Bodies of the Text: Dance as Theory, Literature as Dance


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If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Geography Compass Volume 2, Issue 6. Derek P. Read the full text. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.

Abstract The body is well established as a research focus within contemporary human geography. Citing Literature. Volume 2 , Issue 6 November Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure.

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Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. To say that dance can involve representation or be representative overall is not the same as saying that the essential nature of dance is or should be to represent. In the course of dance history, however, some dance theorists have made this stronger claim, particularly in the 17 th and 18 th centuries. See Carroll and Banes , Cohen , 42 and Franko ; see also Wolterstorff on the Romantic view of representation in art. By the early 20 th century, the idea that dance should imitate nature also included the idea that it should imitate human nature, including the emotions see Cohen Dancer and choreographer Ruth St.

Today there is a general consensus among dance theorists that dance can but that it need not represent in any imitative way, although there are some dance theorists who still hold that dance must be communicative and that, therefore, there is no purely nonrepresentational dance.

For more on dance and the concept of representation see Bannerman , Carroll and Banes , Carter , Cohen , and Sparshott , and Dance philosophy has handled the concept of expression in a number of different ways. Whether or not the expression need communicate with an audience to count as expression is under debate. Dancers and theorists who find the source of expression in dance to lie in the dance performer include Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham see Cohen and Daly Those who find the source of expression in dance to lie in the choreographer include Challis and Antony Tudor see Challis and Cohen Fraleigh, following Michel Fokine, finds the source of expression in dance to lie in the human body see , Tudor has insisted that dance expresses feelings through movement and not through any personal feelings or facial expressions see Cohen , See Carr , Briginshaw , and Ailey for discussions of dance based on its expressive content.

Goodman , Langer a and Margolis all have semiotic theories of expression in dance, in which dance is seen as having certain symbolic properties that do not amount to a language, per se, but that have communicative power. Goodman thinks that dance expresses through metaphorical exemplification. For an additional discussion of this debate, see Beauquel For an additional theory on symbolic and semiotic dance communication through gesture, see Noland For more on the concept of expression in dance, see also Best , and , Elswit , Fraleigh , Jowitt , Sparshott and Carter See also Cunningham and Leschaeve For more on post-modern dance and its relation to expression in dance see Banes and Carroll Three types of improvisation in theater dance have been identified by Carter , : 1 embellishments where set choreography persists, 2 improvisation as spontaneous free movement for use in set choreography and 3 improvisation for its own sake brought to a high level of performance.

An example of 1 would be the situation in which a dance performer is allowed to amplify existing movements doing a triple pirouette in place of a double, for example , or a stylistic flourish such as an extra flick of the wrist or tilt of the head. An example of 2 would be the case in which no choreography has been provided for eight bars of music and the dancer s is given the freedom to insert whatever he or she wishes in the open space.

Finally, 3 would cover the situation that D. It would also include the situation where either the whole performance or a substantial part of it is improvised from start to finish. Somatic improvisation, or the results of these improvisational exercises, may be included in a theater performance for an audience but need not be. Finally, I Bresnahan have made the claim that all live dance performance involves improvisational artistry to at least some extent and that this can be seen as a kind of embodied and extended agency under embodied and extended mind theories, in particular that of Andy Clark in his book, Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension New York: Oxford University Press, For more on improvisation in dance, see Albright and Gere , Clemente , De Spain and , Kloppenberg , Matheson , Novack and , Paxton and , and Zaporah In dance philosophy there is controversy about how to construe the felt, bodily responses that the audience can and often does have while watching a dance performance.

The use of the body in dance is one of the things that distinguishes it from other art forms, but to what extent does this difference make a difference in understanding dance as a form of art? Two of the questions that arise here are the following: 1 What is the causal process by which kinesthetic responses are felt? To take the first question first: Causal processes that can explain kinesthetic responses in dance are by no means well understood. In addition, Sheets-Johnstone bolsters this account with research in evolutionary biology.

Mark Johnson , see also Lakoff and Johnson and Richard Shusterman use the account of art including dance as experience that is found in the pragmatic tradition, particularly that stemming from John Dewey. See Shusterman , , a, b, c and For more on empathy and the kinaesthetic aspect of performance see Foster and In addition, there are contemporary philosophers of dance who use research in cognitive science and in neuroscience in order to ascertain the answers to why audience members report feeling kinesthetic responses such as a quickening heart rate and certain tensions along with more mysterious feelings in their muscles and nervous systems.

Barbara Montero is one of the dance philosophers at the vanguard of research in dance-philosophy-related cognitive science. She has published articles a, b, and on how proprioception the capacity that lets a person know their bodily position in space might be construed as an aesthetic sense, how mirror neurons might be part of an audience experience of this sense, and how trained dancers might make better aesthetic judges at least in part due to some of these mechanisms. For another neuroscientific approach to audience engagement with dance see Seeley The philosophers supporting the application of causal research in kinesthetic responses to dance in general hold that it is relevant to our proper understanding of dance qua the art of dance.

Carroll and Seeley argue, for example, that one of the central features of understanding dance is to understand the nature of the experience of dance in all its aspects, cognitive as well as kinesthetic and felt. Thus connecting this experience with causal explanations is elucidating and appropriate to a full and broad understanding of that experience in all of its aspects.

