Re-thinking the way we make dance

In This Article

Papers in this section reinforce the crucial place of context in re-considering the evolution and transformation of performance and choreographic practices. The first paper is a reflection by Ann Dils who was one two researchers chosen to observe and comment on the WDAGS Choreolab. Entitled ‘Choreographing the Future’, this paper examines intentions, processes and outcomes arising from the Choreolab through the lens of Creative Industries and ‘creative campus’ concepts and the challenges of encompassing cultural differences meaningfully in a globalised environment of ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’.

In a different context and paper, exposure to other cultures provides a way for one choreographer/performer to interrogate her dance identity, using this process to both differentiate and integrate choreographic methods and compositional practices often taken for granted. In this and other papers, interdisciplinary thinking is a common thread in which scholars and practitioners draw on diverse cultural theorists such as Lyotard, Bergson, Deleuze and Merleau Ponty to frame discussions and situate creative practice in a broader philosophical terrain. These kinds of engagements foreground an issue discussed in several papers as to the dynamic role of interweaving writing with choreographic and improvisational creative practices.

Questions of ownership and connections with the daily social lives of participants surface in papers from India in relation to traditions, and are echoed in the less formalised community dance perspectives of contemporary western practitioners. The experience of the audience and the quest for authenticity in dance in one paper complements in another the idea that purposeful engagement occurs via accumulated experiences throughout one’s career in a re-purposing of the one extended work in many versions — another way perhaps of looking at the authenticity of a work and indeed an entire career.

The tools we choose for making work are also highly context-dependent. For one author, the ‘spatial grammar’ of ballet, deconstructed and abstracted, provides a rich choreographic site for investigation, whilst site-specific work in another paper focuses on very different kinds of spatial grammar inherent in architecture and the built environment, affording a strategy for creating moving landscapes. Technology tools for interactive spaces provide yet another avenue for creative artists in which agency is created, at least to some extent, through the generative role of the dancer in co-creating imagery and sound in virtual worlds.

Related articles

Knowledge of the body established through personal identity and exposure to dance cultures

The development of British contemporary dance practice has been dependent upon the assimilation of cultural forms. The outcome of this process of absorption could be perceived as the British relativist style, situating the European performer between the dominant influence of American 20th century theatre dance and Asian dance traditions. In this paper we aim to break down choreography as a methodological process, proposing that there cloud be a clearer distinction between choreographic methods and compositional practices to allow for discussion of particular stages of the artistic development process in creating a choreographic work. At the core of this dialogue are the compositional and teaching experiences of an American trained British dance practitioner in different parts of South East Asia. The encounter with what could be referred to as the cultural ‘Other’ allows us to trace the use of the body and mind (conscious and unconscious) in the development of compositional practices. The paper negotiates between compositional and choreographic methods and the theories of Françoise Lyotard and Henri Bergson to allow for an integration of the processes of. creation within the interpretation of choreography

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Living lens: negotiating relationships between the performing body, image and sound…

This paper discusses perspectives on performance-installations where the dancer’s body is perceived as the intermediary in the relationship with visual and sonic media. Viewpoints of artists working in the area of dance/performance, digital screen media and interactive communication devices are presented together with perspectives drawn from the authors’ own work, Living Lens. The current phase of our project, which incorporates performer gesture, ultrasonic speakers and live vocalisations towards a different kind of ‘speaking body’ and polyphonic chorale, will also be briefly presented.

The ‘authentic dancer’ as a tool for audience engagement

An engagement with performance is an experiential event. To have a lived experience within a performance construct infers that the experience is somehow ‘more live’. This paper situates the body of the audience member as a site of understanding and meaning making, and challenges the role of the traditional ‘passive’ presentation format and ensuing ethical considerations within that assertion. It looks at the relationships between audience experience and a series of creative tools that facilitate subtle shifts in this traditional dance paradigm. Along with the tools of audience agency, liminality, variations of site and proximity – tools that create engagement via physical interactions with the audience – can ‘performer authenticity’ also become a tool of connection with the audience? This paper looks at the overarching field of contemporary dance, with a primary focus on Western contemporary dance and the traditional dance paradigms prevalent in the construction and presentation of that form. It outlines the role of the experiential within this form and highlights established research and creation tools that encourage audience connection via audience interaction. It also looks at the role of the dancer within this construct, citing both current qualitative research into audience responses, as well as current theory and creative practice from an international field of artists creating work with the ‘authentic dancer’.

