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Activating dance records: Conceptualizing research into the Swedish, Nordic and global archives pertaining to the Russian dancer Anna Robenne

Journal article
Authors Astrid von Rosen
Published in Nordic Theatre Studies
Volume 29
Issue 1
Pages 117-137
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Pages 117-137
Language en
Keywords Anna Robenne, dance archives, archival multiverse, archival activation, imagined records, impossible archival imaginaries, body as archive, records continuum, practice as knowledge, digital archives
Subject categories Art History, Arts


This article explores the following research question: In what ways can activa-tions of dance records (archived materials and other recordings of activities) be conceptualized to contribute to the making of a critically productive dance history in the digital age? Drawing on an extensive study of the Russian dancer Anna Robenne, the article focuses on the archival explorations (or road trip) as such, and in particular the multifaceted ways in which the records themselves can be active agents in processes of memory making and history production. Adopting recent theoretical developments concerning the concept of plurali-zation in archival studies, the exploration discards the conventional and rather static understanding of records as neutral containers of facts to emphasize instead an inclusive and infinitely evolving process. Working within an interdis-ciplinary archive-oriented realm, the author reflexively makes use of practices and methods belonging to both art history and classical and contemporary dance tradition. The article first maps recent pluralizing approaches within archival studies including re-theorizations of the key concepts records, pro-venance, value and representation. It then conceptualizes archival activation through examples from the archival road trip. The article concludes by offering the reader clear arguments for archival pluralization in the form of intimate, invasive, and imaginary activation, and demonstrates the importance and rele-vance of closely, critically and imaginatively engaging with records. The article highlights the role the archive can play in breaking down cultural barriers and re-evaluating notions of dance historiography, heritage and cultural identity.

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