Brolga 35 an Australian journal about dance

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by Alan Brissenden AM

Welcome to a very significant issue of Brolga.

First, as you may notice, it is twice as big as usual. This is because it publishes eight papers from a conference on interdisciplinarity in dance held at the University of Otago in June 2010. I am grateful to Alexandra Kolb, Chair of Dance Studies there, who both suggested their publication and became guest editor, to Professor Douglas Booth, Dean of the School of Physical Education, and to the Dance area of the School of Physical Education for awarding a special grant to enable this special edition.

Second, this is the last issue of Brolga in its current hard copy form. You can already purchase articles from recent issues when you go to the new Ausdance National website. From issue 36 (June 2012) Brolga will be published on the Ausdance website only. Readers will be able to purchase individual articles to suit their needs, or buy the complete issue as a PDF.

Since becoming involved with editing Brolga, I have been given wonderful support by our art editor, David Bonsall, who has been responsible for its fine design, and our printers, Blue Star GO – Australia. My warm thanks to them as we now move into our different format.

And to you, our readers—please tell your friends and associates to log on to the website to buy your Brolga articles.


by Alexandra Kolb

The notion of interdisciplinarity is teeming with significance. A frequently used definition, which reflects the difficulty of capturing this broad term, holds that "interdisciplinary approaches integrate separate disciplinary data, methods, tools, concepts and theories to create a holistic view or common understanding of a complex issue or problem" (Klein et al. 2011: 16). The antagonism between universalistic modes of thinking on the one hand, and a particularisation of knowledge and separation of spheres—academic and otherwise—on the other, has a longstanding history in philosophy, education, and cultural theory.

It comes as no surprise that these differences in thought have had an impact on the structure of higher education and knowledge production. According to Michel de Certeau, academic disciplines are defined by "what they have taken care to exclude from their field in order to constitute it" (1984: 61).

Dance should rightly be at the centre of such discussions; both in academic terms (as in the research crossovers between Dance Studies and other academic disciplines, methodological borrowings, etc.) and as a practised art form (for instance where challenges for shared, collaborative artistic ventures are involved). Philosophers have occasionally used dance to counter what they saw as an overemphasis on scientific hierarchies, purely cognitive thought and the insularity of disciplines.

The cultural critic Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, treated dance as a model both for an innovative philosophy and textual practice: one which inscribes motion and corporeality into verbal expression. Moreover, Nietzsche’s discussion of Greek tragedy highlighted the interdisciplinarity of dance by showing its intimate interaction with the arts of singing, music and poetry—it is by no means a solitary art form.

The field of dance studies emerged from an interdisciplinary web of theory and practice. Recently, debates have focused on the ways in which dance scholarship and practices cross disciplinary borders; the special edition on interdisciplinarity of Dance Research Journal in the summer of 2009, for instance, addressed this theme. Recognising the importance of the concept of interdisciplinarity to dance scholarship worldwide, the Dance Studies programme, part of the School of Physical Education at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, hosted a symposium entitled Dancing Across the Disciplines: Cross-Currents of Dance Research and Performance throughout the Global Compass from 28 to 30 June 2010.

The aim was to discuss interdisciplinary perspectives on dance that strive to understand historical developments and anticipate the new directions of dance scholarship and performance. The selected papers in this volume are products of this symposium, which explore in diverse ways how dance can create fluid and confronting intersections and interactions that (re)define and transform theoretical, methodological and performance frameworks.

Acknowledging the formidably broad scope of ‘interdisciplinarity’, the critical questions in focus for the symposium were:

  1. How are boundaries crossed between dance studies and other academic disciplines, such as architecture, religion, politics, literature, anthropology?
  2. What are the possibilities and challenges for interdisciplinary performance, and for shared, collaborative artistic research?
  3. How is interdisciplinarity defined by geographical and cultural perspectives?
  4. What are the effects of interdisciplinarity on the structures of tertiary (university) dance education?

As guest editor I would like to thank the contributors to this special issue for thinking through these vital concerns, addressing topics ranging from social justice work to embodiments of the environment; from theoretical accounts of dance’s capacity to interact productively with other disciplines, to the crossovers between dance, media technologies and sport. Lastly, I should like to extend my thanks to Luke Purshouse for his editorial advice and assistance, and Alan Brissenden for his invaluable help in putting together this volume.


  • Klein, J., Wagner, C. et al. 2011. ‘Approaches to understanding and measuring interdisciplinary scientific research (IRD): A review of the literature’, Journal of Infometrics (165): 14 – 26.
  • De Certeau, M. 1984. The practice of everyday life. Vol. 1. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.


Body knowledges: dancing/articulating complexity

With a particular interest in the ways that dancers reflect social, cultural, political and economic currencies, Ananya talks about the intersection of dancing, dance studies and social justice work. Many of her questions come from experiences of art-making that encompass a broad range of race, gender, class and sexuality.


In a departure from conventional Western concert dance choreography, Larry talks about his collaborative works with performers who "disengage aesthetic design-based constraints carried by codified dance techniquers and choreographic principles."

Dance site: re-conceptualising digital dance

From her research into the mehtods of capturing dance on camera, Karen concludes that with the expansion of film techniques and practices, the dancer/artist is enormously empowered. Her methodolgy offers a means to perform improvised dance for camera and to capture footage for editing into short digital dance works.

Body commons: toward an interdisciplinary study of the somatic spectacular

Kohe and Newman investigate the parallels between sport and dance studies and also consider the emerging discipline called 'physical cultural studies'. They suggest that an intercourse between study of dance and study of sport "could provide novel methodological, theoretical, and metaphysical spaces which transcend disciplinary moorings."

Dancing te moana: interdisciplinarity in Oceania

This seed for this article began at a conference at the University of Otago where there was much debate about the connections between, and the definitions of, 'interdisciplinarity' and 'interculturalism' within the Oceania context. The featured dance ethnography investigates the creative process and somatic philosophies of the Atamira Dance Company.