Research articles

Research papers from our conferences and journals provide an in-depth look at dance topics. Many are peer reviewed.

Re-aligning dance research for the 21st century

Professor Janet Lansdale (Department of Dance Studies, University of Surrey U.K.) addresses how dance research might be re-aligned to ensure its sustainability in the immediate future. She raises some crucial questions that need to be addressed in developing a model of sustainability for dance research.

From gumboots and Greek letters

It has been argued that African and African American contributions to the arts in the US have been so well ignored their African roots have been invisibilised. Growing out of African American fraternities, stepping seems to be facing a similar fate as its popularity increases. This paper is designed to raise awareness not only of stepping as an innovative dance form that is growing tremendously, but more importantly, to highlight its African American heritage that may be disregarded as stepping moves to the global stage. This paper will also illustrate how dancers inside and outside of black Greek organisations can combat the invisibilisation of stepping’s cultural heritage by teaching others about the legacy of stepping while sharing with them the innate excitement of the dance form.

Contemporary dance and community practices

This paper focuses on several issues in North American community dance; primarily its role in university education, and the influence of community dance on the art form of contemporary dance itself. Written from the personal perspective of a graduate student and community practitioner, the paper seeks to examine ways in which community arts methodologies are contributing to the evolution of innovative and trans-disciplinary curricula, while also touching upon some of the philosophical and aesthetic divisions that persist between professional concert dance and the community dance worlds.

The paper was originally presented on 15 July 2008, in conjunction with my colleagues Mary Fitzgerald and Satu Hummasti, as part of a panel discussion at the World Dance Alliance Global Summit, entitled Issues in Community Dance. Our panel sought to present a historical context of American contemporary dance and community practices, while also investigating certain aesthetic and educational values of the art form and its practice within this context. Within this frame, I chose to present a personal account of my experiences as a student, facilitator and community dance practitioner.

Connective tissue: the flesh of the network

This is a transcript of the keynote address given by Dr Susan Kozel (Associate Professor, Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Canada). She talks about connective tissue—in both the concrete and the metaphoric sense—as a way of understanding human networks, technological networks and social networks. She supports the expansion of dance research into other fields of knowledge to include design, new technologies, new philosophies and more.

Success in salsa: students’ evaluation of the use of self-reflection when learning to dance

Both Stephanie J. Hanrahan (Schools of Human Movement Studies and Psychology, University of Queensland) and Rachel A. Mathews (Creative Industries Faculty—Dance, Queensland University of Technology) have seen that both teachers and students can become frustrated when the rate of skills improvement is not satisfying. They had a group of salsa students engage in structured self-reflection and then evaluated the process and outcomes.

A quantitative approach to analysing reliability of engagement responses to dance

The present paper applies a new analytic method to facilitate a more objective approach to identifying periods of significant responses to dance assessment tasks (aesthetic, adjudication, etc). The ultimate aim is to allow dance researchers to collect continuous response data and to input a choreographic event list in a time line format. These data will be used to identify key moments, and thus new insights into the aesthetic and other time dependent responses to dance, and to cognitive and choreographic aspects of dance construction and performance, in a quasi-scientific way.

The risks we take—a model for risk stratification and recognition of competency in dance

Lesley Graham (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane) seeks to apply the findings of the Sport and Recreation Training Australia Draft Position Paper for the Australian Fitness Industry and the National Fitness Professional/Trainer Registration model, to the dance industry. The implications and appropriateness of these models are discussed with reference to a process of risk stratification in dance teaching.

Towards an understanding of liminal imagery in the digital domain

Many digital choreographers favour liminal imagery that aims to convey kinaesthetic sensation. I suggest here that this is not by chance. In the mid-nineties neuroscientists identified a collection of neurons named ‘mirror’ neurons. They discovered that the same neurons are activated when we watch and when we engage in an action. They suggest that it is through the ‘resonance behaviour’ of these neurons that we become attuned to the significances embodied in others’ actions and attain kinaesthetic empathy. In this paper I suggest that it is through such ‘resonance behaviour’ that the sensuous effects of liminal digital imagery might be generated.

Gendering discourses in modern dance research

Dr Sally Gardner (Deakin University Melbourne) considers some problems of conceptualisation in modern dance studies. She questions the assumptions made about the terms 'dancer' and 'choreographer' and the relationships between them, and wonders how this pair of terms work to structure what gets written or said in contemporary modem dance scholarship.

Redefining the field—expanding the field

Dancer, dance educator, dance maker, dance critic, Hilary Crampton (University of Melbourne) presents her views about the current state of play within the Australian dance sector. She highlights three aspects of the sector: the education and training system; the structure of what the politicians like to refer to as ‘the arts industry' and the policy system that regulates art form practice through artists' reliance on its beneficence.

Turning inside out

Christine Babinskas (PhD Candidate Victoria University) has been developing a movement practice that draws on various dance techniques, movement work within a drama context, improvisation, and often involving artists from other disciplines. Her movement has shifted from the strictly codified aesthetic of classical ballet, to something more indeterminate, open and unique.

