Gestures of Genius: Women, Dance, and the Body


238 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-55128-012-4
DDC 792.8'082





Reviewed by Susan Free

Susan Free teaches movement in the drama program at the University of


Gestures of Genius is an impressionistic, crazy patchwork of personal
confession, interviews, photographs, analysis, and history that attempts
to show a fundamental relationship between women and dance. Speaking the
language of new-age feminism, the author argues that women’s lived
experience of their bodies has been expressed through the ages in dance.

The first half of the book describes connections between women, ritual,
and dance, from prehistoric times, when the power of the female body was
reputedly revered, to the present era of male domination in which the
strength and potency of the female body has been diminished.

The second (and more interesting) half presents interviews with 11
dancer-choreographers. Working within the constraints of a variety of
cultural traditions, these women have nevertheless developed dance
techniques and choreography that reflect their personal experiences and
philosophies. Their stories are fascinating, and reveal the struggles
inherent in becoming a dancer in a socially circumscribed context.

Many people will pick up this book because it is beautifully produced
and uses fashionable phrases like “politicizing the body” and
“colonizing the body.” However, Vigier’s analysis is far from
sophisticated, plugging everything into a reductive “male supremacy
over women” perspective. The strength of the book lies in the words of
the writers, artists, and especially dancers she has chosen to include.
Their words far exceed in interest and scope the thin theoretical shell
constructed around them.


Vigier, Rachel., “Gestures of Genius: Women, Dance, and the Body,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,