Dance as Grace: Paradoxes and Possibilities

Professor Susan Jones  is collaborating with Yolande Yorke and Yorke Dance Project on a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellowship to explore "Dance as Grace: Paradoxes and Possibilities" (2020-2021).

This TORCH Knowledge Exchange project investigates grace as an ideal in dance and disruptive traditions that have explored the possibilities of ungraceful movement such as mechanical, disjointed, robotic, and deliberately “ugly” forms of expression. The image by Pari Naderi was chosen to represent the project because it encapsulates different aspects of dance as both grace and disruptions of grace. 

The project has evolved from research on literature and dance by Professor Jones. Her book on Literature, Modernism, and Dance and work on Samuel Beckett and Choreography, combined with previous experience as a soloist with Scottish Ballet, has led her to explore the intersection of literary aesthetics and the history, theory and practice of dance. In this project on “Grace”, Professor Jones brings together a unique collaboration between Yorke Dance Project (London), directed by Yolande Yorke-Edgell, and scholars at the University of Oxford. Yorke Dance Project specialises in re-staging neglected twentieth-century ‘modernist’ classics that have employed both graceful and ungraceful choreographic styles.

 "Dance as Grace: Paradoxes and Possibilities" looks at grace’s role in the humanities, specifically exploring links with literature, theology, philosophy, dance and art history, but also explores the relationship between grace and biomechanics by engaging with engineering. Participants from biomechanics and robotics will consider these choreographies in relation to constraints in space and time, poise, the optimisation of energy, balance, speed, and body proportion as constituents of grace. Thus the question of what constitutes physical grace lies at the heart of the enquiry but also leads to the contemplation of other perceptions of grace, including the ‘grace’ of machines or the human as machine. Find out more.

The Grace project has received generous support to continue beyond the year of the TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellowship. It will will open up to St  Hilda's especially as a targeted series of interdisciplinary research events associated with the College and DANSOX.

Professor Susan Jones is a Tutorial Fellow in English at St Hilda's College and Professor of English Literature, English Faculty.