Performing Embodied Communities: New Paths for Cultural Institutions (2021-2022)


Within the context of a global pandemic, rising political populism and calls for the end of inequities, how can arts institutions become responsive, open, hospitable and relevant for social transformation?

The performing arts enable interaction and shared sensorial experiences among diverse citizens. They can play a key role in weaving an inclusive and dynamic social fabric. Hospitality and cultural citizenship are conceptual lenses applied to analyze how public institutions foster democratic ties. They redefine citizenship and belonging as a process and a product of material and symbolic struggles.

How can the arts create shared experiences that are a truthful negotiation of values, world views and ethics? What is required to sustain community-based conversations about the racial, cultural, ability and gender inequities at the core of today’s global society? As arts organizations seek to serve marginalized communities and revive fragile neighborhoods, how can we blur the lines between these entities? What is needed to disrupt a unidirectional way of performing outreach? How can we envision new models of embodied community? What is the new cultural institution that the world needs?

Project Description

This project team will work with local and global partners to investigate various arts outreach programs and their effectiveness in creating conditions for cultural citizenship and hospitality. 

This project has grown out of the Arts and Cultural Citizenship Initiative at Duke. Over the past four years, the initiative has included tailored internships for undergraduate students enrolled in Duke in France (EDUCO) and Duke in Paris programs, as well as graduate students whose research engages with the arts in France. Given COVID-19 and exacerbated inequities, the initiative has shifted its focus to specific strategies for creating and disseminating works and building community in the wake of the pandemic. 

Student team members will generate dialogue with a wide range of cultural institutions to understand their practices and challenges. In France, the team will work with programs such as the DEMOS Initiative at the Philharmonie de Paris, which provides children from rural and low-income communities with access to music education. Team members will assess the efficacy of community outreach projects at the Philharmonie. They will also explore the avenues offered by shape-shifting avant-garde arts organizations that can respond to crises in a holistic manner, and the ways in which they might be scaled up. The team will study various frameworks using multiple methodological models drawn from the arts and humanities, public policy and sociology, narrative analysis, statistics questionnaires and testimonies.

In parallel, team members will facilitate performances and events (virtual or on campus) by artists. They will create an interactive choreographed performance and related “actions” at the Rubinstein Arts Centre. These performances will be connected to Duke courses (including Dance 462) and will include the participation of students and local communities. Team members will also fashion a digital platform that will form a dynamic network between entities at Duke and arts organizations.

Through these multifaceted actions, team members will test the hypothesis that the arts can play a key role in the articulation of cultural citizenship, while also imagining a post-COVID-19 art world.

Anticipated Outputs

Case studies; public events; presentations; workshops; art performances; new courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels


Fall 2021 – Summer 2022

  • Fall 2021: If possible, implement undergraduate internships; organize performing events/lectures; collaborate with Global Voices course; collect internship reports and evaluation of first round of studies
  • Spring 2022: Implement undergraduate internships; facilitate actions by Sidi-Larbi Cherkaoui, in collaboration with MFA in Dance and Dance in French Culture course; create a work with team leaders as part of a performance class
  • Summer 2022 (optional): Conversations with Durham and Paris stakeholders; assess activities, performances and workshops

This Team in the News

Making the Most of Duke, Summer 2021


Image from DÉMOS Philharmonie de Paris website

Violin players.

Team Leaders

  • Christelle Gonthier, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • Michael Klien, Arts & Sciences-Dance
  • Gabriel Jacques Richard, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies;Music
  • Anne-Gaelle Saliot, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies;Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Allison Chen
  • Emma Chun
  • Eliza Heaton
  • Emma Lee
  • Julia Leeman
  • Annie Lin
  • Elise Michels
  • Axelle Miel
  • Catherine Ning
  • Ooha Reddy

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Deborah Reisinger, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Laurent Bayle, Philharmonie de Paris
  • Murielle Elizeon, Culture Mill
  • Emmanuel Hondré, Philharmonie de Paris
  • Tommy Noonan, Culture Mill