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On Dance: Notes on Apoliticism

Simon Berger is the French author of Laisse aller ton serviteur with Corti publishing. In this text resembling a manifesto he sends the conformist ideologies that hinder us spiralling. The English translation of his French text was completed by Kevin Le Merle.


Filming dancing bodies is no easy task. Dance opposes the indivisible whole of its movement to the series of stills that the camera attempts to impose on reality.


Kevin Le Merle, Dancing with Stallions, 2020. Charcoal drawing.

Hence the incomparable genius of the tango, danced by Stefania Sandrelli and Dominique Sanda in The Conformist by Bertolucci. The two women dance, without any other desire than to dance, and the couples that came to boogie in Joinville stop, mesmerised, and watch. Trintignant, the conformist, is sitting on the side, annoyed and impatient. He speaks of politics. Thinks of politics. He does not dance.

That is maybe the very definition of the conformist: the one that does not dance.

That is maybe the very definition of the conformist: the one that does not dance.

The conformist is caught up in a series of geometrical spaces, infinitely alike and repeatable; the stare of the conformist unravels white marble walls, and the great empty expanses that nothing disturbs. The conformist’s trajectory is straight and infinite; he advances with the rigour of an axiom, on lines made motionless by their own uniformity.

Fascism is that hieratic and grotesque iteration: a line that only tolerates the imitation of its own immobility.

Fascism is that hieratic and grotesque iteration: a line that only tolerates the imitation of its own immobility.

A machine made to numb your legs. There is overlap between fascism and capitalism: the frenzy of going and moving, a plasticity and uprooting that are nothing more than the illusion of movement: nothing distinguishes extreme speed from absolute immobility. Capitalism secretes free time only to alienate it, life only to reap it, singularity only to conform it.

Capitalism secretes free time only to alienate it, life only to reap it, singularity only to conform it.

Fascism and capitalism require of the individual that he be divided; coherent and predictable, but definitely not whole: like a geometric and zenonian tyranny that segments, cuts up, and dissects. Factories of mosaics, and patchworks, where the individual is nothing more than a unit (a productive statistic), never a unicum.

“I do not want to see any head sticking out”; if I do, a body shall be beheaded. Fascism and capitalism, formidable schools of Equalisation. Procrustes and Mammon. Dance, that’s where our heads stick out. A good dancer is not a bag of limbs; he dances with his face. Fascism seeks similitude (the tyranny of puppeteers), capitalism seeks a sort of levelling out (the tyranny of accountants), liberalism seeks tranquillity (the tyranny of merchants); dance seeks duel, face-offs, asymmetry, and vertigo. Dance offers the spectacle of a power that is rid of politics; of a power returned to the pure play of our senses.

Dance offers the spectacle of a power that is rid of politics; of a power returned to the pure play of our senses.

Fascism only wants parade. To seek out authentic dance, one must cease to desire politics. Dance does not even say “Nor God nor master”: it is ritual; it is mastery. Dance is beneath anarchy.

Dance is beneath anarchy.

Of course, dance is the supreme custom. But that is precisely why, because it is tradition, that rises from the gut, the innermost; the dancer, even the bourgeois in his waltz, even the prince in his pavane, when he accepts to lose himself to dance, feels that he responds to an imperative that laughs at rules. That is why it so difficult to sit through a concert or an opera. Because music calls for an organic response. Dance awakens the archaism of our apoliticism, that we tried, in vain, to repress. It subverts daily gestures into a strictly normed corporeal revolution. Let us express a last peremptory definition: dance, is codified subversion. It is anti-conformism conformed to a higher imperative. We must dance, to leave the vexed and now impotent politics, to the side. Dance, like Stefania Sandrelli and Dominique Sanda dance. Dance a tango under the mesmerised stare of the others of Joinville, then laugh of that folly, which although gentle and ephemeral, succeeded in carrying away everything in its path.