, and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Constructing an expanded notion of the choreographic, Joy explores how choreography as critical concept and practice attunes us to a more productively uncertain, precarious, and ecstatic understanding of aesthetics and art making.


$27.00 T ISBN: 9780262526357 248 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 43 b&w illus.


  • Like truly great writing, The Choreographic performs itself, in duet with its literary, sculptural, philosophical, and mobile subjects. Joy reminds us that this pleasure of discourse and exchange offers the idea of a potential other world.

    Jess Wilcox

    Brooklyn Rail


  • In the recently expanded field of writing about dance and its relationship to the visual arts, Jenn Joy's The Choreographic opens up a broadly discursive territory which ties together new practices in movement- and performance-based works. Joy's thinking is both furtive and generous and in naming the choreographic, she brings definition to a field of contemporary art making that challenges what we know about both movement and research as practice. This will be a reference for anyone involved in curating, writing, or thinking about contemporary dance.

    Connie Butler

    Chief Curator, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

  • Writing in dialogue with a host of dance makers and philosophers, Jenn Joy stitches together a range of ideas from laughter to desire, community to ecstasy, speculation to the reception of history. In the process, she provides a sensuous, emphatically subjective archive of the last ten years of live performance by some of the most important artists working today in New York and beyond. This book is a record of the urgency of both choreographic thought and practice in our present—and a hopeful indication of what they elicit when thought together.

    Thomas J. Lax

    Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, Museum of Modern Art

  • The Choreographic is a long overdue contribution to theorizing the concept of choreography in the contemporary context, and to situating postmodern dance and performance within the greater scholarly discourse of writing, sculpture, and visual practice. Joy's philosophical framing and singular interpretations of choreography—as a conceptual and corporeal practice that is as radically critical as it is projective—coupled with her intuitive understanding of performance, define how choreographic thinking transcends the time-bound moment of a live event.

    Kelly Kivland

    Assistant Curator, Dia Art Foundation