Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance

Dena Davida, editor
Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2011

Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance

This premier anthology of ethnographic stories from around the world examines the deeper meanings and resonances of artistic dance in contemporary culture.  The twenty-eight dancer-scholars in this volume have ventured out into the fields of their own dance communities (and in some cases of their own lives in dance) to witness and investigate what people do and say inside the studios and theatres of these professional dance worlds.

These ethnographic and autoethnographic narratives bring an insider’s insight to the various accounts of the nature and function of these artistic practices, giving voice to dance teachers, dancers, creators, programmers, spectators, students and scholars. The book spans five continents, and this group of authors is also intergenerational, with texts conceived by both young and by well-established dance researchers.  Writing genres range from vividly poetic to meticulous, sober research reports.  The twenty-four chapters are grouped into four areas:  methods and methodologies, auto-ethnography, pedagogies and creative processes, and choreographies as cultural and spiritual representations.

Fields in Motion brings together twenty-eight scholars interested in approaching dance from an ethnographic perspective.… What makes the book special is that the contributors all focus largely on theatre dance, rather than on other genres more embedded within circumscribed communities, generally the domain of anthropologists specializing in dance. Although Joann Kealiinohomoku showed us the way in the late 1960s and 1970s by demonstrating that all dances are culturally rooted, art dance still remains, for many, beyond ethnographic enquiry since it is often perceived as ‘outside culture.’… The authors take us on exciting journeys and the reader enters the worlds of dancers, spectators and researchers in a variety of social and cultural contexts, sometimes with great intimacy, at other times with more detachment, but always with heightened sensitivity. Reading allows for discovery of the many ways in which dancing bodies may be socially and culturally mediated so that our understanding of theatre dance gains greater nuances. – Andrée Grau, Roehampton University

This collection of ground-breaking scholarly research points to a new direction for both dance studies and dance anthropology, arising from the postcolonial predicament:  ethnography at home in the art worlds of dance.  Traditionally the exclusive domain of aesthetic philosophers, the art of dance is here reframed as cultural practice and its significance is revealed through a chorus of voices from practitioners and insider ethnographers.

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Table of contents


Foreword | Naomi Jackson (Canada/USA)


Introduction: Anthropology at Home in the Art Worlds of Dance | Dena Davida (Canada)

Section 1: Inventing Strategies, Models, and Methods

1. Shifting Positions: From the Dancers’ Posture to the Researchers’ Posture | Anne Cazemajou (France)

2. A Template for Art World Dance Ethnography: The Luna “Nouvelle Danser” Event | Dena Davida (Canada)

3. Interview Strategies for Concert Dance World Settings | Jennifer Fisher (Canada/USA)

4. The “Why Dance?” Projects: Choreographing the Text and Dancing the Data | Michèle Moss (Canada)

5. What is the Pointe?: The Pointe Shoe as Symbol in Dance Ethnography | Kristin Harris Walsh (Canada)

Section 2: Embodying Autoethnographies

6. Writing, Dancing, Embodied Knowing: Autoethnographic Research | Karen Barbour (New Zealand)

7. The Body as a Living Archive of Dance/Movement: Autobiographical Reflections | Janet Goodridge (England)

8. Self-Portrait of an Insider Researching Contemporary Dance and Culture in Vitória, Brazil | Eluza Maria Santos (Brazil/USA)

9. Reflections on Making the Dance Documentary Regular Events of Beauty: Negotiating Culture in the Work of Choreographer Richard Tremblay | Priya Thomas (Canada)

10. Angelwindow: “I dance my body double” | Inka Juslin (Finland)

Section 3: Examining Creative Processes and Pedagogies

11. The Montréal Danse Choreographic Research and Development Workshop: Dancer-Researchers Examine Choreographer-Dancer Relational Dynamics during the Creative Process | Pamela Newell and Sylvie Fortin (Canada)

12. How the Posture of Researcher-Practitioner Serves an Understanding of Choreographic Activity | Joëlle Vellet (France)

13. A Teacher “Self-Research” Project: Sensing Differences in the Teaching and Learning of Contemporary Dance Technique in New Zealand | Warwick Long (Canada/New Zealand), Ralph Buck (New Zealand), and Sylvie Fortin (Canada)

14. Dance Education and Emotions: Articulating Unspoken Values in the Everyday Life of a Dance School | Teija Löytönen (Finland)

15. Black Tights and Dance Belts: Constructing a Masculine Identity in a World of Pink Tutus in Corner Brook, Newfoundland | Candice Pike (Canada)

16. The Construction of the Body in Wilfride Piollet’s Classical Dance Classes | Nadége Tardieu and Georgiana Gore (France)

Section 4: Revealing Choreographies as Cultural and Spiritual Practices

17. Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe: Trance as a Cultural Commodity | Bridget E. Cauthery (Canada)

18. Anthropophagic Bodies in Flea Market: A Study of Sheila Ribeiro’s Choreography | Mônica Dantas (Brazil)

19. The Bridge From Past to Present in Lin Hwai-min’s Nine Songs (1993): Literary texts and dance images | Yin-ying Huang (Taiwan)

20. Revealed By Fire: Lata Pada’s Narrative of Transformation | Susan McNaughton (Canada)

21. Spectres of the Dark: The Dance-Making Manifesto of Latina/Chicana Choreographies | Juanita Suarez (USA)

22. Not of Themselves: Contemporary Practices in American Protestant dance | Emily Wright (USA)

Epilogue: Theory That Acts Like Dancing: The Autoethnographic Strut | Lisa Doolittle and Anne Flynn (Canada)

List of Contributors

Copyright Acknowledgements