Celebrating Dr. Sally Banes

Tuesday, Jul 7, 2020

The late Sally Banes. Photo: WikiCommons

The late Sally Banes. Photo: WikiCommons

In a Tisch community wide message Dean Allyson Greene shared the following about Dr. Sally Banes' after her passing in June 2020 from a lengthy illness in Philadephia:

Early in her career, Sally Banes developed theater pieces, performed as a dancer, and eventually contributed to the formation of MoMing, a neighborhood center for performance and dance in Chicago. While earning both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Performance Studies, she wrote Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance, documenting the development of avant-garde and popular dance.

Sean Curran, chair of Tisch Dance, said he is inspired to go back and re-read Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance. “Its importance and brilliance cannot be underestimated. It is the story of the brave makers and doers and inventors of post-modern dance whose influence is still informing how new dances get choreographed and conceived of to this day,” he said. 

Sally believed dance is a crucial part of cultural history and was integral to the documenting and framing of that history. She was one of the first writers to cover break dancing and one of the first critics to examine the development of hip hop dance and culture. 

“Sally Banes was undoubtedly one of the pioneers in creating a new way of writing and of thinking about dance,” said André Lepecki, chair of Performance Studies. “Hers was a truly interdisciplinary approach, mixing an unparalleled eye for movement detail, love for immersive field-work, patience for archival historical research, and openness to acute philosophical analysis. Banes’ doctoral dissertation, titled Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theater 1962-1964, published after she graduated from the Department of Performance Studies at NYU, remains until today the authoritative account of the influential group of experimental choreographers and dancers known as the Judson Dance Theater. Banes’ clear-eyed scholarship also looked for the inordinate and the counter-intuitive in live performance. I had the honor to co-edit with Banes her last book project, before her debilitating stroke in 2002, titled The Senses in Performance. True to her trailblazing spirit, Banes contributed a highly original essay for that volume on "Olfactory Performance." Banes will remain for performance studies and dance studies an example of a scholar who respected deeply the art and the artists who inspired her, while always making us aware that, through art, what also reverberates is the spirit of an era.”

book cover

One of Dr. Banes' book covers.

Marcia B. Siegel wrote a piece for The Arts Fuse, an online arts magazine, in tribute to Dr. Sally Banes. The piece discussed a talk Siegel gave at the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) in New York in 2002 on Dr. Banes' work. Siegel and other scholars and artists addressed the "groundedness" of Dr. Banes' work.  Barnes was known for her writing, but she was also known among the dancers in the communtiy she wrote about and on occasion known to perform herself. Follow the link below to the full piece on The Arts Fuse webite.