Lin Snelling and Thea Patterson: Having to write, or say, anything at all

As dance artists what is this writing we do? What are these marks in space we make? While writing offers the possibility of permanence, of (supposed) archival stability, at the same time, dance’s very ontology is traditionally marked by its disappearing nature, it’s resistance to sitting still. There are arguments to be made as to what this ontology offers in terms of resistance to certain hegemonies of visibility (Phalen 1996), and perhaps also what it neglects in terms of a certain melancholic notion the disappearing now (Lepecki 2005). This tension between the ephemeral written asks how we can think with the dancing body as a site of research where knowledge is generated in unconventional forms not easily taken up with the words. Words will surely fail, (as much as succeed), just as dancing will also both fail and succeed (whatever this might mean at the end of the day), and yet / words or writing are always also there. It is with this continued tethering to the place of writing or the writing of place in both their practices that Canadian dance artists Thea Patterson and Lin Snelling ask the questions: what can writing teach us about dance? And what can dancing teach us about writing? Conceived as a lecture performance this work unfolds as a scored improvisation where Snelling and Patterson source from conversations and written correspondence over the period of the pandemic about their relationship to dance dramaturgy, improvisation and dance pedagogy. In this work they speak directly to each other, interrupting and querying each other as they share their thoughts and their written letters about dancing; and sometimes dancing their way out of having to write, or say, anything at all.


Lin Snelling’s performance, writing and teaching is based in the qualities improvisation can offer as it applies to dance, theatre, visual art and somatic practice. As Professor at the University of Alberta she is presently teaching dance, experiential anatomy and composition and is Coordinator of the MFA in Theatre Practice program.’Rewriting Distance’, her on-going research collaboration with Belgian dance dramaturg Guy Cools continues.

Thea Patterson (BFA, MA, PhD Student) is a Montreal-based choreographer, performer, and dramaturg. Her research investigates the potential of the dancing body as the site of embodied theoretical discourse. Here, dance practice does not demonstrate an idea, nor is the idea danced, rather the two converse/converge in the entanglement of something between, something that “lives betwixt and between theory and theatricality, paradigms and practices, critical reflection and creative accomplishment” (Conquergood). Thinking, as expressed through the dancing body, moves the theory from body into the world.