Who frames the dance? Writing and performing the Trinity of Odissi

This paper examines the dances and performance spaces created by classical Indian dance patrons and performers, who were moulded into the nationalist mode, premeditated by the bureaucrats and consequently fabricated by the traditional masters, i.e. the gurus. In the absence of an academic institution for dance studies, the non-performers, the bureaucrats and intelligentsia created dance scholars who ultimately furthered the nationalist idea of a glorified dance history. Odissi dance, post independence, reconstructed in its neo-classical avatar, by traditional master-performers, came to be practised mainly by urban women who later became the carriers of the dance form. The paper questions the resultant historiography and engages in a dialogue with the dancers to study the malleability of its boundaries, as established by the gurus and transmitted thence.

Choreographic treatment of personal movement vocabulary in community dance practice

The field of community dance literature is an emergent one, with very little written about the processes and ethical issues experienced in the dance class, workshops or stage. This paper explores problems identified during the development of a new community contemporary dance work, My Body is an Etching. The work began with a creative concept, endeavouring to collaborate with participants in the creation of a dance solo that was personal and discretely individual in the performance of everyday actions, yet accessible to people from all walks of life. The processes involved the identification of deeply etched or embodied actions and the development of these actions within a choreographed score.

This paper discusses the creative exploration of the concept (that human bodies are etched by their experiences), within the context of community dance and the issues that arise when working with such a concept amongst a community of individuals. It reveals the creative methods for the identification and retrieval of individual movement and the conceptual difficulties encountered when individual uniqueness is absorbed within a work for the masses. It asks what happens when a participant’s everyday or personal movement is reproduced for reasons outside its regular context and examines notions of ownership and the negotiation of power and control. The paper reveals ethical issues in the treatment of others’ movement, and refers to the literature of psychology and phenomenology in aligning the creative enquiry with an intellectual force that is interested in forms of memory and retrieval beyond the episodic.

Choreographing the future: A report on the 2008 World Dance Alliance Choreolab

This paper is a discussion of one observer’s experience of the Choreolab held as part of the World Dance Alliance Global Summit in Brisbane, July 14–18. The Lab was a five-day intensive experience with choreographers Lloyd Newson and Boi Sakti mentoring a diverse group of choreographers and dancers. The report focuses on how the Lab’s goals for international exchange, cultural diversity, and professional development were enacted in the evolving structure of the Lab and in the movement created during the Lab. ‘Creative industries’ and ‘creative campus,’ two conceptions of how the arts are accounted for economically and within university curricula and special events offerings, are also discussed. These concepts are interrelated with the Lab, especially in considering the consequences of each for social and scholarly communities and for the arts within universities. The report concludes with a call for increased awareness of creative industries and creative campus initiatives and their impact on dance within universities and on issues of intellectual property.

Dance: The tool of Sanskritisation process in Manipur

Lovingly called the Sanaleipak or the land of gold, Manipur can boast of an integrated culture of primitive elements being refined with the influence of the mainstream Indian culture through the Sanskritisation process. Apart from the characteristics of Sanskritisation perceived elsewhere in India, a special instrument of Sanskritisation in Manipur has surfaced, which is her dance tradition. The ancient traditional festival, the Laiharaoba embodies all the aspects of Meitei life. The influence of the Chaitanite Vaishnavism in the 18th century brought about many social changes but its manifestation on the then existing dance practice was probably the highest form of aesthetic expression for the people. This paper aims to identify the changes brought about in the dance practice in the Meitei life and how it has become apparent in their daily social life.