New Book: Through the Bone and Marrow Re-examining Theological Encounters with Dance in Medieval Europe

Laura Hellsten's picture

New book from Brepols!

This book is a conversation starter. The author is re-imagining the theological landscape of historical practices of dance in order to open up a space where further explorations can be made. This is done in a two-step manner. First, the book uncovers the restrictions of earlier research on the topic of dance in and around churches. In the second step, Hellsten suggests a practice for how historical sources can be imagined in a new frame. Opening up a new field of previously neglected and much needed historical studies on Dance in the Christian churches of the Latin West this study aims at questioning old paradigms and opening new vistas rather than reinterpreting concrete liturgical manuscripts or scrutinizing all the details of the historical sources presented.
The Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture in Turku, Finland has awarded its Nordic Research Prize 2021 to Dr. theol. Laura Hellsten for her creative research. 

The Board of the Institute notes the following in its prize motivation:

“Hellsten is a dancing researcher who researches medieval dancers in a church context and how researchers, who have written about these dancers in modern times, have interpreted them. She is driven by a strong wish to create an in-depth understanding of the importance of dance in the Christian church during the Middle Ages. The extensive research is carefully and precisely conducted. Hellsten’s way of writing is personal, and she uses different text genres and body metaphors in a creative way to build her methodology and highlight the different sides of the research process. She is also a thoroughly ethical researcher.

Hellsten’s research shows how dance within western historical writing, connected to religion and church, has been categorized through dichotomies that do not work (secular/sacred, Christian/Pagan), since these reflect the secular views of today. She demonstrates how the dichotomies have created absences, distortions and gaps in earlier dance research and argues in a convincing way that the theological research on dance needs new epistemological starting points and new research methods that take the body into account.”