Transgressive is the word that really caught my attention while reading Danielle Goldman’s book “I Want to be Ready”. It is defined as anything that involves the “violation of moral or social values”. This term tends to change with different cultures, religions and parts of the world so it is very possible that if some act is regarded as transgressive in one culture, it is completely normal in the other.

Goldman used this term in relationship to improvised dance and how it is viewed in different parts of the world. He picks up strong examples from Anthony Shay’s book “Choreophobia: Solo Improvised Dance in the Iranian World” and shares the perspective of Iranian society towards people of different gender, age, personality and social status with respect to the way they dance or move in that very social circle. He points out that there are three categories this certain society uses to pinpoint a certain improvised movement—normative, transgressive and “out of control”(8)— normative being the only acceptable form. To explain how this kind of categorization works, he gives examples of an old woman who dances provocatively at a party and is regarded as “mildly transgressive”(8) whereas if a young woman performs something similar, he will be categorized “out of control”(8). This highlights how the difference is age simply restricts a kind of dance. These categories become what he refers to as “tight places”(6) in the world of improvised dance.  He plays around with these different ideas particularly focusing on dance in the Islamic World which already has many restrictions on dance and movement.

After reading this text, I realized that this word has been revolving somewhere in my subconscious, but I was unable to give it a name. Ever since I began performing in the daily rehearsals with Aakash, I have been wondering if I will be able to perform alone in my own community. I was able to recognize all the examples from Shay’s book that Goldman brought up in his text. I grew up with the idea of dancing being a sinful and shameful act from an Islamic perspective and I believe that if I am asked to perform what I have been learning in class in front of a certain class of people in Pakistan, it is very likely that this kind of act gets labelled as transgressive. This made me wonder if the Syrian Refugees in Greece might have an approach towards dance and movement that is similar to that of very religious communities within Pakistan. If so, how do we identify the restrictions that they have put on movement and how do we deal with it?


Works Cited

English Oxford Living Dictionaries "Transgressive." Accessed 7 Jan 2018. Goldman, Danielle. 2010. I Want To Be Ready: Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom. United States of America: The University of Michigan Press,