AAP Conference Adelaide 2017

Nancy Sherman Keynote                     

Dancers and Soldiers Sharing the Dance Floor: Reflections on Emotional Expression

Modern Dance was born as a radical reaction to the formal decorum and ceremonial pomp of ballet. Ballet may have provided consummate exercises for moulding the exterior, but to the pioneers of modern dance, it was at the cost of disconnecting the outside from within. If dance was to have the capacity to reveal the human condition, it needed a vocabulary in movement more attuned to emotional stirrings and less cramped in corseted costumes and tight slippers.  Independent of the mission and revolution of modern dance, I argue in what follows that this a limited view of emotional expression in ordinary human interaction and in dance, on stage or off.  I come to this by way of the origins of ballet in military drill and the parade ground in the court of Louis XIV. In a real sense, dancers and soldiers have shared the dance floor for centuries.  Thinking about that history gives a better sense of just how centrally display and manner figure in emotional expression often independently of sincere avowal.  This may seem an obvious point in theatre performance where illusion and pretence are key. But part of the force of the modern dance’s critique was precisely that theatre dance needed to show a more authentic kind of expression that wasn’t just worn, like a uniform, in movement and gesture, but that manifest felt affect through those outward signs. 

Nancy Sherman is University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. She has affiliate appointments at the Centre on National Security and the Law at Georgetown University Law Centre and at Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics. From 1997-1999, she served as inaugural holder of the Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the US Naval Academy, designing the brigade-wide military ethics course and the Stockdale Centre for Ethical Leadership. She has research training in psychoanalysis from the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute and regularly consults with military and veterans leadership and members, in the U.S. and abroad, on issues of ethics, moral injury, and post traumatic stress. In October 2005, she visited Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre as part of an independent observer team assessing the medical and mental health care of detainees.

Nancy Sherman will also deliver the 2017 Alan Saunders Lecture


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ACN 152 892 272
ABN 29
152 892 272
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