Joanna Leśnierowska

Can choreography change the world?

4 November 2022


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I bet you smiled in response. However, exactly this, to some – naïve, to others provocative, question, has in 2019 triggered a vivid discussion of a group of international curators, artists, writers, thinkers and activists I had a privilege to bring together. It has inspired a reflection on what was felt to us already then as an inevitably crawling world crisis precipitated by growing extremism and polarization tearing at the fabric of inter-human and interspecies relations and our connection to nature. That led to The Grand re Union project, a performative conference addressing the question of relevance of choreography in the present social and political time.  As such it was also meant to serve critical culmination of the choreographic development program I run since 2004 in Poznan, Poland, within Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk. Originally designed as an in-person multigenerational and intercontinental gathering, it was conceived following a desire to pause – an invitation to suspend business as usual, a chance to create time, and opportunity to make space for deepened reflection – both in theory and through practice –  on the global circumstances of our era.
Grand re Union departed from belief that resistance and sustainable change to the dominant world order is possible and that choreographic practices do provide alternative ways of being human, of being in the world and with each other.  We exercised the choreographic traditions borne of post modern dance – renewing the knowledge created then, and adding to it the practices flourishing in the field since. Since the only way out is through, embracing the spirit of uniting in collective thinking, acting, and dancing, we wanted to co-map the way. And since mapping is and has always been a political project, and in every map, there is just as much information missing as is present, so we chose to focus on practices that help us navigate not-knowing.  And to see them as crisis management strategies.
When designing the project, little did we know that there would be no need to contrive the conditions under which to be suspended, that a pandemic would arrive and enforce such a pause. A pause greater than we could have imagined. But still it turned out nothing comparing to what came after, and which seemed simply unimaginable. And yet it still happened.
So, can we still keep dancing and making dances today as we were yesterday? Can the art of composing movement in time and space equip us with tools to confront not only the unknown but also, unimaginable? Can choreography change the world? or at least, help it to heal?

Joanna Leśnierowska
Choreography curator, visual dramaturge and performance maker. MFA in theater studies from Jagiellonian University, in Cracow, she was one of the first people in Poland to write professionally about contemporary dance and choreography (publishing in major Polish theater journals and also with many texts about Polish dance in international magazines). She has guest lectured on contemporary choreography at universities in Poznan and Krakow. Between 2004-2020, as part of the Art Stations Foundation, she created and led the first choreography development program in Poland known internationally as Stary Browar Nowy Taniec/ Old Brewery New Dance  ( She curates the author’s “widening the field” program (in collaboration with Nowy Teatr in Warsaw) and co-curates the Performative Mediation program at the National Museum in Warsaw. As of 2019, she also runs the Acziun program of choreographic reflection and research at the Museum Susch in Engadin. Since 2003, parallel to her curatorial work, she has been developing an independent practice as a choreographer and visual dramaturg/light designer in both her own and other artists’ projects. /