Through the concept of “social choreography” Andrew Hewitt demonstrates how choreography has served not only as metaphor for modernity but also as a structuring blueprint for thinking about and shaping modern social organization. Bringing dance history and critical theory together, he shows that ideology needs to be understood as something embodied and practiced, not just as an abstract form of consciousness. Linking dance and the aesthetics of everyday movement—such as walking, stumbling, and laughter—to historical ideals of social order, he provides a powerful exposition of Marxist debates about the relation of ideology and aesthetics.
Hewitt focuses on the period between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth and considers dancers and social theorists in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States. Analyzing the arguments of writers including Friedrich Schiller, Theodor Adorno, Hans Brandenburg, Ernst Bloch, and Siegfried Kracauer, he reveals in their thinking about the movement of bodies a shift from an understanding of play as the condition of human freedom to one prioritizing labor as either the realization or alienation of embodied human potential. Whether considering understandings of the Charleston, Isadora Duncan, Nijinsky, or the famous British chorus line the Tiller Girls, Hewitt foregrounds gender as he uses dance and everyday movement to rethink the relationship of aesthetics and social order.