The Macksey Journal


The expression of illness narratives within art has gained considerable attention within the field of medical humanities, however few have considered the ways in which dance functions as a medium for constructing and sharing such narratives. I aim to bring attention to the possibility that dance, as an embodied art form, may uniquely provide individuals with a medium for illness storytelling which gives a voice both to and from the suffering body. In this paper, I first discuss two significant social and artistic influences which inspired choreographers to incorporate illness stories into concert dance, the 1960’s egalitarian art movement and the 1980s AIDS epidemic. I then look closely at three key pieces in dance history, Ann Cooper Allbright’s 1988 performance, Neil Greenberg’s Not-About-Aids-Dance, and Bill T Jones’ Still / Here, in order to reveal how the incorporation of illness narratives into concert dance provides insight into the personal and social functions of constructing and sharing illness narratives.