Some notes on the exclusionary and purifying category of the universal body in Performance 

Vânia Gala


In this talk I trace the entangled relations between the universal (as a category) and the universal body in performance produced by modernity. The understanding that modernity is not just an artistic movement, or an ideological concept intrinsically linked to capitalism, coloniality (Maldonado-Torres, 2007), and the world market, but also a move towards distorted thought and a world historical project that constructs its own performance, and ‘universal history’ underpins my talk. I trace the universal body’s construction in dance and performance to its present day, its colonial and exclusionary underpinnings, and its productivity in various contexts: concert dance and archive historical projects. That is: how this force is behind the production of the western edifice of performance which excludes various knowledges, practices and artists from its archive. As Foster (2011, p. 85) points, the “‘Universal’ is an ideological operation’ aiming at making a specific corporeality become the norm”.


Vânia Gala is the Head of Contemporary Performance Practice BA (Hons.). Prior to joining Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, she was Module Leader in MA/MFA Choreography at Trinity Laban. She holds a PhD from Kingston University. Her interests lie in experimental practices across performance dance and theatre with an emphasis on notions of refusal, fugitivity, improvisation(s), hospitality and value. Collaborations as performer & choreographer involved Les BalletsC.deLaB, Constanza Macras, Sonia Boyce and Griot.