Appropriation as afterlife 1

Authored by: Johan Callens

The Routledge Companion To Adaptation

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138915404
eBook ISBN: 9781315690254
Adobe ISBN:


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In 1990, Rosas, the Belgian dance company led by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, created Stella: A Woman’s Piece, a dance theatre piece which initiated a sequence of closely related works, Achterland (1990) and Erts (1992), as well as drew on the earlier Ottone, Ottone (1988), based on Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. Typical of Stella—performed by Fumiyo Ikeda, Johanne Saunier, Carlotta Sagna, Nathalie Million and Marion Levy—is that it muddles the discreteness of text, genre and media in crossings characteristic of adaptations. It may be argued that more mixed or hybridized forms like this act as a bid to undo the power that comes with exclusiveness, whether that of authorial origins or gender categories and identities. The following discussion, focusing more on dramaturgical conception than on choreographical execution, inflects this notion of exclusiveness, by exploring the interpretative ramifications of the recycled source material and by treating the debate over Beyoncé’s appropriation of Achterland as well as Rosas’s inaugural production, Rosas danst Rosas (1983). Such appropriation extends a creative artistic practice in which the adaptation of foreign artistic sources and media images is always already supplemented by the reappropriation of one’s own work and gender image as a female artist. Stella’s disintegration of the essentialized, unified female subject problematizes authorship as much as its inverse, plagiarism, and its later appropriation put De Keersmaeker in an awkward position. Beyond De Keersmaeker’s paradoxical frustration over seeing her experimental dramaturgy mainstreamed without being credited or compensated, there was also the devious issue of retrospectively claiming a feminist artistic stance, which the Flemish choreographer at the time had resisted, as well as reclaiming the kind of authorial control against which her own recursive and intertextual working method had consistently rebelled.

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