Shape Shifting: choreographic process as research

Linda Ashley (AUT University, Auckland) presents findings from an action research project focusing on a series of creative dance workshops. This paper includes a philosophical examination of cognition during the choreographic process in terms of educational value, and also how the process of choreography itself, is research.

Visual perception, spatiality, and imagery

Neil Adams (PhD Candidate Victorian College of the Arts Melbourne) talks about his findings regarding human visual perception of space and the possible relevance to choreographic realisation and perception. He then examines the imagistic aspects of the choreographic process and the defining spatial characteristics of movement materials and overarching spatial form in terms of the Incarna project.

En place: choreographic investigations of the dancer’s awareness of ballet form

In this paper I discuss the development of compositional methods in ballet and draw on my research into choreographic processes that have focussed on somatic awareness of ballet principles and their pedagogic underpinnings. Both Balanchine and Bournonville’s legacies offer compelling evidence of the symbiotic relationship between the development of academic and choreographic form in ballet (Crow/Jackson 2007). Sylvie Fortin (2003) contends that cross fertilisation between somatic and dance practice fosters individual creativity. Arguably ballet, which is defined by robust repertoire and principles, offers an apt model for investigating a choreographic pedagogy that also accounts for the somatic experience of the dancer. In the discussion, I use the example of a ‘shared’ solo from my recent choreography In the Reveal (2007) to consider the layering of personal and shared histories, multiple authorship and the somatic challenge to traditional methods of ballet creation. I reflect on a parallel approach in my teaching that draws principles of ballet spatial grammar, which I have conceptualised as frameworks for exploration of movement and expression. The ‘first person’ dimension and focus on principles shifts the emphasis in choreographic exploration away from the plastique or ‘what the body can do’, towards an inter-relational construct of the dancing as flow between sites of knowledge. The paper moves towards articulating the compositional methodologies emerging from the dancer’s personal dialogue with ‘objective’ ballet texts.

Changing repetition: a ‘practice as research’ study on dialoguing, drawing and dancing

What insight into the knowledge of the body can a study on dancing, dialoguing and drawing bring? This study looks at two teacher-artists undertaking a pilot project that involves spontaneous dialoguing whilst engaging in the process of drawing and dancing. The study firstly investigates the impact of the relationship between attention and intention in the execution of physical movement and applies it to the media of drawing and dancing. The study then explores questions about knowledge held in the body, intersubjective relationships and pedagogical implications which emerge as a result of lived experience. Written from the dancer’s perspective, this paper takes a non-dualistic stance in terms of mind and body and the writing style alternates between the conversational and theoretical. Two preliminary studies were carried out prior to this project. The first was a collaborative practical workshop between a fine art teacher at a secondary school in London and me. The second was another collaborative study, carried out informally in a practical studio setting with a life drawing artist and Tai Chi teacher who painted as I danced. The writing which follows has focused on the relationship and insights gleaned from subsequent work with this second teacher/artist.

Signposting bodies: rethinking intentions

Interdisciplinary performance has proven fertile ground for the development of dance hybrids. Gesture, text, film, object body and digital-media have aided in voicing the dance and moving it towards theatrical, cinematic and technological manifestations of the body. Nevertheless, this paper suggests that these ‘signposts’ are often used to make explicit meaning that lies concealed in the ambiguous movement vocabulary of dance. From a dissemination of performance methodologies arising out of postmodern and contemporary hybrids, I suggest that the use of signs and referents borrowed from other disciplines can intercept the kinetic experience of dancer to audience.

Improvisation—a continuum of moving moments in choreographic imagination and performance

To dance is human. Sensori-motor expressions are intricately evolved and sophisticated prior to communication with words: from birth bodies “speak”. Body memory supplies a deep structure for surface expressions in moving moments. Choreographic imagination is inspired by an extraordinary range of conceptual sources. However, that ability to locate movement from anatomically possible performative elements coded in dance genre vernaculars or elicited from novel improvised movement sequences is essential to spatial-kinaesthetic art or dance composition. Synergies between improvisation and these creative choices are revealed through the legacies of Gertrud Bodenwieser, Bodenwieser dancers and interviews with contemporary choreographers on intended or sculpted meanings that hang off dancers’ moves.

The body observes

The key message of the paper is that while observing a person moving, somatic and sensory processes are elicited and these have an impact on both the observer and the mover. The recognition of these processes is important to assessment, observation and clinical therapy protocols. The paper describes embodied awareness, including methods used in Authentic Movement, Dance, Dance/Movement Therapy, Body Psychotherapy, Body-Mind Centring, Sensory Awareness and Jungian Analysis. Arts-based practices can inform clinical practices, and embodied interaction in clinical practice can also inspire artistic research. The methodology of kinaesthetic attunement weaves subjective and objective experiences and can inform clinical relationships, childcare and educational practices.

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