Research articles

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

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.

Rethinking dance writing

This presentation begins with the question: ‘how might language crease and fold from dance practice?’ Writing is conceptualised as a form of translation that rises up and into the mobile weight of movement, offering creative and documentation strategies that directly interweave with choreographic, collaborative and improvisatory processes. Examples of and methodologies for writing that emerges out of dance will be drawn from the development and performance of the duet, The Little peeling Cottage (Longley and Smith 2007). Research draws on the dancing/ writing practices of Simone Forti (Forti 1974; 2003; 2006); Brian Massumi’s parables on transition and sensation as modalities of philosophy (Massumi 2002); and Gayatri Spivak’s writing around the politics of translation (Spivak 2000).

New directions in Indian dance

This paper discusses how during an East West Dance Conference in Mumbai in 1984, several choreographers and dancers from India and the West met and discussed several issues, which resulted in the changes that have taken place now in Indian dance. Contemporary themes as opposed to religious and mythological stories have become a part of Indian Modern Dance. There is a shift both in the content and language of dance. Empowerment of women, explorations in abstract tradition, social changes all have now found reflection in Modern Indian Dance

Performance: meanings and connections in dance experiences for young people of all ages

In this paper Ann Kipling Brown presents an overview of the association and the place of performance at the triennial conferences. Following this discussion, three other daCi members, Kathy Vlassopoulos, Karen Bond and Jeff Meiners, whose work focuses on dance for young people, describe specific events and experiences they have created that reflect the aims of the association.

Firstly, Kathy Vlassopoulos describes the Children’s Dance Festival, held annually in Melbourne, Australia. The festival was initiated in1996 and creates a site-specific event that provides the opportunity for children to experience dance through a collaborative process with professional artists.

Secondly, Karen Bond gives an account of daCi’s 2nd Intergenerational Gathering, titled Out of many, we are One. Over an intensive three-day period, participants explored a progression of dancing and performing related to themes of self, community, and the future.

And thirdly, Jeff Meiners focuses on the creation of work for young children, spanning the years from birth to eight, and explores the nature of the work being created and the responses of the young children as active audience members.

Shifting perceptions, moving urban landscapes

This paper investigates how dance performance can challenge our usual perception and use of the performance site and as a result encourage artists to re-think the way we make dance for non-theatre sites. Discussion pertains to our relationships to the built environment and the influence of architectural practices on our experience of places. This leads to an exploration of my creative strategies for a site specific work created in 2007 for university students, at a centrally located area of their campus. The student project paved the way for my thinking in regard to my current doctoral studies which seeks to reveal how we understand built structures through our own bodily schema while at the same time the built environment informs our bodily state.

Embodied cognition is a special type of movement

The aim of this paper is to consider cognition as a special type of movement or movement-within-movement. I argue that, by tracking the filigree effects of movement-within-movement across the boundaries within and between the body and the environment, the performative nature of our everyday actions becomes more accessible for study and transformation. It is my assertion that combining the perceptual sensitivities of artists with the experimental ingenuity of scientists makes it possible to dilate awareness of one’s own cognitive processes and thereby initiate a ‘practice of embodied cognition.’ I discuss two tasks that arise from attention to movement-within-movement: a contextualising task, emphasising the interdisciplinary efforts and first-person perspective necessary to address the explanatory gap between neuroscience and phenomenological understandings of lived experience.

The second is a coordinating task, which involves devising a practice that integrates movement-within-movement back into our engagement with the world rather than isolates cognitive processes from their context. Three of my own installation works from an exhibition I organised, the Reading Room: experiments in posture, movement and comprehension (2008) serve as examples of creative research that joins experimental structures from cognitive science and ecological psychology with sensory and experiential strategies from art. Such an approach to the study of perception and action would allow a first-person science or a practice of embodied cognition to emerge, integrating reflection and observation to optimise the performative process of making.

Enhancing learning in dance technique through online-mediated reflective practice

‘Practice makes perfect’ expresses the common misconception that repetitive practice without appropriate feed-back will deliver improvement in tasks being practised. This paper explores the implementation of a student-driven feedback mechanism and shows how functional and aesthetic understanding can be progressively enhanced through reflective practice. More efficient practice of clearly understood tasks will enhance dance training outcomes. We were looking for ways to improve teaching efficiency, effectiveness of the students’ practice in the studio and application of safe dance practices. We devised a web-based on-line format, ‘Performing Reflective Practice’, designed to augment and refine studio practice. Only perfect practice makes perfect!

