Dancing maps or dances that could be mapped?

The dancing maps are maps, and the dancing maps could be mapped. They are maps (spatial representations and codifications) in that the close proximity of videos of different bodies performing the same moves in physically distant spaces highlights the similarities and contrasts between bodyspaces.  They make much more visually explicit the different energies that different bodies bring to a move, and the particular energies that a particular move brings to different bodies.  They call attention to the shared mechanics of the different bodies doing the same move and also to the differential investments of force and precision in the different bodies (and please don’t read differential as hierarchical – this mapping is not about investing and appropriating value in particular bodyspaces).  And the small size of each moving image throws focus on the outlines of the dancing bodies, making evident the relationships between bodies and the spaces that surround them (Wilson Harris makes a similar point about vodun dancers, in Tradition and the West Indian Writer).

These dancing maps could also be mapped, in that these spatial relationships could be made even more explicitly and precisely using some traditional Euro-American cartographic tools.  For example I could use digital tools to draw isomorphic lines (linking together identical shapes or movements in different bodies), or perhaps construct chloropleths (colouring in particular features or moves of each body to highlight the differences and similarities as spatial patterns that will appear and disappear as the dancers move), or a time-series/thematic map (e.g. transforming each figure into a series of graphic outlines that would highlight the changes in each body outline over the time of each video and which could be more easily and directly compared one with another, perhaps even quantitatively).

Why does that quantification, that precision of measurement, seem attractive to me? Perhaps the notion of precise measurement seems more scientifically justifiable – it gets the dancing maps closer to the kind of cartography that I can imagine being acceptable to trained cartographers (though probably not close enough to actually be acceptable).  It carries a mystical authority. But there is a critique of the colonial history of Euro-American cartography at the base of this project too, a critique of the will to power of maps that measure out land in order to appropriate it, of maps as facilitators of exploration for exploitation.  This project comes out of a desire to recognise indigenous cartographies as living on in African-Caribbean dance.  So, although I do have respect for cartographic tools, particularly where they are used to set agendas and highlight inequality for example (see worldmapper), for me and for the moment at least, these will remain dancing maps, not dances to be mapped.