In medias res

Let’s start, in the middle of things.

I was planning to publish another kind of post, namely a video introducing my research and this website. I had already shot a video and I needed to write some text and voice it over. Today, instead, I decided to write something about dance dramaturgy, according to a sort of writing improvisation technique that has been haunting me in the last years. “Let yourself be caught up in the flow of writing” my personal leprechaun told me, among other embarrassing things.

I am sitting right now at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. It reopened on the 4th of June, after many months of shut down. This is my second time in the public library of Berlin, a wonderfully huge building, full of light and air. I came here last week, after Michael (note to the reader: my husband), who is writing his bachelor thesis, told me I should definitely come here and try to study in this place. He was right.

Actually I am lying, I had already been here, so long ago, in the late nineties. I was a philosophy student back then and I used to come here and read Gianni Vattimo’s account of the avant-garde artistic movements in the XX century. The book was called “Poesia e ontologia” (poetry and ontology). After that, never again. I was a student, in search of myself. And I had forgotten, how magic this place can be, I had forgotten the old me. 

Now, due to the covid-19 restrictions, in order to come here one must take an appointment on the library’s website. There are only a bunch of limited places. That’s why I am sitting on the second floor, in front of this huge window, and I am seeing/hearing no one but myself and some minor background noise.

Also, you can reserve some books, no more than five. The library’s personnel put them on a shelf, which becomes your personal shelf within the library. Each time I come here I have “my” books, just for me. I think five is the right number of books, it allows me to dive into a theme without getting lost in it. I kind of have my small family of books.

The first five books I reserved, and that are waiting for me on “my” shelf, were:

  • The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy, edited by Magda Romanska
  • World-making, race performance and the work of creativity, by Dorinne Kondo
  • The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers
  • Fabulous, by Madison Moore
  • Re:search_Dance Dramaturgy, the conference proceedings of “Re:Search_Dance Dramaturgy” conference, held in 2016 in Turin, Italy. 

Sitting in a public library has something of a common ritual (now I can see two other people sitting about 10 meters from me). I had forgotten it. In the recent years, and especially during the last year, I have been so lonely and so alone, that reading and writing have become a solitary anarchic practice: on the sofa, on the balcony, in the bed, on the kitchen table, at the desk. In the public library, instead, the reading and writing practice is synchronized with other people, their breathing, their looking around, their synapsis riding the prairies of unknown knowledge.

But let’s start, finally.

Out of the five books, I decided to start with the conference proceedings. The reason why I started with it is that it is written in Italian and it lists some contributions by scholars and dance practitioners I know personally. Laziness and curiosity at the same time. Anghiari Dance Hub was the organizer of the conference. It is a pretty well-known center devoted to the promotion of young Italian contemporary choreographers and every now and then it organizes events devoted to dance dramaturgy, which is a really hot topic in the Italian contemporary dance scene. In a recent workshop held by Guy Cools, where I applied as participant but wasn’t selected, this distinction reported in the workshop’s description drew my attention: the distinction between micro- and macro-dramaturgy. Since then, this distinction has stuck in my mind. It is so simple, so crystal clear, that is impossible to forget. There’s a “small” (micro) and a “big” (macro) dramaturgy. The micro has to do with a sort of internal consistency of the dance/choreography, in my understanding it reflects more a formal character of the piece, while the macro-dramaturgy represents a discourse that connects the piece with the outer world. Reading the proceedings of the conference, I finally found out where this dichotomy comes from. It comes from Marianne Van Kerkhoven, one of the gurus of the Flemish dance dramaturgy. 

She writes:

“It seems to me that there is such a thing as a major and a minor dramaturgy, and although my preference is mainly for the minor, which means those things that can be grasped on a human scale, I would here like to talk about the major dramaturgy. Because it is necessary. Because I think that today it is extremely necessary.”

And again:

“We could define the minor dramaturgy as that zone, that structural circle, which lies in and around a production. But a production comes alive through its interaction, through its audience, and through what is going on outside its own orbit. And around the production lies the theatre and around the theatre lies the city and around the city, as far as we can see, lies the whole world and even the sky and all its stars. The walls that link all these circles together are made of skin, they have pores, they breathe. This is sometimes forgotten.”

Marianne Van Kerkhoven, 1994 (notes to myself: find and read the full text)

While I was reading this passage, I had the impression she was establishing a distinction and at the same time erasing it, like a pencil stroke which is immediately erased by a rubber, leaving that kind of blurry and annoying marks. You keep trying to understand what’s been written, in vain. 

What if, at the very end, dance dramaturgy can be conceived of as a porous area in and around the choreographic practice, the breathing skin of choreography, like Van Kerkhoven suggests? 

Whether this breath is directed towards the inner or the outer side of one’s own practice, is maybe at the very end not so interesting to understand. 

Since I have started this journey at the University of Huddersfield, defining dramaturgy has been for me extremely difficult. Maybe there’s even no point in doing so. Or maybe yes?

(notes to myself: send the link to this post asap to Ben) (notes to the reader: Ben is Ben Spatz, my PhD supervisor at Uni Huddersfield)


Scioldo, C., Anghiari Dance Hub, & Workspace Ricerca X (Eds.). (2017). Re:search_dance dramaturgy. Prinp Editore.

Van Kerkhoven, M. (1994, October 01). Sarma. Retrieved June 22, 2021, from

Vattimo, G. (1985). Poesia e ontologia. U. Mursia.

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