Magazine article Dance Magazine

Dana Caspersen: On Using Movement to Defuse Conflict

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Dana Caspersen: On Using Movement to Defuse Conflict

Article excerpt

Can choreography solve social conflict? Dana Caspersen thinks it might. A veteran dancer with Ballett Frankfurt--which was run by her husband, William Forsythe--Caspersen now uses movement to help people around the world navigate disputes. She promotes conflict resolution through teaching, writing and coaching, and develops choreographic methods that let groups address differences in nonverbal ways. Many of her projects center on participatory "action dialogues," which allow groups as large as 250 to tackle fraught issues like racism and polarization.

We get stuck when we think of conflict as only a destructive thing. I think of conflict as the friction that occurs when we come together. It can arise in how you deal with other drivers, or handle the dishes with the person you live with. I'm interested in helping people build a capacity to be curious.

Think of choreography as organizing ideas physically. Any situation is organized physically, but we don't always notice it, or choose those mechanisms. If you walk into a bank, for example, it's organized physically in ways that prevent or enable certain actions.

The work I'm doing is not dancing; it doesn't require any skill. I work on larger structural questions-- the organization of the room, context in the room. What's a choreographic setup that functions as a system for communication--that enables anyone to step into it and not be wrong?

Theater works for a reason. The structures, the formality, the containment it brings, the conscious shaping of a vehicle for experience--these help people shift their thinking. …

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