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.