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Embodied Theory Lab Workshop

Hosted by the Department of Sociology

The Shaw Library, Old Building


Chrys Papaioannou

Chrys Papaioannou

Independent scholar and activist

Annie Hanauer

Annie Hanauer

Award-winning choreographer


Dr Jana Melkumova-Reynolds

Dr Jana Melkumova-Reynolds

Assistant Professor in Sociology

Embodied Theory Lab is a platform that brings together disabled and non-disabled artists, academics and activists to think through theoretical concepts and social, political and cultural idea(l)s in ways that make space for embodied, uncodified, tacit and practice-based (as well as classic theoretical) knowledges.

Using crip communities’ lived experiences as a ‘body of knowledge’ (Siebers 2021) and a source of expertise, the project aims to conjure socialities, relationalities and shared temporalities premised on interdependence, response-ability and radical care. This will be achieved through a series of movement- and theory-based workshops facilitated by, and involving, disabled and non-disabled movement practitioners, activists and theorists.

This will be the first workshop. It will be facilitated by award-winning choreographer Annie Hanauer and independent scholar and activist Dr Chrys Papaioannou.

Annie Hanauer: Body Wisdom // Group as Ecosystem

As someone who jumps from project to project and regularly works with groups of dancers with extremely varied physicalities and ways of functioning, figuring out how we can work together is a central part of the creative process – it’s juicy, it’s always different, and it needs to be done from scratch every time.

Within the work I do with other disabled folks, I’m interested in ‘access’ not as something we consume, but as something we all create together, by listening and working with one another with curiosity, respect, and openness.

In this session I want to explore two of the main areas of relevance which seem to recur in my work:

Body Wisdom

In any group, we all have different capacities, needs and desires, which shift from moment to moment alongside our shifting bodies: we are beautifully fluctuating organisms.  How do our ‘edges’ or limits shift with the changing capacity of our body, our desires and wishes over time, and what is our relation to those edges, in each moment?

If we embrace our edges as mobile, we leave space for discovery.

Getting comfortable with not knowing is part of the practice.

Engaging with challenge or discomfort can be generative - a space for learning.

Perhaps we don’t always know what our bodies are capable of.

Group as Ecosystem

With our different bodyminds and different ways of being, how does each of us contribute to the ecosystem of the group, by engaging with these movement proposals? What becomes possible when we commit to taking part, with intention – being with one another and ourselves, giving and receiving support, each in our own way?

Everybody can give support, and everybody needs support.  The conversation between dependence, interdependence, and autonomy is a constant undercurrent.

In this session we will use movement as our playground, we will get busy with moving and being, leaving time for reflection. We will aim to stay present in whatever experience we are having from moment to moment, trusting our intelligent bodies to guide us through.


The session will begin with a welcome, then move through guided activation of our bodies, tuning into our senses and space, working with touch as a tool for navigation and communication, and exploring improvisation scores as a group.

Annie Hanauer (she/they) is a contemporary dance artist who makes choreography, performs extensively, and facilitates dancing in many different settings.  She works across countries and contexts, with an established presence on international stages. As a disabled artist often working with other disabled/crip collaborators, Annie is interested in how bodies in motion can joyfully disrupt ideas of normativity, and how performance can be a space to challenge societal assumptions connected to the body.

Chrys Papaioannou: Soft Class (after Steve Paxton)

 “… a mode of thinking with others separate from the thinking that the institution requires of you”. 

Jack Halberstam, ‘The Wild Beyond: With and For the Undercommons’ (2013) 

How can we be in class together, softly? How can we study whilst being in and not of the university? 

This workshop takes its title from a class led by late American dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton (1939-2024) as part of the winter semester in Oberlin College, Ohio, in the early ‘70s. Held every morning at dawn, Paxton’s ‘Soft Class’ involved what would later become known as ‘The Stand’ or ‘The Small Dance’, a standing meditation that taught dance students that standing still always involves movement. Struck by the incongruous combination of ‘softness’ and ‘class’ (class, for me, somehow evoking an organisational structure of learning with rigid and often violent hierarchies), in this processual & participatory workshop, I wish to probe into the potential of a critical research practice and critical pedagogy of softness, against neoliberal flexibilisation and precarity. 

Facilitated through a series of invitations and proposals, ‘Soft Class (after Steve Paxton)’ invites participants to engage with the notion of ‘study’ as found in Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s influential and, contra its own principles, foundational publication The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (2013). What does Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s ‘study’ look, and feel, like when brought into contact with Steve Paxton’s somatic explorations on dependence, interdependence and autonomy? What is the political import of a pedagogy of ‘improvisation’, as espoused by Moten and Harney and as practiced by Paxton? What are the implications and/or applications of Moten and Harney’s potent articulations of ‘blackness’ and ‘fugitivity’ for crip theory and critical disability studies? 

Chrys Papaioannou (they/she) is an independent scholar and activist working at the intersection of continental philosophy, comparative literature, and cultural studies. They are currently at work collaborating with their friends Liz Stainforth (Leeds), Jana Melkumova-Reynolds (LSE), and with the transfeminist activist collective Nodi-Piani (Bologna), whilst also developing a solo project that refracts early twentieth-century Marxist debates on the chronopolitics of fascism through a queer-feminist lens. Their writing on Contact Improvisation, queer relationality and the commons is forthcoming with Performance Research and with Maska.


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