The survival and adaptation of traditional Thai puppet theatre (Joe Louis)

Naatayasala Hun Lakorn Lek, a Thai classical performing art, is a combination of human dance and puppet performance. Despite high competition with other modernised shows in the rapid changing society of Thailand, this group of performers have undertaken many adaptations and managed to maintain the existence of this art. The puppets have been developed to be more technical, more sophisticated and special effects and interaction with audiences incorporated. Modern marketing and management systems have been introduced. The continuing existence of this art form is evidence of how Thai artists have brought in modern knowledge and technology, while maintaining the valuable meaning and beauty of ancient Thai wisdom.

Inertial motion capture and live performance

3D Motion capture is a fast evolving field and recent inertial technology may expand the artistic possibilities for its use in live performance. Inertial motion capture has three attributes that make it suitable for use with live performance; it is portable, easy to use and can operate in real-time. Using four projects, this paper discusses the suitability of inertial motion capture to live performance with a particular emphasis on dance. Dance is an artistic application of human movement and motion capture is the means to record human movement as digital data. As such, dance is clearly a field in which the use of real-time motion capture is likely to become more common, particularly as projected visual effects including real-time video are already often used in dance performances. Understandably, animation generated in real-time using motion capture is not as extensive or as clean as the highly mediated animation used in movies and games, but the quality is still impressive and the ‘liveness’ of the animation has compensating features that offer new ways of communicating with an audience.

Cambodian dance education

Cambodian classical dance once served strictly religious and ritualistic purposes. When the Royal University of Fine Arts was re-established after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the emphasis shifted to one of entertainment in a time of renewed hope and expectations. The surviving masters maintained the time honoured practices and programs were implemented to support their efforts. The struggle between the two worlds deepens with the increase of international tours, the influx of tourism, and young artists beginning to experiment in contemporary dance. This paper will look at how the approach to dance education in Cambodia needs to adapt to these changes while maintaining and honouring its traditional values and heritage.

Sustaining dance education in New Zealand

This paper explores challenges facing dance educators working with pre-service primary teachers in the New Zealand context. An analysis and comparison of two national curriculum documents raises the question—how should a pre-service teacher education program for primary teachers respond to the demands of recent curriculum reforms? This paper discusses changes in teacher education that have had an impact on dance educators’ responses to curriculum demands. It details this impact using one particular teacher education institution (the University of Waikato) and discusses show how a cohort of students in 2008 views the current dance education provision. In conclusion, it offers an outline of some ways forward for dance educators.

Neural signatures of the aesthetic of dance

This essay explores a scientific perspective for studying the mechanism that the human mind and brain employs to see and perceive dance. We will focus on a specific way of seeing: aesthetic perception. In order to better understand this process, we will briefly summarise what is known about how humans watch other people’s movements, and how this system is modulated by the expertise of the observer (here, expert dancers watching familiar dance movements). We will outline how these findings lead to our current research on aesthetic perception of dance. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, we investigate the neural correlates associated with watching dance movements that are subjectively considered as being beautiful. This research is part of the emerging field of neuroaesthetics. We furthermore discuss the potential use of this research for both the scientific and the dance community, and we speculate about possible future ways of communication and collaboration between the two disciplines.

Developing a mind-body connection in teaching dance history

In 2008, Vera Bullen undertook an intrinsic case study that asked: How can one apply a Choreological Studies framework in the teaching of a dance history subject; and, how does the choreological studies framework contribute to a mind-body connection in student learning through its blend of theory and practice within a theory-based subject area? This paper discusses applying the Choreological Studies framework in the teaching and learning of DANCE 107: Dance History at The University of Auckland.

Vivisection vision: performing the humanimal

With reference to my solo performance Vivisection Vision: animal reflections, I discuss the key theoretical and conceptual aspects with regard to Agamben’s identification of the problem of the polis in the distinction between human and animal, to arrive at the figure of the ‘humanimal’. Initially created and performed in Japan, I identify the theo-political rhetoric concerned with the notion of ‘evil’ used in the Iraq War 2, followed by an analysis of and reflection upon this notion through the images and movement I made in response. From program notes to philosophical interpretation, what ethical potential is to be derived from this performance? How can we take responsibility?

Creating and sustaining a basis for life-long learning in tertiary dancer training

This paper acknowledges the influences that a generation Y population brings to dance training methodologies and examines this impact in a tertiary context. Over the last 4 years, Queensland University of Technology has been modifying their curriculum for new students transitioning from the private dance studio into the prevocational university environment. An intensive training program was designed to empower the student, creating effective entry points for common understandings in the learning and teaching of dance techniques with improved and accelerated learning outcomes. This paper shares these philosophies and practices in training for life-long learning that prepare the young dancer for longevity in the industry.

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