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Dance and wellbeing in Vancouver’s 'A Healthy City for All'

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Charlotte Veal



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Through the lens of the dancing body, this paper examines practices of health and wellbeing produced in response to City of Vancouver urban governance policies. In particular, it calls attention to the legislative onslaught by city government in the years abutting the 2010 Winter Olympics to cultivate and manage healthy people, communities, and environments. In an effort to sell Vancouver’s ‘liveability’, I argue City of Vancouver endorsed a new legislative alliance that merged a conspicuously Anglo-American wellbeing lexicon, favouring individual responsibility and self-governance, with the performing arts industries. Drawing upon interviews and performance-based research, the paper illustrates how Karen Jamieson’s community dance project Connect, created for the In the Heart of the City festival, embodies Vancouver’s tri-level legislative ambitions to nurture A Healthy City For All. This materialised through the crafting of a dance-health body practice (healthy people), by choreographing a sense of belonging among ‘at risk’ communities (healthy communities), and in the uniting of the arts and health professions in the process of ‘cleaning up’ disenfranchised neighbourhoods (healthy environments). In bringing together scholarship on cultures of wellbeing and creative dance practice, the article contributes to understandings of how the health-seeking subject is embodied and performed. It also offers a productive critique of the exclusionary nature of urban health legislation, and of the contested role artists and arts festivals can play in nurturing urban wellbeing and normalising inequalities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Veal C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geoforum

Year: 2017

Volume: 81

Pages: 11-21

Print publication date: 01/05/2017

Online publication date: 16/02/2017

Acceptance date: 30/01/2017

Date deposited: 28/05/2019

ISSN (print): 0016-7185

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9398

Publisher: Pergamon Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.01.016


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