Making Breath Palpable: Theatricality, Somatics, and Technology in Uncertain Archives
Kate Elswit

The multi-dimensional nature of breath is a limit case for touch without what we might normally consider to be physical contact. Facilitating transfer between cells, respiratory organs, and the outer environment, breath represents the body at its most permeable. Breath can also be used intersubjectively to tune individual proprioception towards – and ultimately synchronize – multiple bodies. At the same time, such breath experiences are difficult to capture and share. I approach this problem in two ways; on the one hand with a theoretical consideration of the ways in which ‘data doubles’ of the complex breath body might be productive in teasing out the fraught relationship between biodata and physical experience; and on the other, with a discussion of the Breath Catalogue performance project that sought to collect, save, and reuse breath experiences and breath data in a manner that made them palpable for audiences. In between, we will experiment with breathing, including for one another.

Kate Elswit is an academic and a dancer whose research on performing bodies combines dance history, performance studies theory, cultural studies, experimental practice, and technology. She is author of Watching Weimar Dance (2014), about the strange things people claimed to see while watching dances in and from the Weimar Republic, which won both the Oscar G. Brockett Book Prize for Dance Research and honourable mention for the Callaway Prize. Her new book is about the interdependence of Theatre & Dance (2018). Further awards and prizes include a postdoctoral Mellon fellowship at Stanford University, the Lilian Karina Research Grant in Dance and Politics, the Gertrude Lippincott Award, and the Biennial Sally Banes Publication Prize. Having received her PhD from the University of Cambridge, she is now Reader in Theatre and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. She also works as a choreographer, dramaturge, and curator, with recent collaborations including Future Memory, which was shown at ImPulsTanz in Vienna, Ignite! Festival of Contemporary Dance in New Delhi, and Singapore International Festival of Arts.