Kélina Gotman, 14 March 2013

London Theatre Seminar

Thursday, 14 March 2013, 6.30-8.30pm

Room 246, Senate House

Dr Kélina Gotman (King’s College London), ‘Zones of intensity: History, Rehearsal and Repetition’

This paper starts from an image attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Younger (ca. 1563-1637) depicting what has been variously described as a procession of epileptics, a depiction of St. Vitus’s Dance, a St. John’s Day pilgrimage, and as was recently provided to me by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a caption suggesting this was a landscape with four drunken men and two drunken women. Employed by Jean-Martin Charcot in his pioneering neurology clinic at the Salpêtrière in Paris in the late nineteenth century as an example of “hysteroepilepsy,” this image is also still currently the most frequently reproduced depiction of the historical “dancing disease,” chorea major, a putative hysterical epidemic of dancing spuriously linked to neurological tremors and tics. What interests me in this hermeneutic conundrum is the way historiographical and iconographic materials contribute to the formation of a concept, what I have called a conceptual and a kinetic zone of intensity: the dancing mania, a transhistorical and transcultural phenomenon, wrapped into neuroscientific lore. This paper argues that whereas the history of ideas after Deleuze has to take into account the problem of concept formation as a creative act, the history of choreomania, the dancing disease, suggests this concept formation is also a kinetic event.


Kélina Gotman is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies and Convenor of the MA in Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London. She received her PhD in Theatre from Columbia University and her BA in History from Brown and Oxford. She was Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellow in the Medical Humanities at the New York Academy of Medicine, and is a regular theatre and dance practitioner. She has published on philosophy and dance, neuroscience, cultural heritage and movement theory in About Performance, Choreographic Practices, PAJ, and others, and contributed to volumes including The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain and Tanz und WahnSinn. She is translator of Félix Guattari’s The Anti-Oedipus Papers (Semiotext(e)/MIT, 2006). This talk is drawn from her forthcoming book on dancing manias and the formation of the modern kinetic imagination.