André Lepecki

Article Projects www
body, politics, power
Performing Arts (dance / choreography)
Europe, Southern, America, South, America, North
Portugal, Brazil, United States of America
created on:
January 14, 2008
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since August 22, 2008. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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André Lepecki
Photo: Lepecki. Courtesy of the artist.


Schizophrenic Positions

Born in Brazil in 1965, André Lepecki is a dramaturge, author, curator and artist, and one of the leading theoreticians who view performance as a political act in the field of tensions of post-structuralism, anthropology and post-colonialism. His widely-read treatise ‘Exhausting Dance’ deals with the subversive potential of choreographers such as Vera Mantero and Xavier Le Roy and calls for closer exchanges between artistic practice and theoretical reflection. The book appeared in German for the first time in May 2008, under the title of ‘Option Tanz’,
Lepecki’s life, both private and professional, has been marked by what he calls a range of ‘schizophrenic positions’. He was born in Brazil in 1965 as the son of a Polish atomic physicist and a Brazilian professor. After his parents´ separation, he emigrated with his mother to Portugal, where he soon got into the habit of speaking Portuguese on the streets with a different accent to the one he was used to at home, a "survival strategy" to avoid being branded as an unwelcome outsider. Amidst the intellectual euphoria that followed the fall of Salazar’s fascist regime, he began studying anthropology in the 1980s and was soon writing articles for various magazines and daily newspapers. It was at the time that young choreographers like Vera Mantero and Francisco Camacho were focussing on the country´s colonial past and seeking alternative body images. Lepecki, who knew both of them from his youth, was invited by Camacho to take part in talks, which led him, step by step, to become a stage director. As tensions between science and art became more pronounced, the popular punk magazine Blitz offered the young anthropologist a regular column on contemporary dance: ‘In my anthropological studies I was especially interested in non-verbal communication – so it was not such a big step for me.’ He worked so closely with the aforementioned choreographers that he went on to design the set for Vera Mantero’s performance ‘Perhaps she should dance first and think later’. He got to know the American choreographer Meg Stuart during a performance at a festival in Belgium, and soon he began working for her as a dramaturge and set designer.

At the same time, he continued his academic career: having successfully completed his studies in anthropology, he spent three years in sociological research. While attending a conference, he learned of the opportunity to attend a course in performance studies at New York University. Lepecki described his encounter there with Peggy Phelan as ‘the biggest theoretical break in my life, as I started to take a serious interest in philosophy ’. While his publications in Portugal already reflected a latent political approach, it was in New York that he first found the theoretical wherewithal to interpret the artistic explosion in the Portugal of his youth as a political phenomenon. In his doctoral thesis, he describes not only his own position at the time but especially the manner in which Mantero and Camacho had used choreography as a subversive alternative to their country´s body images and power politics.

In conversation, Lepecki returns time and again to the strange kind of schizophrenia that has shaped his life: on the one hand, the academic world in New York fascinates him and has become his intellectual home while on the other hand, most of the art which enthuses him comes from Europe. At the same time, he finds it shocking that apart from Britain, no European country has produced theoreticians with a critical approach to their continent´s colonial past.

In addition to his research, Lepecki is also an artist, who develops works with his wife, the Brazilian performance theorist and actress Eleonora Fabiâo. In 2003 he was a guest of the IN TRANSIT festival in the House of World Cultures and in 2004 he accepted an invitation from Johannes Odenthal to become curator of ‘The Lab’, part of the IN TRANSIT festival in which artists and theorists met to exchange views. In 2007, again at the House of World Cultures, he drew up a programme of performances for ‘New York State of Mind’ and is assuming the post of artistic director of IN TRANSIT for the next two years.

Lepecki teaches in New York, while his family lives in Rio de Janeiro and his mother remains in Portugal – and his work repeatedly takes him to Germany. This constant change of location and perspective in daily life may be extremely strenuous but it has also proven to be highly productive.

Der 1965 in Brasilien geborene Dramaturg, Autor, Kurator und Künstler André Lepecki ist einer der führenden Theoretiker, die Performance als politischen Akt im Spannungsfeld von Poststrukturalismus, Anthropologie und postkolonialer Theorie betrachten. Seine viel beachtete Abhandlung „Exhausting Dance” beschäftigt sich mit dem subversiven Potenzial der Werke von Choreografen wie Vera Mantero und Xavier Le Roy und fordert einen verstärkten Dialog zwischen künstlerischer Praxis und theoretischer Reflexion ein. Unter dem Titel „Option Tanz” erscheint das Buch im Mai 2008 erstmals in deutscher Übersetzung.
Author: Frank Weigand


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.


Resistance of the Object

(11 June 09 - 21 June 09)


Singularities | Einmaligkeiten

(11 June 08 - 21 June 08)

New York

Exhibition, Film Programme, Music, Conferences

(23 August 07 - 04 November 07)


The Third Body

(02 June 04 - 13 June 04)


Customs – Nothing to declare

(30 May 03 - 14 June 03)


The Age of the Contemporary

André Lepecki and the Berlin Festival In Transit