Department of Dance’s Graduate Colloquia
York University

Sally Ann Ness
Professor of Anthropology
University of California-Riverside

The Choreographies of Landscape; 
Dance [and] Theory in Yosemite National Park

February 25 (Wed), 10-12
Accolade East, McLean Performance Studio (2nd floor)


Sally Ann Allen Ness in Yosemite Valley, May 2010. Photography by Darrell Logan.

Sally Ann Ness is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. She has conducted ethnographic research in urban provincial centers in the Philippines and in Yosemite National Park in the United States. Her work has focused on various forms of symbolic action, both in the practice of everyday life and in extraordinary ritual and secular performances. She has written on the semiotics of festival life, dance, and sport, as well as on tourism development and its consequences for cultural practice and cultural identity.  She is author of: Body, Movement, and Culture; Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community (1992); and Where Asia Smiles; an Ethnography of Philippine Tourism (2002); and is co-editor, with Carrie Noland, of Migrations of Gesture (2008). Her forthcoming book, Choreographies of Landscape; Signs of Performance in Yosemite National Park (Berghahn Press) was funded in part by a Guggenheim award in 2007. The book focuses on athletic-choreographic forms of visitor performance in Yosemite Valley, interpreting their role in the formation of self-world relations that give rise to novel constructions of self, place, community, and culture.


When, where, and how do dance and choreography begin? What is their true sphere of influence and relevance? Dance theorist, André Lepecki, has advocated extending the limits of Dance Studies beyond its conventionally defined boundaries so as to begin answering these questions. Pursuing such lines of inquiry, however, requires as well the articulation of new theories of choreographic performance, theories that can identify dance and choreography–or comparable phenomena–in places and by performers not traditionally recognized as involving them. The theory of landscape performance here presented, developed in relation to certain particularly energetic kinds of traditional visitor activity (rock climbing and alpine hiking) in Yosemite National Park, offers one such theoretical platform. Landscape performance theory gives primary consideration to the performative force of embodied movements as they inspire, transmit, reproduce, coordinate, and publicly transform various kinds of meaningful self-world relationships—in this case, relationships centrally concerned with the distinctive features of the Yosemite national-cultural landscape.

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