Abyssal Choreography: The Ropedancer's Unsettling Agency and Philippe Petit's Walks

Daphna Ben-Shaul*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the cultural figure of the ropedancer and focuses on the influential performance of Philippe Petit in two of his walks. The high-wire walker plays a significant role discussed within three frameworks: A philosophical and urban discussion offering interwoven perspectives; the iconic walk at the World Trade Center in New York in 1974; and Petit's high-wire crossing performed in Jerusalem's geopolitical context in 1987. Ropedancing is an abyssal choreography-a movement at a high altitude above the depth with maximum control on the verge of losing balance. As related to specific walks, this movement embodies a dialectic agency. It transcends local narratives but empowers and critically exposes them. It requires meticulous discipline and unbounded creativity, and it is linked to oppositional positions between which the ropedancer can unsettlingly fluctuate. This movement activates danger or crisis while moving over the abyss as a vector connecting places, times, and events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-67
Number of pages22
JournalDance Research Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Apr 2023


  • Philippe Petit
  • agency
  • geopolitical Jerusalem
  • high-wire walk
  • ropedancer


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