What matters for Conroy for dance appreciation, then, is the ability to appreciate the aesthetic properties, which are presumably what mark intentional physical activities as dance rather than as some other sort of movement that need not be appreciated in aesthetic ways particular to dance. McFee a and b denies that causal explanations about kinesthetic responses are ever relevant to dance appreciation. I will call this following D. McFee holds that causal accounts, particularly from the sciences, of the appreciation and experience of dance, either in terms of kinesthetic responses or anything else, are never relevant to understanding dance as art.

His thought here is that dance appreciation happens at the level of a person who appreciates, someone with the cultural resources to understand dance as a form of art, not at the level of neurobiology. Montero, Carroll and Seeley would probably agree that kinesthetic responses cannot alone provide an appreciation of dance as art. The difference is that, unlike McFee, they think that something important about dance and what we indeed appreciate about it is connected to how we do, indeed, respond to it, in bodily as well as in cognitive ways. For McFee b , by contrast, audience kinesthetic responses inform nothing and instead are just behavioral evidence of an appreciation that is not, in essence, bodily.

He agrees with McFee that there are some questions relevant to philosophical aesthetics, and to the philosophy of dance understood as a part of aesthetics, that cannot be answered by empirical research, no matter how accurate that research may be for answering certain scientific, causal questions. Empirical research, where used by dance and other philosophers, must, according to Davies, be applied carefully to the relevant questions see a and ; see also Davies is only moderately pessimistic about empirical research, however, rather than extremely pessimistic, because he thinks that philosophy ought not to partition itself away from science and away from other disciplines that might inform our thinking.

Dance Moms - The Last Dance (S7, E24)

Here he suggests that we ought to follow the Quinean idea that philosophy ought to respond to and at least be cognizant of current science so that we know how our philosophic views fit into our web of other beliefs about the world. For more on audience appreciation, perception and experience in general ways, ways pertaining to dance and ways that incorporate research from the sciences, see Freisen , Gallese , Goldman , Hanna , Martin b, Reason and Reynolds , Sklar , Smyth , and Sparshott The philosophy of dance criticism is connected closely to the question of what is to be evaluated when one critically evaluates a dance.

As in the sections above, philosophy of dance must decide to what extent to follow the concepts of criticism developed for the other arts by Western philosophical aesthetics. The traditional model of dance criticism, understood as Western aesthetics criticism, can be found in McFee b. McFee points out that dance criticism can be formal or informal, but that criticism properly understood must lead to an interpretation of a particular dance work of art that can be understood in some demonstrable sense in terms of its history, context and in terms of its relevant techniques.

Hence, not all interpretations of a dance work of art are valid see McFee a, b and b. Support for the value of criticism for philosophical aesthetics, including dance, can be found in the discussion of dance as an ephemeral art see section of this article above , since that view of dance philosophers has been inspired, at least in part, by a reflection offered by the dance critic Siegel see Conroy It also finds support in the work of Beardsley and and Van Camp , and a. Beardsley , for example, holds the view that aesthetics depends on criticism and that criticism depends on aesthetics.

She also holds that dance criticism can help the dance philosopher to distinguish the creative from interpretive aspects of a dance performance and to describe and identify other features of evaluation and appreciation that are not always perceivable in performance, such as certain historical or production factors. Finally, Van Camp agrees with McFee that dance criticism can assist the dance philosopher to distinguish art-essential from non-art-essential features of performance, thereby assisting the dance philosopher to make ontological claims pertaining to the nature and identity of the dance work of art.

Sparshott disagrees with the idea that dance criticism is valuable for understanding dance and he appears to be the sole dance philosopher who holds this view. In short, his claim is that, because dance criticism is based on dance practice and performance, to use it to understand dance gets things backwards. If this is true then Sparshott must believe that dance criticism can help when assisted by dance philosophy, even if he thinks it cannot be of great value to our understanding of dance on its own. Beardsley, Monroe C.

Here I would like to thank the members of the DancePhilosophers Google group who provided suggestions for texts and readings in the development of this article, particularly Julie Van Camp. I would also like to thank the editors of the SEP for their support of dance philosophy. Special thanks are also given to Stephen Davies, in particular for his help in understanding the ontology of music in relation to dance.

The Status of the Field 2. What Is Dance? Comparisons with Music and Theater 3. Dance As Ephemeral Art 5. Representation and Expression 5. Dance Improvisation 7. Dance Appreciation 7. The Status of the Field Dance is underrepresented in philosophical aesthetics. Comparisons with Music and Theater The art of dance is closest in form to music and theater, since in many salient instances it involves a performance setting in which performers and audience members share a physical and temporal space during the course of a live performance event.

Dance As Ephemeral Art One of the features of dance as a performing art that has been often noted is that it moves and it changes, both during the course of any given performance and over time. Representation and Expression in Dance 5. Dance Improvisation Three types of improvisation in theater dance have been identified by Carter , : 1 embellishments where set choreography persists, 2 improvisation as spontaneous free movement for use in set choreography and 3 improvisation for its own sake brought to a high level of performance.

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