This research focuses on the process of heritagization and how it functions to both legitimize a dance practice and generate a new set of values for the practice. More specifically, I explore how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed Modern Dance in Germany as Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2022. I argue that this designation is a gradual recontextualization, that impacts both the practice itself and its status among global communities. Ultimately, this discursive change puts into question the categorization of German Modern Dance as “modern” in the midst of other “traditional” dances inscribed as heritage on the same list, and sparks questions about the influence of labels and categories on dance practices. I illustrate how the creation of dance as ICH enhances comprehension of national agendas linked to heritage appreciation, illuminates institutional participation in the formation of “national heritage,” and significantly contributes to the necessary definition and codification process for inscription, while also acknowledging the evolving and mutable nature of Modern Dance in Germany.

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