Why we forget

Une autre réflexion de David Pressault. Bonne lecture!

I have witnessed since last May 2010 with Catherine’s blog “Le danseur ne pèse pas lourd dans la balance” the astonishing forgetfulness we (the dance milieu) cultivate when it comes to dancer’s recognition. How is it, that even with the best intentions and with people who really care for dance and dancers, we still forget? A short but concise analysis of the situation seems appropriate. I share with you my point of view on why we forget and by the way the “We” that I use includes dancers as well.

First we never forget just anything. We forget very specific things and often we forget the same things over and over again. In Jungian psychology, this phenomenon of forgetting would be attributed to the fact that the content forgotten doesn’t receive enough psychic energy to stay in consciousness and so this lack makes the content slip into the unconscious and … we forget. Put simply, contents that we value will receive the psychic energy to keep them in consciousness. Contents though that don’t sit so well with our values and our ego are subject to receiving much less of our psychic energy and so these are the contents that often slip into the unconscious.

We forget to name the dancers or their bio or put their names on an image they appear on. Interestingly enough, I never come across a photo where the photographer’s name isn’t mentioned. We’ll talk about the excellent choreographic works that were presented with the names of the choreographers but did any dancer do something worth mentioning? We don’t know as the only things worth mentioning seem to be the creators of ideas and not the ones embodying them. In a sense, when it comes to dancers we collectively forget, to the point where I would sadly conclude that dancers are part of the dance milieu’s collective unconscious. We collectively invest too little psychic energy when it comes to dancers.

The question then is why do we, as a milieu, invest so little psychic energy when it comes to dancers? Even dancers themselves neglect dancers. Well my intuition is that whatever the reason, it’s not so different to why so little of our society goes and sees dance, especially contemporary dance. Psychologically speaking, we could suppose that it’s what the dancer unconsciously represents or is a symbol of, that may inform us on why we don’t want to spend too much of our attention there. If we stop and think about it, dance is certainly of all art forms the ultimate connection to our human body. Without body there is no dance and the body is in a sense connected to the animal in us and all that is instinctual. Through the body we are vulnerable and all so human and imperfect. The body reminds us of our limits and our flesh. It is the source of our desires and the path Eros[1] takes to connect to the other and yes the way to sex. Imagine someone naked in a public place and how the body becomes an obscenity and how all these aspects just mentioned take their meaning. No wonder religion has had such a hard time with that all so messy and unrefined part of us, the body.

Now could it be that unconsciously even though we think we are above all those very old ideas on the body and sex and that we are passed all this, that at a very deep place in us the body is still taboo and still something to hide? Maybe the body is something that must always come after the spirit, as history has shown. The author Nancy Huston[2] says that men have ruled the world of spirit and women were given the body. This reminds me of how we associate the ideas and the creation to the choreographers while the body belongs to the dancers.  Basically the body has been neglected for centuries.

Nevertheless, in our present day and age, the body is everywhere and very present in fashion with beautiful images of men and women, and also in health programs and in media etc. It would seem that the body has been rescued or should we ask which body has been recued. In what I see around me, it’s the fantasy body, the Apollonian body with no faults and its ultimate quest for perfection that we see out there. Athletes and sports also point to the body but yet again this is a body of performance and power. It isn’t sport’s domain to show the Eros that resides in the body and even less its suffering and vulnerability as these are much more part of the dancer’s body. In a sense this is what differentiates dance as an art form to sports. The word dancer, the profession of the dancer, the title “dancer” whether in a bar or on the stage or in the studio is always pointing to the body. But not just to any body, to our own vulnerable, imperfect, sensitive and instinctive body which is ultimately related to both the Eros and the Pathos.

The acceptance of this imperfect body is a challenge of its own. The dancer’s ambiguous relationship to their bodies demonstrates how even a lifetime of work and trying to understand it doesn’t provide any easy resolution to this inner conflict.

Sometimes this seems to me the crux of the matter. When we forget, are we forgetting because it’s dancers or is it because in a most profound way, the dancer’s image brings us back to our own neglected relationship to the depth of our own bodies? In other words, we forget because the body of the dancer is unconsciously suggestive of so many dark aspects of our human nature that we collectively don’t want to give it too much of our psychic energy in fear of what might come up.

On the other hand, by talking about the dancers or the body, we are inviting all the inexhaustible mystery that these summon up in us to consciousness and in so doing, healing our unconscious relationship to our own bodies and at the same time giving the appropriate recognition they both deserve, our bodies and the dancer.


[1] Eros: psychologically speaking I’m referring here not only to the god of love and sexuality but also to the capacity to relate to another.

[2] In her last novel Infrarouge, Nancy Huston said that men had to regain their flesh and women get back their lost spirit.

2 réflexions sur “Why we forget

  1. andrew tay dit :

    David’s post brought me to think of other art forms and question if something similar occurs and if we pattern ourselves after such an example. In other disciplines, details in the creation of work are often left out. In the visual arts, at a gallery, the title of the piece is mentioned along with the artists name, date and medium i.e acrylic paint, plastic etc. It normally does not mention specifics such as red paint from benjamin moore, green crayola crayons. Since the dancers bodies can generally be perceived as the medium for most dance, perhaps we are following the same example, reducing the separate dancers to colors of paint that don’t need any identifying other than that they are dancers, which is obvious to most audiences. The problem is of course that we are talking about human beings not inanimate materials, and that the dancers have the ability to be involved in the creative process, help the choreographer with their choices,and make independent decisions during the performance which transcend that of being a simple paint color.

    On the other hand dancers (especially in contemporary dance) often give themselves over to the choreographers vision, perhaps so much so that the individual sense of artistry in each dancer becomes overlooked and the public just looks at the art object as a whole, rather than the individual parts. This could be perceived as a good thing or bad thing, I’m just putting the idea out there.

    I think in the end that why we forget dancers can be for many reasons, whether it be a learned behavior, or as David suggests in the later part of his post; because of the dancer’s relationship to the body, and our own issues in dealing with this topic.

    • Melissandre dit :

      You are bringing up an interesting point. As you said, dancers are tools, like paint and pencils, with the difference of also being humans. Then, what about other art forms where people are also a medium, such as theater? How are actors perceived, acknowleged and valued, in their network and in the society? Is their situation different from the dancers’? What do you think? I don’t know the network at all… Also, in that comparison, let’s not forget that actors are also part of networks that reach to a larger audience, like TV or movies, which can bring them a better social status or recognition.

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