If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Conference


On Thursday and Friday I went to a conference about Somaesthetics in Florida. It was primarily a Philosophy conference, Somaesthetics  looks at the body beyond a vessel for carrying (things like the mind). Dr Richard Shusterman offers the word ‘somaeathetics’ to capture this and it was he that invited me to the conference to give a paper.

I talked about the ‘language of dance’ and the relationship dance as a language has with other ‘languages’. My thesis was that different kinds of languages (like dance as a language) change how we perceive the body of an individual in relation to what is ‘around’ them. In other words the ‘edges’ or ways to define ‘things’  - the gaps between ‘self’ and other are changed by the language used to communicate across it. I think dance creates quite different orientations to the world than verbal based languages.  I got everyone up and moving which surprisingly seemed very unexpected to them. There were two other ‘dancers’ there – one from Canada who talked about body awareness work (The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education) and women with eating disorders. The other ‘dancer’ was from Columbia and talked about work with ex-combatants who were developing new relationships with their bodies after ‘using’ them as weapons of war.

I learnt a lot about the language of people working in philosophy departments. I am still thinking about what I think! I am not sure where the work of dance as a methodology, as a practice beyond tradition staged performances fits into the ‘Academy’ (university).  For me dance is philosophy.

There are many prejudices that I encounter being associated with dance.  There is an interesting one of body reading. Dancers are used to seeing athletic, ‘young’ looking people who ‘have a career’. When people out side dance look at me they assume I am much younger than I am. They assume that I am beginning... were as dancers do not make that assumption! My contrary nature draws me into antagonising the perceptions of myself that people create, this makes me tend to wear pretty dresses and use ‘Hello Kitty’ pens to write at conferences and campus sessions, construction boots to ballet class and suits to protests and marches!!! But then I come from a performance background and I do belief that ones day-to-day life is a work of art and should challenge whoever decides they are my audience. (Audience as opposed to people who do not observe but attempt to get to know me – the interactive art of living).

We talked about this also at the conference and how there is an opposition between athletic looking people – who it is assumed are not ‘serious academics’. This reflects the mind / body divide we are all dealing with, as if you can either spend time on your body OR your mind and time spent on one is time not spent on the other.

I ended up understanding and hanging out and sharing the same principles as the other ‘dancers’ at the conference and yet all three of us also rejected the confines of the dance world and they way in which many dance techniques places judgement and ‘perfection’ on bodies. All three of us had had problems with the identity of ‘dancer’.

The other interesting thing I found was how people from different fields identify what data are and how they present them. There was a lot that went on and I have not processed the whole experience yet.

Overall it was an interesting time. The trees were amazing and lots of interesting talks and sunshine. 

3 comments:

  1. The Language of Dance

    What a privilege to have been invited to give a paper by Dr. Richard Shusterman. I’ve been investigating the ‘Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education’ as with other therapies I intend to make a connection with Dance. I am beginning to understand the connect the language of Dance in relation to the other languages (in relation to dances). Various cultures speak a language in dance to their belief’s, legends, dreams, ancestors, emotions, celebrations etc. Feldenkrais and other therapies or holistic methods all converge to heal the body. As dancer’s, we have a need to heal our bodies with techniques such as; Yoga, Pilates or other similar methods. With Yoga we balance our mind and body and and could if we wanted, raise our spiritual awareness. We know that dance was performed in Ancient Egyptian times and earlier as discovered by anthropologists in caves and artifacts. We know that dance was used for worship and celebrations. Indigenous people danced to ‘heal the earth’. It was used for prayer and power.
    I think my Philosophy on dance is that it makes me happy and keeps me healthy therefore I wish to share this life culture.
    I understand your explanation of the prejudices you have encountered and the misconceptions of people with you, being associated with dance. I experienced a misconception within Middle Eastern Dance as the movements being portrayed as erotic in the western world.. This made me anxious and angry as to how I was perceived. I took a break from this style of dance for a year. After several visits to Egypt to study the culture, I soon realised the ignorance and lack of knowledge within the western world. I regained the right perspective of this ancient art of dance and culture. So, why do we antagonize over the value we let other people place on us after critical judgement? Well, I am learning to know more about myself and the value I am placing on myself as I’m sure you know your own value Adesola. Should we worry about how people perceive us in our world of Dance? After all we all have our own philosophy on Dance? And yes, people and audiences should ideally take the time to get to know us first. If they are interested in the dance or performance, I think they should get to know the dance artiste.
    I shall just continue persevering with my passion for my Art.
    Glad to hear the trees where amazing!

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  2. Interesting Corinda. As I said my paper was about the language of dance your comments are very informed in terms of my experiences. Maybe you would be interested by the deeper line of inquiry that many people discussed in their papers too, which are questions of what is the body, where does it end / begin?

    Adesola

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  3. Thank you Adesola. I've started to make further lines of inquiry regarding the body. I will almost definately continue with this inquiry, as my inquiry, as you suggested which seems to have very relevent links and connections within the holistic, therapeutic and scientific methods of dance all connected by a language.
    Corinda

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