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Systems of Meaning-Making: Representation and Affect in Dance in Advertising
Dance Chronicle  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-09-02, DOI: 10.1080/01472526.2019.1676596
Jade Rosina McCutcheon

Consuming Dance: Choreography and Advertising offers an extensive, thoughtful analysis of the cultural codes embedded in both the dancer’s body and the choreography in advertisements using dance. Viewing advertising as both cultural product and meaning-maker of cultural values, Consuming Dance invites the reader to consider the extensive appropriation of dance by advertising and the nature of its affect on shifting ideologies, cultural diversity, and neoliberal capitalism. Author Colleen T. Dunagan suggests dance commercials act as “rhizomatic assemblages” of culture and serve as the apparatus of “meaning-making,” wherein a merging of product and performer occurs, and we begin to see “bodies as objects” (p. 4). Dunagan places the shallow representational nature of advertising under the microscope, drawing on three specific concepts throughout: assemblage, body without organs, and planes of consistency. These frameworks are key to her analysis and interpretation of the impact of dance ads on the viewer. Dunagan also draws on Guy Debord’s ideas on spectacle, focusing on his observation that “the spectacle is affirmation of appearance and affirmation of all human life, namely social life, as mere appearance” (Debord, in Dunagan, p. 7), suggesting that our systems of meaning-making have become purely visual. Dunagan astutely reviews the history of dance in Western advertisements from 1945 to the present, noting that the concept of bodies-as-objects results from the merging of product and performer. Although the book focuses on dance in advertising, the larger discussion involves the positioning and power of advertising in the way we construct identity and meaning. Dunagan