Border-Dancing Across Time.
The (Forgotten) Parisian Choreographer Nyota Inyoka, her Œuvre, and Questions of Choreographing Créolité

The research project “Border-Dancing Across Time” addresses three aspects of dance history and intends to connect this historiographic investigation to current (decolonial) impulses in cultural and dance studies.

Via a case study of the French-Indian dancer and choreographer Nyota Inyoka (1896–1971), the project examines processes of créolité as constitutive, yet neglected aspects for generating both aesthetic and discursive innovation in the performing arts within modernity. The following three theses are informing the proposed project:

»(Dance)Modernity is more than the canon.«
»The sources and archives need to be reassessed and decolonized.«
»Nyota Inyoka’s authorial position can be a model through which contemporary ethics and politics in research and historiography can be better understood, and through which our current understanding of European cultural and aesthetic landscapes can be assessed.«

The objective in this project is to develop a model for perspectivizing the works, artistic positionalities and voices of so-called “exotic dancers” [exotified dancers] who have been coconstitutive of ‘the modern’ – a model which can also be applied to or made productive for debates of the present. The project, therefore, aims to expand the methodologies of dance historiography and draw on contemporary theoretical models, notions and fields such as Postcolonial Studies, Border Theory (Hicks and Mignolo), créolité (Glissant), Mestiza Consciousness (Anzaldúa), theories of racialized Europeanness and postmigrant cultural formations to develop new modes of dance history writing and analysis in order to contribute to a decolonization of the history of dance and performance.

The project also addresses significant, yet largely unnoticed changes in the cultural climate after 1945. Exotic dance forms, widely popular in the interwar period, ceased to be accepted as genuine contributions to modern dance after World War II. Explaining why this change came about helps to explain current changes in scholarly methods and debates and leads to the topic of what precisely are the interrelations between (artistic and personal) biography, marginalization, and the procedures of archiving driven by artists’ own quest for fixing an authorial position.
Empirical survey of available archival sources, discursive analyses of both Inyoka’s writings and contemporary reception, and practice-based reenactment using Inyoka’s extensive dance notation will be the most important methodological elements.

In the course of such a decolonizing reassessment of European (dance) history and a rehabilitation of the ‘other’ dancers of modernity without categorizing them as “pre-modern” we aim to highlight and investigate a facet of European dance that remains a lacuna thus far confined to footnotes: the authorial position and œuvre of European dancers with mixed heritage in modernity.